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The Difference Between Smoke Detectors & Heat Detectors

Smoke detectors and heat detectors are better are detecting certain types of fire.

When planning a detailed fire alarm system, or even the installation of domestic fire alarms in your home, you may wonder where it’s best to locate your smoke detectors and heat detectors and why.

What are smoke detectors?

Depending on their design, smoke detectors will detect smoke via either an optical sensor or an ionisation sensor. Each type of smoke detector is best at detecting certain types of smoke.

Optical Smoke Detectors

Optical smoke detection is great at detecting smoke particles from smouldering fires. Smouldering fires are typical in places where there is not enough enough combustible material to cause a flaming fire. Smouldering fires are likely in areas such as hallways and rooms like offices and lounges.

Ionisation Smoke Detectors

Ionisation smoke detection is ideal for detecting smoke from flaming fires. Flaming fires are likely in areas where there is lots of combustible material to act as fuel for the fire. Typical examples include linen closets in hotels and bedrooms.

What are heat detectors?

Heat detectors use temperature sensitive sensors to detect heat from fire. The alarm may be triggered when the heat in the environment exceeds a certain threshold, when there is a rapid rise in temperature over a set time or a combination of both.

Heat detectors are most suitable for use in areas where smoke detection isn’t feasible due to natural levels of smoke or even dust. Kitchens are the most common area to install heat detectors but hey can also be used effectively I areas like attics, garages and workshops.


If you have a strict budget it is possible to provide more than adequate fire protection in your home or fire alarm system by positioning the best detector for the job in certain areas. However, for the best possible fire detection a combination of devices in all areas (except those where nuisance alarms may be caused e.g. kitchens) will provide the optimal level of cover and ensure that fire alarms are activated without delay in the event of fire.

It should also be noted that smoke detectors and heat detectors do not provide the same area of coverage so please consult your manufacturer guidelines. Always consult a fire system expert if you are unsure about any aspect of installation or if you have any concerns.

Discount Fire Supplies sells smoke detectors and other fire and safety accessories online at