Smoke & CO Alarm Quality; what’s in a word?

// fire, security and safety

Most people want a certain level of quality in the product they are specifying and installing; when it comes to life saving devices, including Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarms, that quality bar needs to be set high.  But how do you actually identify quality in an alarm? 

Setting Standards

Domestic alarms sold in the UK should be tested and approved (i.e. Kitemarked) to BS EN 14604 for Smoke Alarms, BS 5446-2 for Heat Alarms and BS EN 50292 for CO Alarms.  The Kitemark is vital as it confirms the alarm has been third party tested to the standard.

However, there are some major differences in the build and quality of alarms, mostly as a result of manufacturing costs.  For example, a good quality alarm will have careful circuit design that incorporates components to smooth out ‘transients’ which are often the cause of intermittent, random beeping and can even trigger fully fledged nuisance alarms. 

Test and Test Again

Look for a manufacturer that tests every single alarm that leaves their premises.  It’s a major task that has an impact on the price of the product but when you’re dealing with a life saving device we believe it’s essential.  Avoid products that are batch tested.

Power Supply

Mains powered alarms with rechargeable Lithium cell back up is the best option as it doesn’t require battery changes and will continue to function as normal even in the event of a power failure.  Furthermore the Lithium cells cannot be removed and, in any case, are not suitable for use in other devices. 

Features of Note

A quality, well designed alarm also comes with many features. 

Top of this list has to be the ability to interconnect the alarms wirelessly.  Fire Alarm interconnection is a requirement of BS 5839-6 and Building Regulations.  When an alarm system is installed using traditional hard-wired interconnection, the disruption and cosmetic damage to property is significant.  Therefore, ensure an alarm has the ability to do this wirelessly, through the use of Radio Frequency (RF) signals, such as Aico’s RadioLINK; it’s faster, cost-effective and flexible.

RF technology has given rise to the ability to readily interconnect a Fire / CO Alarm system to other systems; the most common being Telecare/Warden Call systems, Sprinkler systems and BS5839 Part 1 panel based Fire Alarm systems.  Aico’s Ei414 Fire/CO Alarm Interface has been designed specifically for this purpose.

Data extraction directly from an alarm in situ is another really useful alarm feature and a key indicator of quality.  Smoke and CO Alarms have the potential to provide genuinely useful information such as battery back-up or battery life, alarm sensor status, number of times tested and removed and alarm activation details.  More recently, this data extraction has extended to cover whole systems.  Aico has the multiple award winning AudioLINK and RadioLINK+ data extraction systems.


The better quality alarm systems on the market now come with a choice of accessories and system add ons.  Some of the most beneficial, in my opinion, are those that provide an added element of control to the alarm system, such as the Ei450 Test, Silence and Locate switch.  This allows the resident to test and silence all the alarms on the system from the one conveniently placed switch as well as allowing for quick identification of the unit that has caused the alarm. 

It’s fair to say that quality comes at a premium.  With fire and CO detection equipment you really do get what you pay for and spending less can mean a noticeable effect on alarm performance, providing a false economy.  Installing quality fire and CO detection equipment is a financially sound long term strategy and one that residents deserve.

A wholly owned subsidiary of Ei Electronics, Aico is the market leader in residential fire and CO protection in the UK.  All alarms are designed and built in Ireland specifically to meet the UK standards and regulations.

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