Can Smoke Detector Detect a Shower Steam or Steam in General?

It might be a jarring jolt to the system when your smoke alarm goes off when you’re trying to relax beneath a continuous stream of hot water. It’s not comfortable to have an alarm go off while you’re in the shower.

Smoke detectors can be so sensitive that they can be triggered by nearly anything, including steam from the bathroom.

shower steam

Locations with a high risk of fire accidents require using fire detectors. Many detectors are extremely sensitive to rising temperatures and humidity levels and are consequently triggered by temperature changes that aren’t particularly dangerous. You know what they say, better safe than sorry.

Because thick humidity shares some features with smoke, it’s probably more prevalent than you think. While a smoke detector is designed to detect only combustible sources, the presence of heavy air clouding the sensing chambers may fool it. Unfortunately, teaching the detector why humidity isn’t going to kill you and the rest of your family is impossible.

Why Does Steam Trigger The Alarm?

These devices generally use one of two detection methods.

  • Photoelectric detector: A beam of light is directed across an empty chamber in a photoelectric detector. When smoke enters the chamber, the beam is deflected, causing light to be projected onto a sensor, which sets off the alarm.
  • Ionization detector: A small amount of radioactive material and two charged electrodes provide a continuous current of electricity in an ionization detector. Smoke particles entering the area disturb the current, causing the alarm to sound.

Ionization detectors are better at detecting sluggish, smoldering fires, while photoelectric detectors are better at detecting active flames. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association recommended that every residence have both detection technologies because they offer slightly different benefits. Smoke alarms with both photoelectric and ionization sensing are available.

Both technologies can detect heavy smoke particles, but they aren’t always great at discriminating between smoke and other “heavy” air, such as steam. Your alarm will sound whenever it detects a change in the air, whether it’s harmful smoke or harmless steam from a long shower. Even very humid weather might cause a smoke detector to give a false alarm.

How to Prevent False Alarms?

Because most smoke detectors for residential usage are rather basic, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to modify an existing unit to make it less sensitive to steam in any manner. Tinkering with or disabling your smoke alarm could impair its ability to detect real smoke, so you shouldn’t do it.

Heat Detectors

Heat detectors are one of the solutions provided to this issue. They are implemented along with smoke detectors. You can find them in garages, sheds, attics, and other places. The main difference between smoke and heat detectors is that heat detectors are triggered by rapid temperature changes.

They are incapable of detecting smoldering fire or smoke. A heat detector will not be triggered by the steam from a shower or the humid summer air.