Every home needs a smoke detector for maximum protection. A home with working smoke alarms reduces the chance of death from fire by 55%, as the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported. They can pick up on smoke in your home from a fire long before sounding an alarm, giving you precious extra time to evacuate safely and save your life. A smoke detector installation and maintenance of its useful lifespan is crucial for early fire detection.
So, how does a battery-powered smoke detector work? Blue Moon Electrical will discuss it in this blog to help give you more insights.
The Function of Battery-Operated Smoke Detectors
Battery power may be the only source of energy for some smoke detectors. However, the device becomes useless when the battery dies in a smoke alarm that runs on batteries alone. Lucky for us, most smoke alarms running on batteries sound a warning chirp when they are about to die down. Don’t disregard the battery warning light, as frustrating as it may be.
Battery-powered smoke detectors detect potential fires with two technologies: ionization smoke detectors and photoelectric smoke detectors. Both (ionization and photoelectric) technologies are recommended for use in households because we can’t always know when a fire breaks out and what kind it is.
Ionization smoke detectors cost less than photoelectric type. They are also more common and work quite differently. Just like your nose can detect foreign molecules, like smoke, traveling inward, the same goes for this certain electrical device.
Inside the detector is an ionization chamber filled with ions, where atoms have released electrons and now produce positively charged nuclei. These ions root from a small piece of a chemical substance called americium.
Small radioactive particles (called alpha particles) are constantly emitted from the americium and enter the detecting chamber through leaks. They collide with air molecules along the way, transforming them into positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons. This causes the ionization process to be slowed down, which in turn, reduces the current. The alarm goes off when the amount of electricity flowing between the two plates decreases.
Ions and electrons move at high speeds in opposite directions. As long as there is motion between the two, current will flow between the electrodes, pushing the smoke detector’s circuit into thinking everything is fine, so it stays silent.
Photoelectric smoke alarms detect slow-burning fires better. These smoke detectors use a light bulb and a photoelectric sensor. A line of LED light sweeps across the smoke alarm’s inside. The light detector is located near the smoke alarm’s base, far from the line of fire from the LED light.
Photoelectric smoke detectors use LED lights, and when smoke penetrates the alarm compartment, the lights disperse on all sides. Some of the LED illuminations will reach the photoelectric detector, setting off the alarm.
There may be smoke and flames for quite some time before a house fire catches. Consequently, a photoelectric smoke alarm would warn you earlier before an ionization smoke detector.
Hardwired vs. Battery Powered Smoke Alarms: Which Should You Get?
With the advancement of technology and the reduction in the retail price, the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) regulations on smoke detectors have progressed over time. These days, two primary types of smoke alarms are available: battery-powered smoke alarms and hardwired smoke detectors plugged into your electrical system. While the latter comes with a backup battery, they run off of the regular electrical wiring in your home.
Here is a quick rundown of the main differences between the two types of smoke detectors.
Battery-powered smoke alarms are less of a hassle to set up. They are simple to attach and may be bought at any supermarket. Even someone with no experience can follow the manual instructions to get it set up properly. If you replace the batteries, they will work like new ones again. However, homeowners must do it frequently because the batteries are their sole power source.
If you have decided on hardwired alarms that run off the electricity from your home’s main panel, you will need to hire an electrician. This is because the devices draw power from the wall outlet, and solid cable infrastructure is needed to link the outlet to the alarm. Ensure to switch off the power at the main circuit breakers before doing any work, and you should only entrust this job to a certified electrician. Hardwired smoke alarms require more work to install, but they can be interconnected so that if one is triggered, the others will sound as well.
An experienced electrician must be enlisted to turn off the main power and inspect the connector cables whenever you need to investigate a problem or conduct maintenance tasks on hardwired smoke alarms.
In contrast, battery-operated smoke alarms require regular manual battery changes. It will start throwing issues in the form of false alarms and malfunctions if you fail to set it, and its time has come. If you want the best sensor performance, you, too, need to maintain it clean.
Since they are battery-operated smoke detectors, they won’t work without batteries. As the batteries drain, so does the alarm’s volume. How long the alarm continues to sound after the batteries run out depends on how much power was available when the alarm first went off.
Due to their connection to the electricity supply, hardwired smoke alarms will continue to ring until they are manually silenced. Additionally, they frequently feature battery backups to keep working in case of a power outage.
Smoke detectors save lives, no matter what type it is. If you have not considered having one at home, we recommend getting your preferred type at your local hardware store.
Blue Moon Electrical has many blog articles to choose from regarding anything related to electricity. If you want to learn more about smoke detectors or other electrical fixtures at home, feel free to check out our other blogs for helpful insights.