Thousands of house fires in Australia cause numerous injuries and fatalities yearly. Unfortunately, most of these fires occur in homes without smoke detectors or with faulty detectors.

It’s, therefore, crucial for every home to have multiple functional smoke detectors. With so many products on the market, it can be challenging to identify a suitable detector for your home.

This guide explores the main types of smoke detectors, how they work, and their pros and cons to help you decide the best one to protect you and your loved one. 

What a Smoke Detector Does

A smoke detector is essential to any home’s fire safety system. It alerts you to a potential fire in your home before it becomes too dangerous or spreads out of control.

Smoke detectors use photoelectric or ionisation technology to detect smoke particles in the air and sound an alarm if they are present.

The Two Types of Smoke Detectors

There are two main types of smoke detectors: photoelectric and ionisation. Knowing which type of smoke detector is best for your needs can help keep you and your family safe in case of a fire.

How a Photoelectric Smoke Detector Works

A photoelectric smoke detector uses a light source inside the unit directed toward a photocell.

When this cell detects any changes in light levels caused by scattered particles from burning materials, it triggers an alarm sound to alert anyone within range of potential danger.

The sensitivity level of these detectors is adjustable depending on your preference or environmental conditions, such as humidity and dust concentration in the room where it is.

How an Ionization Smoke Detector Works

Ionisation smoke detectors offer an effective solution for detecting fast flaming fires. They use a small amount of radioactive material that emits alpha particles into a chamber.

Two electrodes inside the chamber pick up any disruption caused by smoke entering the system, such as when oxygen molecules become electrically charged and trigger an alarm circuit if necessary.

These detectors are better at detecting flaming (or fast-moving) fires than photoelectric ones since they can react quickly when tiny invisible particles are in the air.

Pros & Cons

Pros of Photoelectric Smoke Detectors

Photoelectric detectors are cost-effective due to low power consumption and cost-effectiveness.

Minimal false alarms since steam or cooking fumes don’t trigger them like ionisation detectors.

Photoelectric detectors are superior at detecting smouldering fires because they can pick up on smaller particulates from slower-burning items such as mattresses and upholstery fabrics.


Dust accumulation in the smoke detector can affect reliability and performance since the unit solely relies on light.

Pros of Ionization Smoke Detectors

Ionisation detectors are cost-effective and easy to install

This type of detector features lower power consumption making them great for battery-operated systems since they don’t require frequent battery replacement


Poor ventilation can impact effectiveness since these devices significantly rely on air currents.

Proper maintenance is critical to ensuring your fire detection system works appropriately. It’s best to replace smoke detectors every ten years, even if they appear functional during tests.

Both types of smoke detection technology offer advantages and drawbacks depending on your needs and preferences. Call an electrician to find out what smoke detector is best for you


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here