How to Choose The Best Smoke Alarm for Your Home or Business

Many online websites sell smoke alarms for as little as $20 these days. While these rock bottom rates are tempting for consumers, is it worth risking your safety to save a small sum of cash?

The truth is, these cut-price smoke alarms don’t perform as well as the established, trusted brands from reputable smoke alarm suppliers and this substandard performance could cost the life of a loved one someday.

Cost-Benefit Analysis: Is it Worth Investing in a High-Quality Smoke Alarm?

At most, you’ll pay around $100 more for a high-quality smoke alarm from a trusted brand than you would for a cheap, no-name option. As you’ll only need to replace the unit every ten years, that works out to be an additional annual expenditure of $10—less than $1 per month. Is it worth putting you and your family at risk to save just a few cents per day?

High-Quality Smoke Alarms: What To Expect

High-quality smoke alarms may sometimes come at a higher price than some of the lesser-known brands on the market. As a smart consumer, you would then ask yourself the question – what exactly are you getting in return?

To begin with, high-quality smoke alarms are guaranteed to fulfil all the relevant Australian safety standards (AS3786:2014). When you are purchasing a smoke alarm, you don’t want to study its various features and then check to see if they adhere to government rules. Buying smoke alarms from a reputable brand means that you can be sure they are legislation compliant.

Besides that, you will find that most high-quality smoke alarms are photoelectric smoke alarms. Research and case studies show that photoelectric smoke alarms offer the best protection. They can detect a small, smouldering fire early on, giving you time to escape or extinguish the fire before it gets out of control. In fact, photoelectric alarms are so superior that some Australian states now mandate them in all new homes—basic ionisation alarms are no longer allowed.

While the cheaper brands have limited options, a versatile and reputable supplier will sell both mains-powered and battery-operated systems to suit unique budgets and requirements. A proper mains-powered smoke alarm system should always come with a battery back-up to ensure continual operation in the event of a power cut; not having this feature would pose a significant risk. Reputable brands will have a complete range of smoke alarm products and accessories to build a solution.

Moreover, higher-end smoke alarms come with extra features that add convenience and minimise hassle. Sturdy anti-insect screens stop bugs from crawling inside, while one-press hush buttons let you instantly silence nuisance alarms. There are even smoke alarms with a remote control so you can test the system without having to fetch a ladder.

Cheap Smoke Alarms: What To Expect

If you opt for a low-cost smoke alarm from a little-known brand, you could be putting your family or business at risk.

Unfamiliar brands haven’t established a reputation in the industry and have no proven track record for quality. Without a history of reliable, long-standing results, it’s impossible to say for sure that these little-known brands will perform when it matters most. Unfamiliar brands may entice buyers with long warranty periods. However it can be misleading as the business may not be around to honour it.

While all smoke alarms sold in Australian stores should comply with AS3786:2014, some online retailers flood the market with non-compliant imports from other countries. It’s a clear case of buyer beware.

Even if a cheap smoke alarm does meet legally mandated Australian Standards, the chances are it is not third-party certified by ActivFire. This CSIRO-run scheme manages comprehensive quality-control tests and only recommends the best brands in the business.

Cheap smoke alarms are, on the whole, less convenient to use, too. Nuisance alarms occur more frequently, prompting the home owner to remove the battery thus putting their family at risk. Inferior hush functions and unreliable low battery alerts can also create unnecessary hassle.

Note that many low-cost smoke alarms use ionisation technology. While this system detects fierce flaming fires quickly, the vast majority of house fires start from smouldering embers. Photoelectric alarms are far superior at detecting smouldering fires before they get out of control, making them the preferred option for residential use and most commercial scenarios.