May 20, 2024

Do Vapes Set Off Smoke Alarms?

Author:  Nick Celenza

With the rise of vaping, many users find themselves concerned about the possibility of inadvertently triggering smoke alarms. This concern is especially prevalent among those living in apartments, dormitories, and hostels, where smoke alarm sensitivity can lead to significant disruptions. To address these worries, it’s crucial to understand how different types of smoke alarms work and how they interact with vape smoke.

This blog aims to resolve, ‘Do vapes set off smoke alarms?’, how they interact with one another, and what some preventative measures are to maintain the status quo within communal residential and commercial buildings.

do vapes set off smoke alarms
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The Connection Between Smoke Alarms and Vapes

Smoke alarms are essential safety devices installed in residential and commercial properties to detect fires early and alert occupants. There are mainly two types of smoke alarms used in commercial and residential properties and they can be triggered by vape smoke under certain conditions: ionisation and photoelectric.

Ionisation alarms are highly sensitive to small particles of smoke produced by fast-flaming fires, whereas photoelectric alarms are more responsive to larger smoke particles from smouldering fires. They house a small amount of radioactive material that ionises the air, making it conductive and allowing current to flow between two electrodes. When smoke enters the chamber, it disrupts this flow, triggering the alarm.

Photoelectric smoke alarms, on the other hand, are more responsive to smouldering fires. They work using a light source, a light beam collimating system, and a photoelectric sensor. When smoke enters the optical chamber, it scatters light, which then hits the sensor and sets off the alarm.

Vapes or e-cigarettes function by heating a liquid that typically contains nicotine, glycerine, propylene glycol, and flavourings, creating an aerosol commonly referred to as ‘vape smoke’. Unlike conventional cigarette smoke, this smoke possesses a different composition and physical properties, leading to the pertinent question: do vapes set off smoke alarms?

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Science Behind Vape Smoke and Alarm Triggers

The core of the issue lies in how the aerosols from vapes interact with the detection mechanisms of your smoke alarm. Vape smoke primarily consists of larger particles of glycerine and propylene glycol, unlike the combustion particles found in regular cigarette smoke.

With a different particle structure than traditional cigarette smoke, vaping can trigger the fire alarm when the smoke particles enter the chamber, but it can depend on your proximity to the alarm and the type you have installed. 

Photoelectric alarms, which detect larger smoke particles typical of smouldering fires, are more likely to be set off by vape smoke because of this issue.

However, setting off a fire alarm is not always guaranteed and often depends on other factors like the amount of vapour produced, the ventilation in the room, and the sensitivity setting of the alarm. High-output vaping devices that produce a dense cloud of vapour are more likely to cause an issue.

To read more about what can trigger your smoke alarm, read our blog here.

Legal and Social Considerations

Setting off a smoke alarm in non-smoking areas, including residential buildings, hotels, and other public spaces, can lead to legal and social repercussions. Property managers and landlords may impose fines or other penalties if vaping leads to frequent false alarms, as these incidents can disrupt other residents and incur costs related to emergency responses.

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Preventative Measures and Best Practices

Whilst vaping indoors is highly discouraged, there are some preventative measures to limit the occurrence of a false trigger:

  • Understand Your Device: Familiarise yourself with the vapour output of your device. Adjust settings or opt for devices that produce less vapour if necessary.
  • Check Alarm Types and Locations: Be aware of the types of smoke alarms installed in your home or building. Avoid vaping directly under or near photoelectric smoke detectors.
  • Improve Ventilation: Open windows or use fans to help disperse vapour more quickly, thereby reducing the concentration of aerosols that reach the alarm.
  • Be Considerate: In shared buildings, it’s wise to communicate with your neighbours about your vaping habits. Ensuring that your vaping does not inconvenience others can help avoid conflicts.
  • Use Designated Areas: Whenever possible, vape in designated smoking areas where alarms are calibrated to differentiate between smoke types or are less sensitive to vapour.
Preventative Measures and Best Practices

When to Bring In Professionals

The primary function of a smoke alarm is to detect the early signs of a fire. Frequent false alarms caused by vape smoke can desensitise occupants, leading to dangerous complacency and increasing the risk of casualties in a real fire scenario. While not all vaping triggers a smoke alarm, it is vital to approach it with the same caution as tobacco smoking to ensure the safety of everyone in the building.

If your smoke alarm is frequently activated by unusual causes, it’s advisable to consult professionals. Engaging licensed electricians, like our team from PWA Electrical Services, ensures your alarm sensors are functioning correctly and reduces the risk of false alarms. Our team can keep everything up to date and ensure everything works as it should with a thorough electrical inspection.

Smoke alarms are sensitive pieces of equipment that can seemingly be triggered by anything, to find out more about what can cause it to go off randomly, read more in our blog post.

Have Peace of Mind with PWA Electrical Services

Understanding whether vapes can set off smoke alarms is crucial in managing risk within communal and commercial spaces. So, do vapes set off smoke alarms? This typically depends on the proximity of the alarm and the size of the vapour particles your device emits.

Being informed about the type of smoke alarm in your building and the properties of vape aerosols, as well as practising good vaping etiquette, helps prevent unnecessary alarms and maintains a peaceful living environment. By adhering to these guidelines, vapers can enjoy their habit without compromising the safety or tranquillity of those around them.

However, if you’re experiencing frequent false alarms, it may be time to contact PWA Electrical Services. Our licensed electricians can thoroughly assess and ensure that your smoke alarms are functioning correctly. With over 30 years of industry experience, our team possesses the expertise and knowledge to properly equip your property. Call us today to discover how we can assist you.