Very often  smoke detectors and smoke alarms are thought to be the same. They are not.

They are two different products that can detect smoke. Smoke alarms are what you can buy at any hardware store and electrical supply. They are typically 110V and battery or simply battery powered. Most are ionization type detectors. They have sounders built into them to make noise when they detect smoke. In new construction, it is required that when using smoke alarms, they must be interconnected, so if one detects smoke, they all go off.

Smoke detectors that are part of a system, are usually low voltage, 12 – 24 volts, and may or may not have a sounder built in. Most residential and standard commercial smoke detectors work on the photoelectric detection principle. The big advantage of smoke detectors tied into a monitored alarm system is that the fire department will show up in the case of an emergency even if you are not home.

In commercial properties in NJ, commercial smoke detectors must be part of a fire alarm system, while residential smoke detectors can be connected to a residential burglar alarm system. Smoke detectors installed by an alarm company can either be primary (detection that meets code) or supplementary protection.

Here is a very important difference for homeowners and building owners to know. Smoke Alarms have a 10 year life expectancy and are required to be replaced by code at the expiration of that time. Smoke Detectors do not have that same limit, though should be inspected to make sure they work properly.

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