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Are the more expensive smoke alarms the safest?

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
An investigation of 15 of the most popular smoke alarms costing between £9 and £160 has revealed a wide variation in the time it takes for them to sound off.

Campaign group Which? undertook four types of fire test, including smouldering wood, solvent, plastic and cotton fires.

A total of 15 smoke alarms, meeting the British Standard and with the Kitemark were put to the test and worryingly, one alarm at the upper end of the price range, failed to sound at all in two of the fire tests performed.

As such, it is now listing the Devolo home control smoke detector (£50 for the alarm and £110 for the control unit) as a ‘don’t buy’. A Devolo spokesperson said it was concerned by the results as the alarm had passed standard safety tests at two certified test labs.

In the Which? tests involving smouldering wood, two approved examples of the First alert SA300Q (£13) and the EI Electronics Ei3500S (£16) took more than nine minutes to trigger.

In contrast, the fastest alarm tested in this category was the Nest Protect Smoke+ Carbon Monoxide Alarm (£100), which was more than four minutes quicker to sound with the same type of fire.

The table below reveals the results:


Which? said that according to the official safety testing method – which measures the amount and thickness of smoke that is required to trigger the alarm – these response times are fine and all of the products tested met British standards.

However, the campaign group said the consequences of a slow-to-sound fire alarm could be significant as every moment may count in a house fire when it comes to getting out to safety.

As such, it’s calling for a new, tougher standard that only rewards models sounding more quickly.

Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said: “People will be surprised to see such a big variation in response times from alarms that are currently classed as being safe and which pass the standard. We want to see stricter testing criteria because every minute counts in a fire.”

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