There are two main kinds of smoke detectors – ionisation and photoelectric.
Ionisation smoke detectors are good at detecting flaming fires, and photoelectric smoke detectors are more effective at detecting smouldering fires (slow-burning, smoky fires).
While both types are legal by Australian standards, there has been a global shift in recent years away from ionisation alarms. Critics are claiming ionisation detectors are “actually quite dangerous”. But many consumers opt for an ionisation smoke detector simply because they are generally cheaper.
How to tell what kind of alarm you have
Consumers can tell the difference between the two, because the ionisation detector is required to have a radioactive symbol on the back due to its materials. Another indication is if your alarm is often set off due to cooking fumes or even burnt toast.
The Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council recommend photoelectric smoke alarms when installing or replacing existing smoke alarms.
The allegedly inferior ionisation smoke alarms are being phased out in Queensland and the Northern Territory.