With any luck, the only time you'll hear your smoke alarm is when you accidentally burn popcorn or make a little too much smoke while cooking. The unit's function is to detect and alert you to the presence of smoke in your home. While some smoke alarms are more sensitive than others, all of them warn occupants and hopefully prevent long-term damage, injury or death as a result of house fires. But having a double-station smoke alarm system instead of a single-station smoke alarm can make the difference between members of the household escaping a fire or not.
A double-station, or interconnected, smoke alarm system in a home provides sounding of alarms all throughout a house. If one unit detects smoke and/or fire, it sounds and triggers the connected units in other parts of the home to sound. Having a single-station alarm means the alarm from that single unit may not be heard in farther reaches of the residence.
Smoke Detector vs. Smoke Alarm
Despite their similar names, smoke detectors and smoke alarms are different things. Smoke detectors simply sense heat or smoke but have no self-contained alarm device. Smoke detectors usually connect to a fire control panel, but if the external alarm system a detector is connected to goes off, occupants will still need to call 911. The fire control panel isn't in any way connected to the fire department, so it can't automatically notify them in the event of an emergency. Smoke detectors are effective because they are constantly monitored by their central alarm system. They're most often used in large settings such as common areas in hotels, office buildings and other public buildings.
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A smoke alarm, on the other hand, like the type you have — or should have — in your home, is self-contained. This means the power source, alarm and detecting hardware are all located in or near one single device. Even though the terms "detector" and "alarm" are frequently used interchangeably, even by manufacturers on their packaging, the units found in homes are actually smoke alarms. If it makes its own sound — it's a smoke alarm, not a detector.
Single- and Double-Station Alarms
The difference between single-station and double-station, or interconnected, smoke alarms is simple. "Single station" simply means that you have one smoke alarm in your home. If you've installed a double-station system of alarms, then you have more than one unit, and they're hardwired together so that, if one goes off, the others follow and sound their alarms no matter how far from the smoke and fire they are. In other words, they're interconnected. This ensures, especially in a larger home, that people in all parts of the house hear the alarm. If you live with more than one person or have a large home, a multiple-station smoke alarm system is the best choice by far.
As far as placement goes, there should be an alarm located near each bedroom and on all floors of the home. Multiple station alarms can also connect to other temperature-regulating devices in the home, such as thermostats.