Smoke alarm confusion: Safe for kitchen or not?

Posted at 11:52 AM, Feb 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-10 12:45:13-05

Jan Arnett hates the old smoke detector in his kitchen of his Ft Thomas, KY home.

He says it goes off whenever he pan fries something on the stove, even sometimes when the tea kettle whistles too long.

So he was excited to find a new model Kidde detector labeled specifically for kitchens.

"It is listed as "kitchen" on the front of it, and it even shows a little steam kettle with steam coming out," he said.

But when Arnett got it home, he read the back label, which appeared to say he should not use it in the kitchen.

It even included a graphic showing a stove with a 10 foot measurement around it, meaning it should not be hung within 10 feet of a stove.

But in Arnett's 1920's era home"in this house, 10 feet away would put it outside the front door," he said.

Confused and frustrated, he returned it.

So is it Safe in Kitchens?

So can you have a smoke detector in the kitchen?  

We went to a fire department, where a fire safety office told said you can now use some detectors in kitchen areas, as long as you get the right type, and you don't put it directly over the stove."

Captain Steve Conn of the Colerain Township Fire Department said "some of these newer smoke detectors actually have dual sensors. So it's a photoelectric, and also has another sensor in there to reduce the amount of false positive alarms. So you can use it inside a kitchen and if you burn some toast or burn some bacon it's not going to be going off all the time."    
Conn explained:

  • Old-style ionization detectors, that most of us have had in our homes for 20 years do not work well in kitchens.
  • Photoelectric detectors will work.
  • Dual-mode detectors, that have the best features or both, are best.

We contacted Kidde about the confusing label, where a  spokeswoman said yes, it is indeed a new model designed for use in kitchens, especially in newer homes with an open floor plan.

However, she said it should not be close to the stove (full statement below).

Arnett is still confused. 

He thinks Kidde should change their packaging in that case, because it implies it should not be in the kitchen at all.  His kitchen is barely 8 feet across.

Bottom line: Smoke detectors are a good thing and new photoelectric models are fine to put in the kitchen area, so your family stays safe and so you don't waste your money.


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The packaging's intent is to recommend the area for which the alarm is suited to provide warning (the kitchen) and the recommended placement to reduce risk for false alarms that may occur if the device is placed too closely to cooking appliances (slightly outside of the kitchen or 10 feet from cooking appliances). 

The National Fire Protection Association reports that cooking fires are the leading cause of home fires and fire-related injuries in the U.S. These fires most often begin due to unattended cooking, and can quickly grow in size. Fire codes require that new homes have smoke alarms installed on each floor and inside and outside of sleeping areas. Yet, surveys show three out of four homeowners do not know where to place smoke alarms. The location recommendation helps remind consumers of placement suggestions.

With many homes having open floor plan designs, they may already have a smoke alarm located near a kitchen that may need to be replaced due to old age. [All smoke alarms should be replaced after 10 years.] However, placing a smoke alarm too close to cooking appliances, like a stove, could increase the likelihood of false alarms, such as those caused by burnt toast. That’s why we included the asterisk directing the consumer to the back highlighted yellow box stating that it should be installed at least 10 feet away from cooking devices.