Consumer NZ calls for ionisation-type smoke alarms to be pulled from shelves

Close Up Of Hand Testing Domestic Smoke Alarm
Photo credit: iStock/file

Consumer NZ is calling for ionisation-type smoke alarms to be pulled from shelves, saying they perform too poorly.

While any smoke alarm is better than no smoke alarm, Consumer NZ head of testing Dr Paul Smith says photoelectric smoke alarms perform much better than ionisation types.

"Photoelectric are absolutely fine at responding to all types of fire, ionisation are not very good at responding to slow-burning, smouldering fires that generate a lot of smoke before they burst into flames."

These types of smouldering fires include faulty electrical wiring, curtains draped over a heater, or a hot ember igniting upholstery foam, making it less likely you can get out of your home safely.

Dr Smith says these smoke alarms should not be on the market, and Consumer NZ is calling on retailers to remove them from shelves.

"The four ionisation alarms in our test were faster at detecting flaming fires (burning oil and wood) but much slower at detecting smoke from smouldering foam," he said.

Ionisation smoke alarms can be identified from a radioactive symbol somewhere on the alarm body it may be underneath, so you might need to remove it to check.

Consumer NZ advises people:

Not to remove working ionisation alarms any alarm is better than no alarm.

If only ionisation alarms are fitted, you should also fit photoelectric models at least in hallways and escape routes.

For rental properties:

Landlords have to ensure working smoke alarms are installed at the start of a tenancy. Existing ionisation alarms can stay where they are, but all new smoke alarms must be photoelectric models with a long-life battery.

Tenants must not remove smoke alarms, and are responsible for replacing dead batteries.