Do Smoke Alarms Detect Vape Use?

Do vapes set off smoke alarms? It’s a question many a mischievous vaper has wondered, so let’s take a look and find out the answer!

Whether you’re vaping somewhere you shouldn’t be, or you’re just keen to avoid waking the neighbours, knowing whether vaping is likely to set off the smoke alarm can be key to avoiding making a nuisance of yourself!

So do vapes set off smoke alarms? Let’s take a look at the science behind these life-saving (and let’s admit it, slightly annoying) devices, to see how they work and whether your e-cig is likely to trigger them.

Do Vapes Set Off Smoke Alarms  

Before we go any further, it’s worth remembering that rules are usually in place for good reason. If you’re prohibited from using your vape then you’re probably best off sticking to the places where vaping is allowed to avoid getting into any trouble. 

However, if you’re determined to vape regardless of the rules then you should know that vaping can set off a smoke alarm, although it’s not likely. You see, it all depends on the type of smoke alarm, as some will react to vapour, while others will only detect smoke. 

Let’s take a look at the 3 most common types of smoke alarm – that way you’ve got a better idea of how likely yours is to go off!

Types of Smoke Alarm and Their Reaction to Vapour

To understand whether a smoke alarm is likely to be triggered by the vapour from your e-cig, first we need to know the difference between the various types of devices, as well as how to tell them apart. 

There are three types of smoke detectors commonly used, so let’s take a look at each of them and see how sensitive they are to vapour.

do vapes set off smoke alarms

Optical Alarm

Optical smoke alarms – also known as photo-electric smoke alarms – work by using light scatter technology. Essentially, they contain a pulsed infrared LED which sends a beam of light into the sensor chamber every 10 seconds to check for any smoke particles. If smoke is detected then the alarm will start to sound.

The issue with optical alarms, at least from a vaper’s point of view, is they aren’t great at telling the difference between smoke and vapour, so there’s a decent chance your vaping will cause it to go off. In fact, if secrecy is the aim of your game then these alarms could well be your nemesis as they’re the worst type of alarm for detecting vapour (or the best type, depending on which way you look at it!)

How to spot an optical alarm: 

Optical smoke alarms usually have a line of air holes on the exterior shell. However, optical alarms often look similar to another type of smoke alarm so if you’re unsure then we’d advise typing the model number into Google and this should tell you which type of device you’re dealing with. 

do vapes set off smoke alarms

Heat alarm

This type of alarm is different from the rest. Unlike other smoke alarms which aim to detect particles in the air, these devices work by spotting a rise in the atmosphere’s temperature. 

Although they’re great for the kitchen where cooking can often cause unwanted false alarms with other types of alarms, these aren’t really suitable for other rooms due to their slow response times. As such, you won’t find too many heat alarms these days.

If you do come across one, it’s unlikely your vape will set it off – unless you’re blowing extremely hot vapour directly towards the alarm that is!

How to spot a heat alarm: 

Heat alarms look quite similar to optical alarms, although you can usually tell them apart by the wheel/disk fitting in the centre of the device. See picture for a typical example of a heat alarm. 

do vapes set off smoke alarms -- ionisation

Ionisation Detectors

These alarms work by emitting a minute amount of radiation which generates a current between two charged plates. If smoke enters the detector then the current between the plates changes and the alarm will sound. 

Commonly found in hotels, apartment blocks and other residential dwellings, these are the cheapest types of smoke alarms which probably explains why they’re so common. 

These devices are designed so only the current is broken by smoke particles, so vaping is unlikely to set the alarm off. With that said, it’s not unheard of for ionisation detectors to go off as a result of someone vaping, so while it’s not likely it’s not impossible. 

How to spot an ionisation detector:

Many ionisation alarms can be identified by the fan-like air holes on the exterior. However, with that said, it can sometimes be tricky to tell ionisation and optical alarms apart, so if you’re uncertain then take a look at the device’s model number and try Googling it to see for sure.


So those are the three main types of smoke alarm you’re likely to come across. If you came here because you were wondering “do vapes set off smoke alarms?” then hopefully you’re now in the know. 

As stated earlier, if you’re advised not to vape then it’s probably best to just vape outside, but if you’re absolutely dead set on using your e-cig indoors then at least you now know which type of device is likely to go off and which are a little less sensitive!

Off on your jollies anytime soon? If so, and you’re a little unsure on the rules and regulations on taking your e-cig with you, then check out our “Can You Take Vapes On a Plane” blog post where you’ll find all the info you need!

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