If a car manufacturer told you, “There’s a 1 in 4 chance your car’s airbag won’t deploy in a crash,” how safe would you feel?

Not very, we’d assume.

But there are some smoke detectors that have that kind of track record; some fail to sound an alarm 20-25% of the time.

With that in mind, you need to seriously consider getting new smoke detectors if...

Sign 1: They’re 10+ years old

Smoke detectors typically live about 10 years, says Consumer Reports. At that point, the sensor becomes less sensitive to smoke, leaving your family vulnerable to a fire.

“But I pressed the test button and it works just fine!”

That button actually only confirms that the detector’s battery, electronics and alert system are working—not the smoke sensor itself.

To test the smoke sensor do this: Spray an aerosol can over the smoke detector to simulate smoke. Even if the sensor works, we’d still recommend replacing it if it’s 10+ years old.

Sign 2: They use ionization technology

Ionization smoke detectors—the most common type—have a long history of being less than stellar at doing their jobs.

For example, this mother lost 4 of her children due to smoke inhalation from a fire because her ionization smoke detectors did not sound an alarm until the fire had escalated.


Also, according to this study, ionization alarms respond an average of 15 to 50 minutes slower than photoelectric alarms for smoldering fires, Several other several studies indicate that ionization detectors will outright fail to activate up to 20-25% of the time.

Let’s return back to our original question: How safe does that make you feel?

Ionization smoke detectors are ineffective because they are:

  • Prone to false alarms, usually because they mistake humidity or dust for smoke. These frequent false alarms cause some people to take out the detector’s batteries, leaving them with zero protection.
  • Slow to detect smouldering flames, which are deadly because they create smoke, carbon monoxide and other poisonous gases WITHOUT creating noticeable flames. It’s even more deadly if you’re asleep, which is often when fatal fires happen according to this NFPA study.

“How can tell if I have an ionization smoke detector?”

You most likely have one because 90% of homes have ionization smoke detectors. Most homes have them because most people don’t know what to look for in a smoke detector. So they usually buy the cheapest model—which is the ionization model.

You can confirm you have an ionization model or not by checking the model number on the back. If the letter “I” is in the model number or there’s any mention of radioactive material, like Americium-241, then it’s an ionization model.

“What kind of smoke detector do you recommend?“

For bedroom hallways, we recommend installing a smoke/heat detector combo that uses photoelectric technology.

Photoelectric technology can quickly detect large particles found in the billowing smoke of smouldering fires, which burn very slowly without flames (like a cigarette left on a couch or bed).

And heat detector technology will quickly react to quick flame fires that ionization detectors are designed to detect—but without the false alarms caused by dust.

Special smoke detectors can send signals to our monitoring station

If you have Ackerman Security for security monitoring, you can also use us for fire monitoring. All you need is the right smoke detector equipment. So, keep that in mind if you’re looking to replace your smoke detectors soon.

Interested in fire monitoring? Contact us so we can find the perfect smoke detector for your family’s needs.