In the past, I’ve occasionally had to deal with smoke detectors going off by accident due to smoke coming from the stove or by burning toast. But the alarm that was installed down the hallway from my current kitchen would basically go off every single time I cooked anything on the stovetop—even boiling water! Basically if there was the slightest bit of steam rising from the pot, the alarm would go off.
I didn’t know if it was because I had a gas stove instead of an electric one, so there was an actual flame sending off heat, or if the alarm was positioned in a particularly bad spot (although I’ve had alarms closer to the stove before). All I knew was I had to find some solution before it drove me around the bend. So off to “the Google” I went…
I was surprised to learn that there are actually two different type of smoke detectors: ionization and photoelectric. Even after reading about them, I can’t say that I could properly explain the difference between them but it was enough to know that they each respond to different factors and in many cases a photoelectric one is the better choice for near kitchen areas.
I immediately ordered a First Alert SA710CN Smoke Alarm with Photoelectric Sensor and installed it as soon as I got it. And, sure enough, the alarm has not gone off again since… Yay! (I did confirm that the detector was working by holding a small flame directly underneath it.)
So if you’re suffering from the same situation, I highly recommend you check what type of detector you currently have. If it’s an ionization style, try switching to photoelectric.
NOTE: When I was looking up info for this blog post, I found this report (PDF) issued by the Ontario Office of the Fire Marshal that concludes there is no difference in the two types of detectors for preventing nuisance alarms. And that may be true statistically. All I can say is it absolutely made a difference for me.