Having been called out to a couple of the houses on the new Field View development at the end of Golf Lane in Whitnash, I’ve noticed that the builders have installed ionisation instead of optical smoke alarms which may cause residents to experience false alarms when cooking. If you’re fed up of a side helping of ear-splitting bleeping with every meal, then here’s a quick fix…

The builders of the new houses springing up around these here parts have installed Grade D LD2 fire detection systems, that means they are mains powered and interlinked with a smoke detector in each escape route (generally hallways and landings) along with a heat detector in any higher risk areas such as the kitchen. This is the minimum requirement for a new dwelling, so the builder had to comply, but where things are coming unstuck is their choice of the type of smoke detector employed for use in the hallway.

When I say hallway, many of these new developments are open plan downstairs, so the ‘hallway’ as such also forms part of the living room and kitchen. If there is a wall, then the kitchen is often directly off the hallway and the same problem persists – general cooking causes the hallway smoke detector to sound, and because they are all interlinked then the landing and kitchen alarms also sound which makes for a noisy headache for the chef and all their hungry diners. You don’t even have to burn the toast for the alarm to start beeping, just going about your general cooking can set things off.

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Now, the Aico smoke alarms installed in these properties are very fine things and I install many of them myself, but not all smoke alarms are the same. These builders have installed ionisation alarms (the Aico EI141) which is a perfectly capable detector, but it is sensitive to cooking and isn’t best placed in or just outside of a kitchen. Had the builder spent a few quid more, they could have installed the Aico EI146 optical smoke alarm. The difference is that an ionisation alarm is more responsive to a flaming fire, while an optical alarm is more responsive to a smouldering fire, but this makes the optical alarm less likely to be fooled into sounding off by your daily culinary exploits.

You can’t really blame the builder as Aico themselves say that an ionisation alarm is the most appropriate type of detector for a hallway, but the practical reality is that when the hallway forms part of an open plan kitchen or joins on to the kitchen, then an ionisation alarm is no longer the best fit.

What often happens is that people become so fed up of their smoke alarm sounding when they cook, they end up removing or disabling it. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve turned up to a family home and seen pictures of the kids hanging on the wall and the smoke alarm wires hanging from the ceiling after it’s been yanked off for chirping too much.

So, rather than removing, disabling or defeating the very gadget whose sole existence is to save you and yours should the worst ever happen, a simple change of alarm can maintain your protection without driving you up the wall and it’s an easy, cheap DIY job you can undertake yourself. The optical EI146 can be purchased from Toolstation near the Shires Retail Park for £26.30 including VAT at the time of writing (order code 30003). Just check the Toolstation website for on-the-shelf stock availability before you trundle out there. You only need to buy one to replace the alarm in the hallway as the heat alarm in the kitchen and the ionisation alarm on the landing(s) aren’t causing the problem.

The only tool you need is a small flat blade screwdriver to push into the side of the old alarm which allows it to slide off its base. The replacement alarm then slides on and the job is done. You can see how easy it is by watching my YouTube video below.

On the other hand, if a trip to Toolstation or standing on a step to change your alarm isn’t your cup of tea, then I can offer the service in the CV31 postcode area for a fixed price of just £25* and I’ll take away your old alarm in part exchange. Because the old alarms still have plenty of life left in them, they can be deployed elsewhere so that they’re not wasted.

Both the ionisation EI141 and optical EI146 models of alarm have a 9V PP3 battery backup, and they will start to chirp out a low battery warning when this battery requires replacement, so you should do as the fire brigade say and check their operation regularly using the test button as well as replacing the backup battery every year. The battery can be accessed by sliding the alarm off its base as described, so you may as well get used to doing it! These alarms have an expiry date on the side which tends to be about ten years after installation, so new home owners on this estate will find themselves requiring replacement alarms somewhere around 2026/7. Aico also make alarms with built-in ten year batteries if you want to save yourself the headache of annual maintenance.

If you have any questions or require any assistance with changing or maintaining your smoke alarms, please get in touch and I’ll be happy to help!


* This offer applies to the CV31 postcode only and is intended for new build houses with Aico brand smoke alarms that still have ten years until their expiry date. If you have an older alarm that cannot be part exchanged or live in a different postcode area, but you're looking to resolve the same problem, then I offer a discounted price on my usual call-out fee to install a new optical alarm. If you have another brand of smoke alarm rather than Aico, e.g. FireAngel, Chubb etc. then these too can be upgraded but I would have to cost per enquiry.