Do They Or Do They Not?
There are many conflicting stories about vaping setting off fire alarms.
Some people think it’s impossible for e-cigarette vapour to set off a smoke detector because vaping doesn’t produce smoke. But on the other hand, some of us have witnessed it happening and there are even newspaper articles and comment threads dedicated to stories of vaping setting off alarms.
So, can the vapour from e-cigarettes really set off smoke detectors? And if it can, how likely is it to happen?
The simple answer is that vaping can set off some types of smoke detectors, especially in close quarters and when producing large clouds, but it doesn’t happen often. But the reality is a little more complicated than that.
As e-cigarettes create vapour instead of smoke, and this vapour dissipates quicker than cigarette smoke, vaping isn’t likely to set off smoke detector. However, this isn’t always true, as we know from the reports of vapers setting off alarms.
How Smoke Detectors Work
Not all smoke detectors work the same way. While they are all designed to detect signs of fire, the ways they do this can be very different.
Smoke detectors come in three main varieties which use different methods to detect fires. Most smoke detectors work by looking for smoke using either ionisation of photoelectric sensors, but some detectors look for significant increases in temperature instead.
The chances of e-cigarette vapour setting off a fire alarm depends on the type of detector being used.
Photoelectric detectors are the most common type of smoke detector and also the type most likely to be set off by e-cigarette vapour. Photoelectric detectors use a beam of light and a sensor that detects it. If the beam of light is disrupted by something like dust or smoke then the sensor will activate the alarm.
This means that, while the photoelectric detector is designed to look for smoke, it will be triggered by any cloud of particles thick enough to disrupt a beam of light. The vapour produced by vaping is usually less dense than smoke and doesn’t linger as long, but it’s still possible for e-cigarette vapour to trigger photoelectric detectors.
These detectors are the most common because they are fast and reliable. And, despite the fact that they can react to e-cigarette vapour, they generally produce less false alarms than other types of detector.
Smoke detectors that use ionisation have a set of electrically charged plates and use a radioisotope to ionise the air between them. This ionised air creates a current that can be disrupted by smoke particles which attract the ions.
Ionisation detectors are usually cheaper than photoelectric detectors, but they produce more false alarms and can be slower to detect the smoke from fires. This makes them less reliable and some countries have even banned them.
The particles produced by vaping are not the same as those produced by smoke, so in theory vaping shouldn’t set off ionisation detectors. However, in practice it is possible for larger volumes of e-cigarette vapour to trigger the detector and cause a false alarm.
Heat detectors are the last type of smoke detectors, they rely on sensing heat are the least common types of fire alarms in use. They work by monitoring the temperature around them and trigger an alarm when the temperature becomes too high.
As vaping doesn’t produce much heat, there should be no risk of vaping setting off a heat detector alarm.
How Risky Is It?
While smoke detectors are not designed to detect e-cigarette vapour, it is still possible for vaping to trigger them. But how likely is this to happen?
The chances of vaping setting off a smoke detector depends on the type of detector, the volume of vapour produced, the size of the environment and the ingredients in the e-liquid. Propylene glycol and some flavourings can create larger vapour particles that are more likely to set off alarms. And processes like sub-ohm vaping are also more likely to trigger smoke detectors.
As well as being against the law in many places, vaping in small areas like plane or train bathrooms is also more likely to set off a fire alarm.
Vaping doesn’t trigger smoke detectors very often but it is possible, especially if you’re producing big clouds in a small room. In general it’s a good idea to be cautious around smoke detectors and follow the rules if vaping is prohibited in a certain area.
Setting off a fire alarm through vaping can be very annoying and disruptive, but it could also land you with a large fine or even time in jail in some parts of the world.
There is some confusion about vaping and smoke detectors. Despite what some people think, its possible for the vapour produced by e-cigarettes to set off smoke detectors, even though this vapour isn’t smoke.
Smoke detectors work in different ways and some of them are more likely to be triggered by e-cigarette vapour than others.
Heat detectors are the least common and the least likely to be set off by vapour as vaping doesn’t produce much heat. Ionisation detectors are more common and while the particles found in e-cigarette vapour don’t usually trigger them, this isn’t always the case. Finally, photoelectric