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Home Security 101: Wireless Smoke & Heat Sensor Examined

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April 21, 2014
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Home Security 101: Wireless Smoke & Heat Sensor Examined

Home alarm systems are, as we’ve discussed, not just about intrusion detection. Another very important role that residential security technology can play in your peace of mind is to add an additional layer of protection, in the form of fire detection.

Unlike intrusion direction, which is only “active” when your alarm system is armed, fire detection devices don’t need to be turned on and off: they’re on the job 24/7. Good alarm companies will recommend at least one monitored smoke and heat sensor for every systemthey sell, even though building codes don’t require that the sensors be monitored.

In fact, fire monitoring alone is a major reason to have a monitored home alarm system in the first place. An additional advantage is that your insurance company may well offer further discounts for fire monitoring over and above the savings you’ll see just from having a monitored intrusion system.

So, let’s briefly recap the key benefits of adding fire monitoring to your alarm system:

  • Non-monitored smoke alarms – even the extensive systems sometimes required by building codes – will never summon help. They do nothing when you are away, or if at home and overcome by smoke.
  • Fire monitoring should not add a penny to your monitoring fees.
  • Fire monitoring should provide you with additional home insurance discounts.
  • Pets that are home alone need monitored fire protection, too!

Explaining the Smoke & Heat Sensor

The workhorse of home fire monitoring is the wireless smoke and heat sensor, and as with the other sensors we’ve discussed, wireless is in fact the way to go. The good devices actually contain three separate fire detection technologies:

  1. Smoke Detection: using either ionization or photoelectric technology to sense airborne particulate, the sensor “samples” the air. Ionization is slightly better for actual flames, whereas photoelectric (more common) has the edge detecting smoldering fires: both types work, but photoelectric is used much more widely today.
  1. Fixed Temperature Sensor: the standard trigger point is 135 F. Once the detector senses this temperature has been reached, the alarm is activated.
  1. “Rate of Rise” Temperature Sensor: the sensor can determine if room temperature is increasing by more than 15 F within a 60-second period. That unusual (and dangerous) “rate of rise” in temperature triggers an alarm.

Proper Placement

Smoke and heat sensors are best placed high on the wall, or on the ceiling – and as a rule, not in the “corner” where the wall and ceiling meet. I generally recommend one sensor on each floor, starting with the upper floors, and working down (since heat rises, and upstairs is usually where the bedrooms are).

As you may imagine, the kitchen is not a great location for the Smoke & Heat Sensor. There is too much possibility of a false alarm. The same can be said for a bathroom, as the steam can be interpreted by a detector as smoke.

Monitored Fire Detection is Best

It’s great to know that if you are way from home – or if you are at home, and are overcome by smoke – that help can be on the way in minutes. That’s why a monitored Smoke & Heat Sensor is the wise choice of homeowners looking for true peace of mind.

And when it comes to alarm monitoring, remember the best systems rely on a security cellular connections, not a phone line or Internet connection: cellular is just safer.

That’s one more wireless sensor we can add to our list of devices to include in a complete wireless home alarm system. We’re getting close to the point of putting it all together and designing the right system for your situation – so stay with us, and you’ll keep on learning about the best ways to protect your home and family. We’re here for you, so keep those calls and questions coming. See you next Monday!


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Schaffhouser Electric
October 13, 2015 at 10:20 AM
A fire alarm system is responsible for regulating an entire system of fire alarm modules within a building and can operate through mechanical or electronic activation.
November 11, 2015 at 2:22 PM
My home's central room is a very large kitchen, all other rooms go off that one. The obvious location for a smoke detector is there, but your article specifically mentions it as a bad spot. I have occasionally had my existing smoke detector go off just from taking a pizza out of the oven! Is the smoke detector sensitivity programmable (sort of like the camera's are)? Can the sensitivity be dialed down or is it hard-coded?
Valerie Saponara
November 11, 2015 at 2:39 PM
Susan, great question! Our Smoke and Heat detectors are hard coded, there is no way to adjust the sensitivity to heat or smoke.
November 22, 2015 at 9:11 AM
If the smoke alarm is triggered, does your service automatically contact the local fire department or does your service try to contact the home owner first to determine if it is a false alarm?
Valerie Saponara
November 23, 2015 at 7:00 PM
Sam, if your smoke alarm is triggered we will try and call you first to confirm the alarming event and if the incorrect pass code is given or you do not pick up when we call, the police/fire department will be sent out immediately. Hope this answers your question!
February 23, 2016 at 7:50 PM
Can these sensors be tied into an existing system of interconnected alarms? This seems to be the major shortfall of all Wireless security systems. Code requires all alarms in new construction to be tied together so if one goes off they all go off. Doesn't it make sense to offer an option for a single "Frontpoint" Smoke/Co2/heat sensor that replaces a hardwired device and send a signal to the base? I have a 3800sqft 5 level home with 12 smoke/heat alarms and 3 CO2 sensors.
Katie Rynex
February 23, 2016 at 8:36 PM
Trent, at this time the Smoke and Heat Sensors can not be tied into an existing system of interconnected alarms. We really appreciate all your feedback and suggestions and will definitely pass them along to the right people for future implementation!
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