What type of smoke detector should I have in my home?

There are two types of alarms - ionization and photoelectric. They operate on different principles and therefore may respond differently to various conditions.


  • Fastest type to respond to flaming fires
  • Lowest cost and most commonly sold
  • Some models have a hush or temporary silence feature that allows silencing without removing the battery
  • Some models are available with a long-life battery


  • Fastest type to respond to slow smoldering fires and white or gray smoke
  • Less prone to nuisance alarms from cooking

Compare & Contrast

Photoelectric smoke alarms may respond slightly faster to smoldering fires, while ionization alarms respond slightly faster to flaming fires. Since you can't predict the type of fire that will occur, it is difficult to recommend which is best. Both alarms will detect all types of fires that commonly occur in the home, and several manufacturers make a "dual sensor" model, combining the technology of both models into one device. Installing both types of smoke alarms, or a combination unit, in your home can enhance fire safety, and increase your chance of survival by up to 50%.

Show All Answers

1. How often should I change the batteries in my smoke detectors?
2. How long do smoke and carbon monoxide detectors last?
3. How many smoke detectors do I need in my home?
4. My smoke detector is chirping, what does that mean?
5. What type of smoke detector should I have in my home?