Types of Smoke Detectors: Which Is the Best?

Did you know? The risk of dying in fires is 55% lower when you have working smoke alarms (compared to homes with zero alarms or alarms that don't work). 

However, buying smoke detectors can be confusing to someone who's not aware of the different types. If you don't know where to start, we've got your back. In this post, we'll talk about the types of smoke detectors so you can decide which one's the best.

Photoelectric Smoke Detector

photoelectric smoke detector

A photoelectric smoke detector contains infrared, visible, or ultraviolet light, a lens, and a photosensitive receiver. When smoke enters the detector, the light scatters. The photosensitive cell then picks up the smoke, activating the alarm.

This type of smoke detector is designed to detect slow, smoldering fires. They often produce a lot of smoke but don't produce large flames at the start.  

Photoelectric smoke detectors are also less likely to be triggered by cooking fumes or steam, making them ideal for kitchens and bathrooms.

Ionization Smoke Detector

ionization smoke detector

An ionization smoke detector uses a tiny amount of radioactive material to ionize air. Some ions will attach to the particles once smoke particles enter the open chamber. As a result, the current won't enter the chamber. 

An electronic circuit then detects the current difference between the open and sealed chambers, sounding the alarm.

This type of smoke detector is designed to detect fires that quickly spread. It's also usually more affordable than photoelectric smoke detectors. However, an ionization detector is more prone to false alarms because they're more sensitive to smoke particles. 

Combination Smoke Detector

combination smoke detector

Combination smoke detectors use photoelectric and ionization technologies. As a result, they offer a wider range of fire detection.

They're also just as responsive to smoldering and flaming fires as the two types above. However, they're usually more expensive than photoelectric and combination smoke detectors.

Some combination smoke detectors also include carbon monoxide detectors, which detect smoke and the invisible, lethal carbon monoxide. 

Which Is the Best?

which type of smoke detector is the best

The best smoke detector depends on your specific needs and living situation. 

For instance, if you have a huge house with many rooms, consider a mix of photoelectric and ionization detectors in different areas. You can place photoelectric detectors in your kitchen and bathrooms and ionization detectors in your living area and bedrooms.

If you want better coverage, consider using combination detectors, which cover slow and fast fires. Although they're more expensive, the peace of mind you'll get is worth the investment.


Knowing the different types of smoke detectors lets you make the best choice. Photoelectric detectors detect slow fires well, while ionization detectors are best for fast ones. On the other hand, combination detectors offer the best coverage but with higher price tags. 

Aside from having working smoke alarms, having a fire kit with a fire blanket, fire spray, and fire protection gloves is a must. If you're looking for tools you can rely on, we're here to help. Head on to Prepared Hero and check out our fire safety tools now!