Performance of Dual Photoelectric/ Ionization Smoke Alarms in Full-Scale Fire Tests
Thomas G. Cleary
Data from two full-scale residential smoke alarm fire test series were analyzed to estimate the performance of dual sensor photoelectric/ionization alarms as compared to co-located individual photoelectric and ionization alarms. Dual alarms and aggregated photoelectric and ionization alarm responses were used to estimate dual alarm performance. It was observed that dual alarms with equivalent or higher sensitivity settings performed better than individual photoelectric or ionization alarms over a range of flaming and smoldering fire scenarios. In one test series, dual alarms activated 539 s faster than ionization alarms and 79 s faster than photoelectric alarms on average. In another test series, individual alarm sensor outputs were calibrated against a reference smoke source in terms of light obscuration over a path length (percent smoke obscuration per unit length) so that alarm thresholds could be defined by the sensor outputs. In that test series, dual alarms, with individual sensor sensitivities equal to their counterpart alarm sensitivities, activated 261 s faster on average than ionization alarms (with sensitivity settings of 4.3%/m smoke obscuration for the ionization sensors) and 35 s faster on average than the photoelectric alarms (with sensitivity settings of 6.6%/m, for the photoelectric sensors.) In cases where an ionization sensor was the first to reach the alarm threshold, the dual alarm activated 67 s faster on average than the photoelectric alarm. While in cases were a photoelectric sensor was the first to reach the alarm threshold, the dual alarm activated 523 s faster on average than the ionization alarm. Over a range of ionization sensor settings examined, dual alarm response was insensitive to the ionization sensor setting for initially smoldering fires and fires with the bedroom door closed, while dual alarm response to the kitchen fires was very sensitive to the ionization sensor setting.