Monitored and Non-Monitored Smoke Alarms

Monitored and Non-Monitored Smoke Alarms

One of the many advantages of a monitored, low voltage smoke detector is that it is monitored through your existing burglar alarm system.  In the event of a fire, or the presence of smoke, an activation signal is sent immediately to your Central Station.  Additionally, a signal is also sent to our Central Station to indicate that the detector has lost power or is operating on a back-up battery.

By contrast, when a regular 120 volt smoke detector trips, it makes a loud noise to warn the occupants of the presence of smoke.  If the power goes out, it will only last as long as the battery that you have installed in it (assuming it works).

Oftentimes, you will see homes that have two smoke detectors side-by-side… one is to meet the city codes and the other is connected to the alarm system (either hardwired or wireless).

120 volt smoke detectors can be monitored, but are not the best way to go.  While devices exist that allow these detectors to be connected to your alarm system, this practice is not recommended.  The reason being, when your Central Station receives a signal, there is no way to determine the exact location of or which detector has been activated.  This is because 120 volt detectors are “daisy-chained” when wired.  This means that each detector is connected to a single cable.  With low voltage detectors, each device is wired directly to the control panel (or sends a wireless signal to the control panel) without any “sharing”.

This can create a lot of frustration and wasted time for homeowners, the fire department and alarm technicians when trying to troubleshoot why an alarm occurred with any devices that have been “daisy-chained”.  We only know that there was an alarm, but not the specific location where it originated from.

By contrast, with monitored, low voltage detectors, our Central Station knows immediately that an alarm is coming from the master bedroom,, the garage, etc.  We then provide that information to the fire department when dispatching them to your home.  This helps direct the fire departments efforts to save your home and your precious belongings.

False Alarm Issues

One of the most common reasons for a smoke detector tripping is something burning on the stove, and homeowners invariably end up disconnecting the 120 volt smoke detector closest to the kitchen.  This is the very reason we recommend that those “regular” smoke detectors not be connected to the alarm system.

Instead, low voltage monitored smoke detectors should be installed outside of each bedroom, on the second floor, etc. and not near the kitchen.

What Should You Do?

  1. Determine if your existing smoke detectors are monitored or not (call your alarm company to ask).
  2. If your smoke detectors are more than three years old, consider replacing them… if they are more than five years old, definitely replace them.
  3. If you only have 120 volt smoke detectors installed, consider adding monitored low voltage smoke detectors to your alarm system.  They can be hardwired or wireless.