Man installing types of smoke detectors at apartment building.


When it comes to the safety and well-being of your tenants and staff, few things are as crucial as a comprehensive fire alarm system. However, there are many different types of smoke detectors to choose from. So, how do you select the right one for your property? We’ve got you covered with this comprehensive guide.

Read on to learn what smoke detectors are and how they work. Then, explore the different types of smoke detectors and how to choose the best one for your building. Finally, discover the best smoke detectors on the market.

In this post, we cover:


What is a smoke detector?

A smoke detector is a type of fire detection alarm that senses smoke and uses sounds and/or strobing lights to warn occupants of a potential fire. Additionally, many smoke detectors also have carbon monoxide sensors to detect toxic levels of CO.

Smoke detectors are usually required by law for all types of properties. So, a complete fire and smoke alarm system is an essential component of any office or apartment building security system.  


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What are the most common types of smoke detectors?

The four main types of smoke detectors are ionization, photoelectric, dual, and intelligent.


What are the 2 types of residential smoke alarms?

Generally, there are two types of residential smoke alarms — ionization and photoelectric:

  • Ionization. An ionization smoke detector ionizes air molecules to create a small electric current. Then, when smoke is detected in the air, the current is reduced, which signals the alarm to sound. Ionization smoke detectors are usually better for detecting flaming fires. Additionally, they’re usually more affordable than photoelectric smoke detectors.
  • Photoelectric. Alternatively, a photoelectric smoke detector uses a light source and a photosensitive cell to detect smoke. As smoke enters the chamber, the light will scatter, and this change will be sensed by the photoelectric cell, causing the alarm to sound. Moreover, photoelectric smoke detectors are better for detecting smoking, smoldering fires, like cigarette smoke.


Replacing types of smoke detectors.


Which smoke detector is better: ionization or photoelectric?

Ionization smoke detectors are better at sensing flaming fires, while photoelectric sensors are best at detecting smoldering fires.

So, it’s recommended to use a smoke alarm system that combines both technologies.

You can opt to install both types of individual detectors at your property or use a combination alarm that employs both technologies in a single device.  


What are the different types of smoke detectors?

We’ve reviewed the most common residential smoke detectors, but they’re not the only options.

In fact, there are other common types of smoke detectors — dual and multi-criteria:

  • Dual sensor detectors. A dual-sensor smoke alarm uses both ionization and photoelectric security technologies. So, it’s designed to detect both flaming and smoldering fires. As a result, dual-sensor detectors are the safest option for large buildings.
  • Intelligent multi-criteria alarms. Intelligent alarms use a variety of sensors, like ionization, photoelectric, and heat, along with an algorithm to detect fires. While these alarms don’t necessarily detect fires sooner, they’re less likely to be falsely triggered by smoke that’s produced by cooking. So, they’re great for large multifamily buildings.


Maintenance for different types of smoke detectors.


How to choose the best smoke detector for your building

Installing a comprehensive fire security system is the first step towards achieving optimal fire safety at your apartment or business.

But how do you ensure you choose the right system for your building?

Here are some features to look for when choosing a smoke detector:

  • Contacts first responders. Choose a smoke detection security system that not only notifies you of hazardous events but also notifies local emergency personnel.
  • Building integrations. A complete smoke and fire alarm system should integrate with your property management software and access control system. Further, these systems can send you real-time alerts and update you on the status of fire-related emergencies.
  • Access control. Access control systems with safety protocols like building-wide door releases automatically lock or unlock doors in the case of an emergency so that your building’s occupants can exit safely.
  • Compliance with local fire safety regulations. Choose a fire alarm system that’s up to code, complies with local ordinances, and is suitable for your building’s regulation and security standards.

Pro tip: Consider conducting a physical security assessment to build a cohesive, building-wide safety plan for fire and smoke-related emergencies.  


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The best smoke detectors on the market

Guaranteeing building fire security and safety at your property is paramount to protect your building’s occupants and your property’s assets.

But with so many options on the market, how do you choose the right smoke detector for your building?

Here’s our round-up of the best types of smoke detectors:

  1. X-Sense SC01
  2. Nest Protect
  3. First Alert SA320
  4. First Alert BRK 7030BSL


1. X-Sense SC01

Google rating: 4.5/5

This two-in-one smoke and carbon monoxide alarm is the best sustainable option for apartment buildings.

The X-Sense SC01 smoke detector features:

  • 10-year lithium battery. This dual-sensor alarm has a long-lasting battery that lasts up to 10 years. So, it’s the best option for those that don’t want to worry about constantly replacing batteries.
  • Durable. The durable construction makes it resistant to high temperatures and corrosion.
  • Multi-colored LED lights. The LED lights show the alarm status and signal when the battery needs to be changed. Further, they indicate any potential faults in the system.

Price range: $38 to $56


Replacing batteries for different types of smoke detectors.


2. Nest Protect

Google rating: 4.9/5

The Nest Protect alarm has intuitive smart technology, making it a modern option for homes and businesses.

Nest Protect smoke sensors feature:

  • Real-time notifications. The Nest Protect sends alerts to your phone when the alarm is triggered and when the batteries are low.
  • Light ring. This alarm features a bright light that enables you to easily view the alarm status, even in low-light settings.
  • Accurate detection. The Nest Protect pulses red and tells you exactly where the fire or smoke is detected. Then, you can extinguish it quickly and easily.

 Pricing starts: $119


3. First Alert SA320

Google rating: 4.4/5

The First Alert dual sensor alarm features intelligent technology that reduces false alarms, like from cooking smoke.

Features of the First Alert dual-sensor smoke detector:

  • Easy DIY installation. This system doesn’t require wiring, so it’s incredibly easy to set up and install.
  • 85-decibels. The alarm sound is loud and easy to hear, which makes it an ideal choice for managers whose tenants may be hard of hearing.
  • Dual-sensor. This dual-sensor alarm is great for detecting both flaming and smoldering fires.

 Price range: $20 to $27


Assessing different types of smoke detectors.


4. First Alert BRK 7030BSL

Google rating: 5/5

This hardwired alarm features bright LED strobe lights — making it one of the best options for occupants with disabilities who need more than one warning.

The First Alert hardwired alarm features:

  • 10-year battery backup. The battery is built to last, so you won’t have to worry about frequently replacing batteries.
  • Hearing impaired combination alarm. The audio alerts paired with the bright LED lights make it a great option for those with hearing or visual impairments.
  • Wide compatibility range. This First Alert model can be paired and connected with most heat, carbon monoxide, and smoke alarms.

Price range: $121 to $167



  • A smoke detector is a type of fire security alarm that detects smoke or flames.
  • There are four main types of smoke detectors: ionization, photoelectric, dual-sensor, and intelligent multi-criteria alarms.
  • The best types of smoke detectors contact first responders, utilize building integrations, are compatible with your access control system, and comply with local fire safety regulations.
  • The best smoke detectors for homes and businesses are the X-Sense SC01, Nest Protect, First Alert SA320, and First Alert BRK 7030BSL.


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Tiara Sutton

I’m an Atlanta-based writer who enjoys exploring the ways that tech benefits residents & tenants of multifamily & commercial properties.

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