Home Improvement


Modern-day building materials and furnishings (increased use of plastics and synthetic materials) used in houses and estates have drastically changed the dynamics of residential fires. One cannot rely on the sense of smell to detect smoke while sleeping. While a noise of sound can obstruct sleep, scents cannot. Therefore, operative smoke alarms prevail as the primary means of warning residents of fires. Photoelectric smoke alarms are the best smoke detectors that are commensurate with modern building practices. This article mainly focuses on photoelectric smoke alarms, their features and their essentiality.

How does it work?

The photoelectric effect is the emission of electrons when EMR(Electromagnetic Radiation), such as photons(light), hits a material(metals). Photoelectric or optical smoke alarms are generally made of a light detector, light-emitting diode(LED – light source), battery and an electronic circuit integrated with an alarm. When there is a cloud of smoke, the light reflecting from it will cross the threshold limit of the photoelectric effect and trigger the alarm. When it comes to smouldering fires, photoelectric smoke alarms are the best. On average, Ionisation smoke alarms take 30 to 33 minutes longer than optical smoke alarms to respond to smouldering fires.

Types of Alarms

Based on the different working principles, there are several types of smoke alarms: Ionization smoke alarms, photoelectric or optical alarms, heat smoke alarms (alerts when there is an unexpected rise in temperature), etc.

Circuit type differentiations are also significant. Let’s discuss the main three types of them.

  • Wireless Alarm: Also called a battery alarm, it runs with an independent power source. The battery must be replaced once a year and tested once in six months.
  • Mains Alarm: These types of alarms are directly connected to the electricity unit of the household. They also have an inbuilt battery to assist in case of power cuts. Since the mains alarms are connected to the home’s electricity supply, they should be installed by a certified electrician.
  • Interconnected Alarm: These alarms provide an additional layer of security. Interconnected alarms are circuited so that if one alarm goes off, all the others also go off.

One can choose any of these alarms or a mixture of these to attain the best fire safety system.

The right way to install smoke alarms

Line of defence: Smoke alarms (of any type) are the first barricade against fire disasters. The interconnectedness, the location and the number of smoke alarms play a crucial role in effecting definite fire safety outcomes. Hence, the installation of smoke alarms is a paramount factor in achieving fire safety.

Ensure the safety of everyone: Installing a smoke alarm in every bedroom is the first step. Also, install a smoke alarm on every level of the house, basement, ground floor, terrace, etc. Interconnecting all these alarms is highly advisable. Seek the help of experts when installing the smoke alarms; it makes the whole process smooth and fool-proof.

Escape plan: Devise a pre-planned fire escape route and SOP(standard operating procedure) for fire emergencies. Once a fire starts, one has only 3 to 4 minutes to act and evacuate. If affordable, install fire sprinklers integrated with the smoke alarms.


Many policies in Australia make smoke alarm installation obligatory. As discussed, the dynamic changes in construction materials and building methods have made fire safety precautions all the more necessary. Therefore, photoelectric smoke alarms are an effective solution to prevent fire disasters and save lives. Installing more than one type of smoke alarm is advised by experts. Stay safe!

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