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Smoke, Fire & Gas Detection FAQs

What is the difference between an ionisation and an optical smoke alarm?

Optical smoke alarms, also known as photoelectric detectors, have a high sensitivity to large particles in the air. They are slightly quicker at detecting slow-smouldering fires that produce a lot of smoke (such as fire from soft furnishings). They are suitable for living rooms and sleeping areas and are used near kitchens as they are less prone to false alarms. 

Ionisation smoke alarms use a small amount of radioactive material in the sensor chamber to detect fires, as such they are being discontinued. Safelincs encourages customers to purchase optical smoke alarms instead.

See also heat alarms for the most suitable protection in a kitchen.

Read more about how different smoke alarms work.

View all smoke, fire & gas detection FAQs


Reviewed: 14/09/2023 (doc:536 V1.0). Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered. Please note that we provide abridged, easy-to-understand guidance. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation.


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