Understanding Smoke Detector Testers

smoke detector testers

We have smoke detectors in our workplaces and homes, as they are a crucial part of fire safety. Whenever they sense a fire or smoke, they sound an alarm that allows you to either deal with the incident (only if it’s minor) or evacuate the premises. However, these smoke alarms need to be tested to work as required. The UK government and various safety organizations recommend doing this at least once a month. Most of the alarms we buy today come with a test button that only needs to be pushed to know whether the alarm is working. However, did you know that these buttons only test the batteries and sounder, not the smoke detection capabilities? To know whether the entire system is working properly, you need smoke detector testers.

What Are Smoke Detector Testers?

Smoke detector testers are tools meant to test the functionality of a smoke alarm by simulating smoke. This kind of test is important as it goes beyond the simple testing you can do using the test button. While the test button will ring the alarm, smoke detector tests will let you know whether the detection chamber is working as expected.

For example, fire regulations in the UK, Europe, and the US recommend changing your smoke alarms ten years after the manufacturing date. This is because the detection capabilities of the alarm reduce over time, so they may not work well after ten years. However, the testing button will still trigger the alarm as long as the product has batteries. A smoke detector tester will test the effectiveness of the detection chamber, not just the alarm.

Note that even before the ten years, the detection chamber can stop working due to component malfunction or things such as dust and debris.

Types of Smoke Detector Testers

There are different types of smoke alarms, which also prompts the need for different smoke detector testers.

Aerosol Detector Testers

These are the most popular types of detector testers, as most smoke alarms work by detecting smoke particles. Aerosol detector testers allow you to test the alarm by releasing a harmless aerosol spray that is similar to smoke particles. When released, the smoke detector interprets the spray particles the same way it would interpret smoke and trigger the alarm.

Aerosol detector testers are suitable for ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms.

Electric Detector Testers

Instead of detecting smoke particles, some smoke/fire alarms work by detecting the heat produced by fire. If a certain temperature is reached or the overall temperature rises by a certain amount within a few seconds, the alarm is triggered.

Electric detector testers work by simulating the same principle. They have a heating system that uses batteries or a direct connection, allowing you to test both the rate of rise and fixed temperature triggers.

Considerations when Choosing a Smoke Detector Tester

You need to make sure that you get the right detector tester, depending on various factors.

The first one is compatibility with your smoke alarms. If you are using ionization or photoelectric smoke alarms, you need aerosol detector tests. If you also have heat detection smoke alarms, you will need an electric detector tester.

The other major consideration is the ease of use. Smoke detector testers come with cups that allow you to enclose smoke alarms for more effective testing. However, it can be detached such that you will need a ladder to reach the ceiling, where your smoke alarms are. If you are comfortable with that and have access to a ladder, these can work and are actually a cheaper option.

Alternatively, you can go for a complete testing kit. These allow you to test your smoke alarms while on the ground as they have extendable equipment. They are safer and easier to use, but they cost more. The choice should ultimately depend on what you are comfortable with, both physically and financially.

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