Brand EditorialEPMEPM: Best Practice & Legislation

Photoelectric smoke alarms: A clearer picture

How can you tell the difference between smoke alarms? They don’t seem different when they are on the ceiling.

Recent changes in the Queensland legislation state that all rental properties in Queensland are required to have smoke alarms that meet the new standard upgraded before 1 January 2022.

In Queensland, photoelectric alarms must be used for compliance under the new legislation. QFES recommends the use of photoelectric alarms as they detect smoke in a different way to ionization alarms. Ionization alarms are easily identified by a radioactive sticker on the base of the alarm.

Most other states and fire authorities recommend the use of photoelectric alarms for compliance in rental properties.

So – why are photoelectric smoke alarms recommended over ionization? This can be distinguished through two main points.

Clean detection system

Photoelectric smoke alarms work through a beam of light positioned above a light sensor within its smoke chamber.

When smoke begins to spread within a property, smoke particles will enter the alarm and deflect light from the beam of light positioned within the alarm, interfering with the path of the beam and triggering the smoke alarm when it detects smoke.

Think of it like a laser sensor in a spy movie that will trigger if something breaks its path, but instead of going off from body detection, it reacts to smoke particle detection.

This is a preferred smoke alarm type as it has a clean detection system that doesn’t require the use of radiation to detect smoke particles as an ionization smoke alarm would.

Fast detection

The time it takes a photoelectric smoke alarm is popular because of its ability to detect smoke in a property quickly.

The alarm triggers from the reflection of smoke particles from its light sensor, which is a quicker trigger for the smoke alarm and sound to alert those in a property.

Ionization alarms, however, require their smoke chamber to absorb enough smoke particles to break a radiation circuit and trigger the alarm.

Photoelectric smoke alarms will trigger in the earlier stages of smoke build up as it only needs smoke particles to break the laser beam rather than fill up with enough smoke to recognise a smoke situation.

Because of its streamlined detection functionality and its ability to detect smoke in its early stages, photoelectric smoke alarms are recommended.

Smoke Alarms Australia provides a smoke alarm servicing model built to service the Queensland-specific conditions of smoke alarm compliance across a large number of properties.


This article was contributed by Smoke Alarms Australia. For more on the upcoming changes for Queensland, visit Smoke Alarms Australia.

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