Smoke alarms save between 10 and 15 lives every year. Domestic fires often start as smouldering fires. Optical smoke alarms warn people of these fires at a very early stage.
There are two types of smoke alarms: optical and ionisation. These detect fires differently.
Domestic fires often start as smouldering fires in furniture and electrical equipment. A smouldering fire develops slowly and has smaller flames. An optical smoke alarm ‘sees’ the slightly larger particles in the toxic smoke that is formed as a smouldering fire develops. If you use an optical smoke alarm, you have a much higher chance of getting an early warning if there is a smouldering fire.
A fire with a high temperature and a lot of flames is often called a ‘high-energy fire’. The smoke from this type of fire contains ionised gas particles, which are what an ionisation smoke alarm reacts to. In homes, high-energy fires are not as common as smouldering fires.
Remember that you can interconnect smoke alarms, so that all the alarms will go off at the same time if there is a fire. This is particularly important if your home is built over several storeys.
The distributors are responsible for ensuring that the smoke alarms they sell have been manufactured in accordance with regulations. What you have to check is that the alarm has the CE mark.