They’re white, round and they screech a high-pitched, sleep-smashing tone when trouble is near. We’re talking about smoke alarms – but what you might not know is that, while similar in appearance, there are two fundamentally different kinds in widespread operation throughout Queensland and Australia. The ‘original’ technology was the ionisation smoke alarm, but it’s steadily being phased out across the state and country in favour of photoelectric smoke alarms. But why?
Photoelectric or ionisation smoke alarm?
The original ionisation smoke alarm technology was developed in the late 60s, with the first mandatory Australian legislation emerging a couple of decades later in the late 90s. But it wasn’t until just over a decade ago when Australia’s Fire Protection Association recommended that all ionisation smoke alarms eventually be replaced country-wide with photoelectric smoke alarms.
- Ionisation: These alarms feature radioactive material between two electrically charged plates, with smoke particles disrupting the flow of ions and triggering the alarm.
- Photoelectric: A light source and a photosensitive sensor detect smoke when it enters the chamber, scatters the light, and triggers the alarm.
Today, Queensland has led the way with photoelectric smoke alarm-related legislation – specifically insisting that an end goal is that no smoke alarm across the Sunshine State will feature an ionisation sensor. But what’s so superior about photoelectric smoke alarms over other types of smoke alarms that justify such a push?:
Difference between ionisation and photoelectric smoke alarms
1. Smouldering fires
The headline news here is that photoelectric technology is much, much better at detecting the kind of slow-burning, smouldering fires whose large smoke particles were slow to trigger ionisation alarms. In other words, the warning of a potentially catastrophic fire event comes much, much earlier.
2. False alarms
You know all those false alarms due to burned toast, other cooking smoke and even steam from the shower? There are less of them with photoelectric smoke alarms because they’re more sensitive to larger smoke particles, meaning that when you do hear that high-pitched squeal, you take it much more seriously.
3. Overheating wiring
A big percentage of house fires are caused by wiring issues – and because photoelectric smoke alarms are so much better at reacting to large smoke particles, that means the early warning from overheated wiring can catch a burgeoning blaze before there’s even a flame.
4. Radioactive material
Sure, it’s only a tiny amount of radioactivity – but it’s a fact that ionisation smoke alarms require the material called Americium-241, which emits radioactive alpha particles that are not particularly harmful to humans in small quantities. The radioactivity is also heavily regulated and carefully engineered and sealed in the smoke alarm designs, but some still worry about ionisation smoke alarms when they’re damaged or disposed of.
The good news is that photoelectric smoke alarms are not radioactive at all.
Because today’s modern standards and all that new legislation is designed around photoelectric technology, the wireless interconnectivity of these devices is absolutely top-notch and state-of-the-art. It could hardly be easier to comply with the rules about each device in a home needing to be able to seamlessly communicate with the others, with installation time, cost and complexity all significantly lower than ever.
Photoelectric smoke alarms and Tradie Near Me
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