Humidity & Smoke Detectors


Smoke detectors perform a crucial role in keeping residents safe, but humidity can create a panic where no emergency exists.

Smoke Detectors

  • Smoke detectors employ either photoelectric or ionization sensors to "see" smoke, sounding an alarm to warn occupants, according to the Durham Highway Volunteer Fire Department.


  • Any factor that causes condensation can cause a smoke alarm to go off mistakenly. While cold weather sometimes has this effect, steam or other extreme humidity can also set off the alarm.


  • The use of hot, steamy water in bathrooms can cause a nearby smoke alarm to sound, even with the smoke alarm positioned down the hall, because the steam can escape from the bathroom and drift into the hallway.

Preventing False Alarms

  • Since ionization smoke alarms react more readily to steam than photoelectric alarms, placing photoelectric alarms near bathrooms or kitchens may reduce false alarms.

"Hush" Feature

  • The Durham Highway Volunteer Fire Department notes that some ionization smoke alarms include a button that silences the alarm for 15 minutes, which may allow enough time for the offending steam to disappear.

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  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of Axel Tregoning
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