Monthly Archives: October 2018

How Does a Smoke Detector Work?

Protecting our family and home with smoke detectors started as early as 1901. The importance of an early warning system from fire and smoke continues to be a priority across the United States.

Today the 2 most common types of smoke detectors are photoelectric and ionization. The power source for these detectors can be as simple as a 9-volt battery or as dependable as our home’s electrical current.

As I’m sure you can guess, they each work in completely different ways, but have the same goal in mind. They each want to do their part in helping to keep us safe and save us from disaster. Here’s a brief description of them both.


You guessed it! Photoelectric uses light to sense smoke. A photo beam is used inside the detector in conjunction with a sensor. When smoke enters the detector, it scatters that light. So when that same internal light hits the sensor, it triggers a loud piercing siren we’ve all come to know.

This type of detector is best at detecting fires that produce a lot of smoke, such as a mattress or piece of furniture for example.


Perhaps the most common and affordable detector is the Ionization type. It may be hard to believe, but inside these detectors is an extremely small amount of a radioactive element called americium-241. This material is used in an ionization chamber (similar to an aluminum can) that is a source of ionizing radiation which helps to detect smoke.

Sound confusing? Here’s how it works. The chamber consists of 2 plates along with a power source that produces the voltage and the americium-241 produces the ionizing radiation. This combination produces a small amount of electrical current that the interior electronics recognize.

When smoke enters the ionization chamber, it interferes with the current. This drop in current is what lets the sensor know that a fire could be nearby and sounds the alarm.

Douthit Electrical can discuss any changes or upgrades of your smoke detectors that you may want to consider for your home. We have been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need help with your electrical service or installation, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!

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What are Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)?

In order to understand what an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) is, let’s first remind you what a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is. GFCIs monitor the flow of electricity through a circuit. These are typically the type of outlets found in rooms that have access to water, such as a bathroom or kitchen. If the flow of electricity through a circuit becomes unstable, a GFCI outlet will automatically cut the power.

This type of protection attempts to protect us from life threatening shocks that could be caused by household accidents, such as a hair dryer falling into the sink. Electricity always follows the path of least resistance, and water is one of its favorite conductors.

An Arc Fault occurs when electricity jumps the gap between 2 loose connections. It will likely cause sparks and an increased amount of heat. This heat can easily cause fires under the right circumstances. AFCIs reside in our circuit breaker box. From there they can then sense unusual heat amounts and interrupt the flow of electricity to the circuit.

Newer homes are typically equipped with both GFCIs and AFCIs, and are required by safety regulations in many areas. Unfortunately older Charlotte homes are not always fully protected and there is a need to investigate the presence of these safety features on our own.

Douthit Electrical can inspect your home for these essential safety upgrades and advise you on a course of action to help protect you and your family from electrical dangers.

Remember, both GFCIs and AFCIs can help save your home from fire and your family from injury. Douthit Electrical has been providing Charlotte with quality electrical services since 1990. When you need electrical service, check out our money saving coupons and give us a call!

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