Rundown of smoke detectors and their pros and cons

Consumers shopping for smoke detectors should take into account that today many household items are made from synthetics, leading to more smoldering fires and creating a need for newer technologies. Consumers should also check with their local fire department because most have giveaway programs.

-- IONIZATION DETECTORS: The most common and cheapest smoke detectors on the market, these can be found in about 90 percent of American homes. These detectors meet Underwriters Laboratories standards and respond quickly to high flaming fires, but some research shows they are slow to respond to smoky blazes. These typically cost no more than $10.

-- PHOTOELECTRIC DETECTORS: Some experts, including Joseph "Jay" Fleming, the deputy chief of the Boston Fire Department, believe this is the preferable detector to install in a modern home because it has a sensor that is quicker to respond to smoldering fires that are most common when synthetic materials burn. This type of detector could typically cost up to $60.

-- DUAL IONIZATION AND PHOTOELECTRIC DETECTORS: These alarm systems, recommended by the U.S. Fire Administration, have both ionization and photoelectric technologies. This combination allows them to respond quickly to both smoky and flaming fires. These models typically cost anywhere from $25 to $75.

-- WIRELESS NETWORKS: This new technology, allows detectors in a home to be wirelessly connected so that when one senses a fire it almost simultaneously triggers all the alarms. Detectors with this technology begin at about $40.

-- DETECTORS CONNECTED TO DEPARTMENTS: Smoke detectors that alert local fire departments when they go off can be among the most expensive, but nearly all insurance companies offer the greatest discounts to those that choose to install this technology in their home. These systems, which often include burglar alarms, can cost as much as $1,000 not including installation fees.

-- INSTALLATION: Smoke detectors should be mounted on either a wall or ceiling, depending on the model. The general rule is there should be a working smoke detector on each floor of a home, including the basement. Some experts suggest installing the detectors closest to the kitchen and bathrooms.

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