Smoke detectors have come a long way from the devices that were first introduced several decades ago. Now you have your choice of detectors that can detect only smoke, or smoke and one other possible element of fire. There are three ways that smoke detectors alert you to a possible fire in your home. If you buy a home with smoke detectors already installed, you may also want to know which type of detectors your newly purchased home has.
These detectors detect just smoke. If you smoke a cigarette underneath them, they go off. If you burn dinner, they go off. While they are the cheapest and most easily installed type of smoke detectors, they may also be the most obnoxious because every smoky substance in the air sets them off. You will be able to quickly and easily tell if this is the type of detector you have in your home simply by burning something on your stove or smoking indoors.
Smoke and Heat
Another type of detector detects smoke and heat. In fact, some will not immediately go off on smoke alone but require the presence of an environmental temperature change before they sound. Some people prefer this type of detector because it will not go off when you burn dinner (unless, of course, the detector is really close to your stove too). There will be obvious areas on the detectors for sensing heat, and you can test these detectors with a lit cigarette lighter held close (but not too close!) to the sensors.
Smoke and Carbon Dioxide, with or without Heat
Finally, the really upscale smoke detectors detect changes in air composition. Because fire consumes oxygen rapidly, most people die in a fire from asphyxiation and/or smoke inhalation before the flames ever reach them. This type of detector sounds when there is smoke and a decreasing lack of oxygen or increase in carbon dioxide. A few of these higher quality detectors also sound when there is a change in environmental temperature.
You could, essentially, have smoke detectors that sound when there is smoke, an elevated concentration of carbon dioxide, a decreased amount of oxygen and/or a change in temperature. They only have a couple of ways in which you can test their functions. Ergo, be sure to test unknown detectors in the previously mentioned ways first before you look for other ways to test your detectors. For assistance, talk to a professional like GMW Fire Protection.