Category Archives: Smoke Detectors

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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Benefits of Hardwired Smoke Detectors in Charlotte

Smoke Detector Being RepairedThe risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half if your home has working smoke detectors. These little gadgets alert you and your family of smoke at any time of the day or night, allowing you to escape danger and, with any luck, they give the fire department the chance to put out the flames sooner, reducing fire damage to your home. While battery-operated smoke detectors provide a good level of protection, and are certainly far better than owning no detector at all, our electricians want to share with you some of the added benefits of hardwired smoke detectors in Charlotte. 

Benefits of Hardwired Smoke Detectors in Charlotte

  • When one smoke alarm goes off, they all go off. Hardwired smoke detectors can be interconnected. If a fire breaks out in your basement and your basement alarm begins to sound, all of your other alarms will begin to sound as well. This way it doesn’t matter if you’re upstairs asleep in your bed, you will be alerted to the smoke. Having interconnected alarms often allows people a greater amount of time to escape the danger before it is imminently close. When there is a fire, every extra second of time you and your family have to evacuate and call the fire department is extremely important. Some homeowner’s insurance companies recognize this benefit of hardwired alarms by offering a discount on coverage. Contact your insurance provider to see if you could get a discount for installing hardwired smoke detectors.
  • Hardwired alarms will continue to sound until they are turned off. A battery-operated alarm can only sound for as long as the batteries hold up. It can be beneficial for an alarm to sound longer if a building has thick walls, if occupants are sound sleepers, or if you simply aren’t home when the fire first begins.
  • Hardwired smoke detectors have a backup power source. If you forget to change the batteries in your battery-operated smoke detector, it may not work when you need it to. Hardwired smoke detectors run off of electricity, but they are backed up by batteries. This additional power source increases the likelihood that the alarm will sound when necessary.

Because hardwired smoke detectors are tied to a home’s electrical system, it is absolutely necessary that you call a licensed Charlotte electrician for installation. Electrical safety is our number one priority and we can make sure that no hazards are created during installation. Consider the many benefits of hardwired smoke detector installation and give Douthit Electrical a call for electrical service in Charlotte, Cornelius, Huntersville, Lake Norman, Troutman, Gastonia, or the surrounding areas!


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