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Which type of smoke detector is best for protecting your family?

3News investigator Rachel Polansky teamed up with Parma Fire Department to find out.

MENTOR, Ohio — We all know how important smoke detectors are but do you know not all are the same?

There are two main types – ionization and photoelectric – they each detect smoke and fire differently. 

3News investigator Rachel Polansky teamed up with Parma Fire Department to find out. 

Ionization: better at detecting flaming fires – think a lit candle tipping over and igniting a curtain.

Photoelectric: better at detecting smoldering fires – think a lit cigarette falling into a couch cushion.

3news bought one ionization, one photoelectric and two combination smoke detectors, 

T. J. Martin with Parma Fire installed them, and then we set a couch on fire.

Within seconds – all four of the smoke detectors were sounding.

Since there wasn’t a clear winner the first time – we decided to perform another test -- this time for high heat.

"Our ion detector just went off with just the heat," said Martin. "And now the photoelectric is going off because they're starting to generate some smoke."

So which is best for protecting you and your family?

"The best bang for your buck would be the combination dual photoelectric and ionization smoke detector. Albeit they may be more expensive, the extra dollars will give you maximum protection throughout your home," said Martin.

The dual photoelectric and ionization smoke detector will cost you anywhere from $10 to $30.

As technology continues to lead us toward a “smart” future, 3News is also looking at what’s next for smoke detectors.

If price isn’t an issue for you, you can also buy a “smart” smoke detector for about $100 to $150 that can be accessed through your cell phone – and allow you to remotely monitor emergencies, receive notifications and even use voice commands to shut off an alarm.

How do you know which type of smoke detector you have in your home?

Take them down. Look on the front, back or the inside of the unit for the following: 

The word “Photoelectric” or the symbol “P” or the word “Ionization” or the symbol “I”.

While you’re checking on that, check out the date that’s listed too. That is the date of manufacture. You’ll want to replace the alarm 10 years after the date of manufacture.

Click here to read more about ionization vs. photoelectric.