The Clever Homeowner is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

Can Steam Set Off A Fire Alarm? (What You Need To Know!)

boiling pot on stove with steam that can set off fire alarm

Can Steam Set Off A Fire Alarm Or Smoke Detector?

Smoke detectors play a vital role in keeping your family safe. However, they can also be annoying when they report false alarms. While there are many reasons that smoke detectors might report false positives, high humidity is one of the most common. If high humidity can cause a false reading, can steam set off a fire alarm as well?

Types of Smoke Detectors and How Steam Might Set Them Off

It’s important for you to understand that there are two common types of fire alarms. The most common are ionization detectors. They’re the most budget-friendly detectors that you can buy for your home.

Ionization detectors consist of two electrically charged plates that house a small amount of safe radioactive material. That material ionizes the air and creates a steady flow of air between the plates. As smoke enters the chamber, the flow of ions is disrupted, which activates the alarm.

The second type is a photoelectric detector, which aims a light source into a sensing chamber. This light source is angled away from the actual sensor inside the detector. When smoke enters the chamber, though, the light reflects off the smoke and onto the sensor, which sets off the alarm.

Some fire alarms feature both ionization and photoelectric detection technology. They’re known as dual-sensor fire alarms. However, why would anyone want a smoke detector with both types of sensors? Isn’t one type enough for any home?

In reality, these different alarm systems are better at detecting different types of fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, ionization detectors sense flaming fires better. Photoelectric detectors sense smoldering fires better. Both can occur within the home, so it’s tough to say which one is the better option. For this reason, dual-sensor smoke detectors are the optimal choice.

How Can Steam Set Off a Fire Alarm?

Now it’s time to answer your question, “Can steam set off a fire alarm?” The short answer is yes. Steam causes many false alarms in homes. The reason is that the particles behave in a very similar manner as smoke particles.

According to the University of Maryland, photoelectric detectors are more sensitive to steam than ionization detectors. The light source inside photoelectric detectors can just as easily bounce off steam particles as smoke particles. The next time you boil water, look at the steam that rises from the pot. If you can see it with your own eyes, then it’s safe to assume that the light source inside the photoelectric detector can see it too.

Despite that, ionization detectors aren’t immune to false positives caused by steam. In fact, steam particles can change the ions that flow into an ionization sensor. Like with a photoelectric detector, this causes a false alarm.

Also, keep in mind that steam isn’t the only moisture that can trigger false alarms. According to Whyy, smoke detector manufacturers say that humidity levels of 85% can trigger false positives. As a result, people who live in very humid states might experience more false alarms than those who don’t.

How to Prevent Steam From Setting Off a Smoke Detector

Unfortunately, there’s only so much that you can do to prevent steam from triggering your fire alarm because of how they work. However, you can use a few tips to reduce the chances of it happening.

First, consider moving your smoke detector. While this isn’t always an option, it reduces the risk of steam triggering a false positive. In most cases, you don’t even have to move it very far. Just a few feet can make the difference between getting a false alarm or not.

Also, check the batteries in your smoke detector. As they start to die, it increases the chances of false positives. It’s an even bigger issue with photoelectric detectors because the light source inside the unit becomes weak.

Final Thoughts

Use the information above to keep steam from setting off your fire alarm. Just remember that having one in your home is important. If you have a multilevel home, you should have a smoke detector on each level. It’s an important step to protect your family.

You Might Also Like…

  1. The Best 9v Battery For Smoke Detectors
  2. Best Places To Put Smoke Detectors In Your Home
  3. Hard Wired Smoke Detector Chirping For No Reason? Here’s Why.
  4. How To Get Free Smoke Detectors For Your Home

[VIDEO] How Smoke Detectors Work

man cutting pvc pipe with miter saw

Can You Use A Miter Saw To Cut PVC Pipe? (Tips and Techniques)

prevent raccoons climbing gutter downspout

How To Keep Raccoons From Climbing Gutters (3 Simple Tips!)