Wireless Home Security 101 – Smoke and Heat Sensor

Posted by , , at 10:00 am

Fire protection alone is a major reason to have a monitored alarm system – and that’s why good alarm companies recommend at least one monitored smoke detector for every residential system. I’ve posted on fire monitoring before, and we gave a shout-out to the NFPA’s announcement of Fire Prevention Week. Let’s recap the key benefits of adding fire monitoring to your alarm system:

  • Non-monitored smoke alarms – even the extensive systems sometimes required by building codes – will never summon help. They do nothing when you are away, or at home and overcome by smoke.
  • Fire monitoring should not add a penny to your monitoring fees.
  • Fire monitoring should provide you with additional home insurance discounts.
  • Pets that are home alone need monitored fire protection, too!

Explaining the Smoke & Heat Sensor

The workhorse of home fire monitoring is the wireless smoke and heat sensor, and the good devices actually contain three separate fire detection technologies:

  1. Smoke Detection: using either ionization or photoelectric technology to sense airborne particulate, the sensor “samples” the air. Ionization is slightly better for actual flames, whereas photoelectric (more common) has the edge detecting smoldering fires: both types work.
  2. Fixed Temperature Sensor: the standard trigger point is 135 degrees F. Once the detector senses this temperature has been reached, the alarm is activated.
  3. “Rate of Rise” Temperature Sensor: the sensor can determine if room temperature is increasing by more than 15 degrees F within a 60-second period. That unusual (and dangerous) “rate of rise” triggers an alarm.


Smoke and heat sensors are placed high on the wall, or on the ceiling – but in either case at least 4” away from where the wall and ceiling meet. I recommend one sensor on each floor, starting with the upper floors and working down (since heat rises, and upstairs is usually where the bedrooms are). Here is a simple but effective set of detector placement guidelines from the University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service. As you may imagine, the kitchen is not a great location for the smoke & heat sensor. There is such thing as a monitored heat sensor (heat only), and it has its applications – but that’s for a future blog posting!

As you can see, FrontPoint is a committed advocate for monitored fire protection. We consider life safety monitoring (including carbon monoxide detection) an inseparable partner of intrusion detection, to provide you with the maximum peace of mind. Since we’re the nationwide leader in interactive, wireless home security, our customers expect us to recommend the safest security – in every sense of the word.

Comments (20)

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  1. Bob Wicksell

    The notion of having a fire/smoke sensor that you have no way of knowing that it is “alive”, capable of communicating, and is an active part of your system is totally unacceptable. Basically you are telling us customers “don’t worry, trust us” as we, the customers have absolutely no wat to verify that. The sensor shold be able to be “named” and it should “ping” the control panel or central monitoring system and return an “OK” status. Keeping customers completely blind to this key function is just BAD DESIGN. Please fix this oversight!

    • Gilbert Cho

      Hey Bob, I agree that this is a key function, and everything you’ve voiced here actually is available with every Frontpoint system. While we do want our customers trust us, we definitely do give them the ability to confirm/verify things themselves.

      All customers have the ability to give their sensors unique names. Protective Monitoring customers will have to call in and request these changes, but Interactive and Ultimate Monitoring customers can log into MyFrontpoint.com and make the changes themselves.

      You can also check your system and sensor statuses by hitting the Status button on your Control Panel. When everything is perfectly fine, the system will report “System OK.” If something isn’t working, the Control Panel’s status light will turn on and report what sensor is affected and what the issue is.

      I hope this addresses your concerns, but please feel free to reply to this comment if you have any other comments or questions!