Know Security: Heat and Smoke Detectors

Placing a monitored smoke and heat sensor in your home increases the chances your family will survive a fire by 50%.

During this second week of National Emergency Preparedness month, we focused on the devastating effects of wildfires and discussed what you can do before, during and after. Today, we want to focus on a specific piece of equipment you should consider as part of a complete emergency preparedness plan for your home and family.

Whether you live in an area with a high propensity of wildfires or not, your home needs to be prepared for fire. Detecting a fire in time can mean the difference between life and death. According to the National Fire Protection Association, working smoke alarms reduce the risk of dying in a fire by 50%. Over 60% of fire-related home deaths happen in homes with no working smoke alarms. Pretty sobering statistics, right? So let’s take a moment and have a quick refresher course about smoke detectors – the different types and how to have them setup properly in your home.

Types of Residential Smoke and Heat Sensors


These types of smoke alarms have a small amount of radioactive material placed between two electrically-charged plates. The air between the two plates is ionized and allows current to flow. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts the ion flow which activates the alarm. This type of detection is more responsive to “flaming fires”, which, as the name implies, are fires with a significant amount of flames.


These detectors utilize light to detect a fire threat. A light source is directed away from a sensor in a sensing chamber so that when smoke enters the chamber, the light will bounce off the smoke particles, hitting the sensor and trigger the alarm. These types of sensors are more sensitive to smoldering fires, where less heat and flame is generated initially.

Heat Detectors

Detectors that rely on heat to trigger their alarm are the oldest type of sensor available. An element inside the detector activates once it reached a set temperature or if a specific rise in temperature occurs. These types of detectors offer a lower rate of false alarms, but are much slower in detecting fire than either of the previous types of smoke detectors.

Each of the above sensor types have benefits and drawbacks, so many experts recommend include using all types of detection devices in your home or using combination sensor which employ multiple technologies in one device.

Monitored Versus Unmonitored

If you already have smoke and heat detectors in your home, you may think including a monitored detector with your home security system is an additional, unnecessary cost. It’s important to understand smoke and heat sensors, like those available with a Frontpoint security system, offer several advantages over standard detectors.

Integrated Technologies

Photoelectric technology allows for detection of smoke while the integrated heat sensor offers fixed temperature and rate-of-rise detection, so fires can be detected faster – and more accurately.

Monitored Safety

A standard sensor does well in alerting anyone home when there’s a fire emergency. But what if you’re not? With monitored detectors in your home (or vacation home), authorities can be dispatched by the monitoring center even if your away.

Supervised System Function

Along with 24/7 monitoring and remote alerts, these sensors also offer the added peace of mind of self-diagnosis. These sensors monitor their operational status and provide indicators if the sensors detection capabilities are compromised.

Learn more about Frontpoint and other security systems smoke detection capabilities by reading our detailed home security company reviews.

Proper Placement

Detectors and sensors should be placed high on walls or directly on ceilings. If you chose to install them on the wall, they should be no more than a foot away from the ceiling.

If your ceilings are angled or pitched, install the alarm within a few feet of the peak but not directly in it.

Do NOT install the detector near a window, door or ducts. Drafts can pull smoke away from the area before reaching the detector and interfere with their ability to alert you.


Sensors and detectors should be placed inside each bedroom as well as outside the sleeping areas and on every home level – including your basement. On levels without bedrooms, install the detectors near the stairway leading to the upper levels.

In the basement, install the sensor on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the home

It is not recommended to place a detector in your kitchen as it may lead to false alarms. Place one no closer than 10 feet from any cooking appliance or stove.

Knowing what to do to make your home safer and more secure is an important aspect of your emergency preparedness plan. Learn more about what today’s home security systems are capable of monitoring by reading our Introduction to Home Security. Then head over to our expert alarm company reviews to find the right system and provider for you.


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