Is there a technical reason why there are seemingly no smoke detectors that are battery operated, dual sensor, and interconnected?

Home Improvement Asked by rory.ap on April 16, 2021

I’ve viewed dozens of "top X smoke detectors of 2020" sites, and scoured the leading brands’ sites (Kidde, First Alert, and Nest), but I can’t find any that are battery operated, dual sensor (ionization and photoelectric), and interconnected (wirelessly). I can’t install hardwired detectors in my home due to lack of access inside walls and ceilings. Many resources say dual sensor is recommended because they cover both smouldering and fast flaming fires. Additionally, it’s now law that all new homes have to have interconnected alarms so a fire detected in a distant part of the house will be heard, which is a concern I have even though I don’t own a new home. So why don’t they exist with those three?

2 Answers

No Demand

The demand for interconnected is associated with new homes in many jurisdictions. I don't know of any places (there may be exceptions, probably California if anywhere...) where they are required to be interconnected unless a home is new or, possibly, substantially renovated. When a home is new or is substantially renovated, it is easy to run wires between the detectors and to add wires from the first detector back to a power source.

So the need for "battery" is made obsolete by the need for "interconnected". You don't need battery if they are interconnected, you don't need interconnected if you are in a situation where you don't want to run wires back to a power source (because if you don't want to connect to power, you probably don't really want to run wires for interconnecting them either).

End result:

  • Battery power for individual detectors in older homes. (Unrelated, but now typically "10-year batteries" instead of "replace battery when you hear the chirp").
  • AC-powered for interconnected detectors in newer homes.

I don't think dual-sensor has much to do with it, though due to power requirements (and possibly a higher price-point) that may be more common with AC-powered, interconnected detectors.

I didn't catch the "wireless" part originally. For a bunch of reasons, I would prefer wired to wireless for smoke detectors. Wireless at many levels (from Bluetooth to WiFi to cell phones...) has enough problems that for life-safety I'd prefer wired, when practical. As long as this is new construction, wired seems quite practical, and new construction is the primary demand source for interconnected.

Answered by manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact on April 16, 2021

Vermont actually requires photoelectric-ONLY and CO. (Yeah, sure, you may not be in Vermont.) But the stated reasoning for the law being that way is "outdated ionization type alarms" so you may be applying outdated logic to alarm selection. I found it a bit surprising myself when I noticed that language in the requirements. You might want to check the details of the rules that apply to your area... (Three Phase Eel's comment seems to shed some light on what may be up with that.)

In any case, I found none of the "usual run of home center consumer alarms" (what you call "leading brands" - which they are not, if you include the much larger market of dedicated alarm system manufacturers) suited me, so I'm installing a "central" type with one rechargeable backup battery and a clear indication of which head went off, rather than going through the utter [expletive] of individually AC powered, individually disposable battery backed-up, interconnected but not at all clear where the alarm was actually coming from crud that seems to be what's on offer at home centers. Those make false alarms incredibly annoying (run around in the din trying to find which head has a light on.)

I'm hardwiring, but there are wireless versions of those, too (which I don't particularly trust with life-safety as a person who does wireless professionally, plus I am building the wiring into the building, not trying to add it to a finished building. But there are ways to do that...)

If you want a "smoke and dust insensitive" detector that still responds to fires, heat detectors are available (and inexpensive.) Combination smoke and heat detectors are also available.

Answered by Ecnerwal on April 16, 2021

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