Nuisance alarms continue to be a problem that all of our customers want to avoid. They are responsible for the loss of time and money but can also result in tenants and homeowners ignoring their alarms when they sound and subsequently not evacuating as they should, therefore reducing nuisance alarms as much as possible needs to be a priority.

There are a number of ways in which you can start to address this problem. An informed selection and siting of sensors is crucial towards reducing nuisance alarms. There is also technology available which can vastly reduce nuisance alarms caused by contaminated alarms, Dust Compensation. This article explores the different types of alarms and how dust compensation can drastically reduce nuisance alarming.

It is important to understand that not all smoke alarms are the same, for a start there are multiple sensor types, for example Optical and Heat, each one suitable for certain rooms types or environments. Then there are Multi-Sensor alarms, with different combinations of single sensors found within one alarm. There is also the technology and software alongside the sensor within the alarm, which has an equally important role to play; this arguably has a greater scope for progression as we continue to push technology further.

Photoelectric smoke alarms, more commonly known as Optical type smoke alarms, detect the scattering of light by smoke particles. This provides a far more accurate indication of how much smoke is present than Ionisation type smoke alarms.

Optical and Multi-Sensor alarm types are recommended by the British Standard BS 5839-6:2019 for circulation areas and principle habitable rooms. Optical and Multi-Sensor alarms are also the alarm types most used by our customers due to their resilience to nuisance alarms and flexibility for siting.

Using Optical and Multi-Sensor alarms immediately reduces the potential for nuisance alarms when compared to Ionisation alarms. However, Optical and Multi-Sensor alarms can still suffer from contamination and this could impact on the sensitivity of the alarm over time. Independent research recently conducted by BRE into the longevity of smoke alarms highlighted that the sensitivity of optical alarms tended to drift as the alarm aged. When it is considered that most domestic alarms now have a life span of 10 years, and many domestic alarms never get serviced, then the build-up of contamination within the alarm sensors can be a genuine issue.

To resolve this issue, Aico alarms feature a Dust Compensation feature which automatically compensates for the build-up of contamination over time. This is achieved by using software which continuously monitors and adjusts the sensitivity trigger point (gain) over the life of the alarm keeping the same level of sensitivity despite the build-up of contamination. If the alarm ever reaches a point where the contamination is too great to compensate for, then the alarm will alert the occupant by way of an amber LED flash and chirp. At this point, the occupant can use a vacuum cleaner to simply clear the contamination and debris from the alarm unit and the software will automatically recalibrate the sensitivity of the alarm.

It is incredibly rare that our alarms ever reach the point where intervention is required, but alarms without the Dust Compensation feature might otherwise need to be replaced. The more common scenario is that alarms without Dust Compensation become more sensitive over time which increases the chances of nuisance alarming.

Both the Ei650 battery powered Optical smoke alarm and the Ei3000 range of mains powered Optical and Multi-Sensor alarms feature the Dust Compensation feature. Our customers now rely on this technology and choose alarms with this feature to reduce the costs associated with alarm replacement, maintenance call outs and for alarms in challenging environments.