What things do I need to take into consideration when choosing a smoke alarm?
There’s probably three areas really. There’s two types of smoke alarm, is probably the first thing. You’ve got the photo-electric smoke alarm and then ionization.
A photo-electric smoke alarm actually uses a sensor to take a picture of the air, if you like. They’re very, very good at sensing slow, smoldering fires with a lot of smoke, so like a knocked over candle, an electric blanket malfunctioning in a bed, or a curtain that’s gone over a heater, that sort of slow, smoldering fire. We use photo-electric for that reason, in that, that’s the common type of household fire. That’s the first thing.
The other option is an ionization alarm, where it takes a sample of the air, so not so good at detecting really smoky fires, but very good at detecting rapid fires with no much smoke. Unusual in a home situation until the home is sort of fully alight, so that’s probably the first thing.
We certainly recommend the photo-electric. Then you’ve got either a nine volt battery, generally in New South Wales, just running off little square nine volt batteries, or a hardwired smoke alarm. Hardwired is preferable, if you can have it’s wired into the home’s electricity, it’s working all the time, you don’t necessarily have to change the battery every year. Then they have one of two things, either a nine volt back up battery, which, obviously, needs to be changed regularly, or they may have a lithium battery like you have in your mobile phone. They will last for 10 years, the life of the alarm.
Ideally, a hardwired smoke alarm with a lithium battery is the ultimate way to go. We’re talking about people’s lives, so if it was for me and I was doing a major installation in my house, I would have a hardwired smoke alarm. It’s going to last the life of the alarm, get a lithium battery so you really don’t need to touch it.