At this point vapes are pretty distinct from conventional smoking, both in what they can do and the communities surrounding them. With huge selections of flavours and intensities from a wide range of brands, as well as access to CBD E-liquids and other interesting takes on just what can be vaped, we’re seeing more public recognition of this hobby as something wonderfully unique. Certainly, with the in-depth hardware communities surrounding the vapes themselves and the innovations suppliers are pushing all the time, vaping is growing at a fantastic rate.
However, certain misconceptions still hold it back. One of the biggest is the question around vapes and smoke detectors. Seeing clouds of vapour rise up from a big, sub-ohm vape could certainly get you thinking about just how likely it is to trip the fire alarm, especially if it’s being used indoors. We’ve all been raised to see large clouds inside (whether from burning toast or something more serious) and immediately think of fire, so this kind of reaction is entirely understandable.
So, to get us all on the same page, does vaping set off fire alarms? Well to answer that we need to understand precisely how fire alarms and smoke detectors work.
Fire Alarms and Smoke Detectors: How Do They Work?
A conventional smoke detector works through a series of small, airborne particles travelling from a source to a detector. When this stream is interrupted significantly, the fire alarm is tripped. There is some variation on this based on the design of the detector; some work to detect a beam of light that can be blocked, others measure ionized particles travelling between electric plates that will trip an alarm if they are interrupted. Either way the principle is the same: particulates in the air that get into the detector will set off the alarm.
Regular air doesn’t have any particulates big enough to cause these issues, but E-liquid vapour produced by your vape certainly can. So does vaping set off fire alarms? Well depending on the kind of smoke detector the odds of setting it off are different, so it’s good to know exactly what kind of system you’re working with.
Kinds of Fire Alarm and Smoke Detector
Carbon Monoxide Detectors: A carbon monoxide detector is one device that you won’t have to watch out for. These devices detect the presence of high concentrations of carbon monoxide, a compound produced by incomplete combustion and improperly burning fires. Although there are a variety of carbon monoxide detectors that use different systems to detect a buildup of this compound, none of these would be triggered by E-liquid vapour. Carbon monoxide is a completely different (and much more dangerous) compound to anything that would be found in a vape cloud.
Heat Detectors: When it comes to specifically fire alarms, these are the least likely to be triggered by a vape. This is because heat detectors don’t measure for smoke at all; instead, these detectors monitor the temperature of a room and search for the kind of rise in temperature at one spot that a significant fire would produce. Unless you’re running a coil big enough to make Frankenstein feel insecure, there’s very little chance that your vape will set off these kind of fire alarms.
Ionised Smoke Detectors: These detectors use two electrically charged plates within the device to send a stream of ionised particles back and forth, monitoring for changes in the air between them. If the ionised particles are interrupted by a large enough obstruction, the fire alarm will be tripped. Smoke is of course the primary obstruction they were designed to deal with, but there’s a chance that the vaporised E-liquid in your cloud will be big enough to interfere. They’re not the most sensitive devices when it comes to detecting vape, but they’re certainly more likely to trip than heat detectors.
Photoelectric Smoke Detectors: These detectors are much more sensitive to vape clouds than the others we’ve discussed because of what they measure. Photoelectric detectors send a stream of light between an emitter and sensor inside the device, essentially using that stream of light as part of a continuous circuit. When that stream is interrupted by something, for example a big cloud of vapour, the alarm gets tripped. These are by far the most likely detectors to be tripped by a vape as a beam of light is much easier to interfere with than ionised particles. With that in mind, this is certainly the one to keep an eye out for.
Summing up: Does Vaping Set Off Fire Alarms?
So, does vaping set off fire alarms? Well even the most sensitive photoelectric detectors aren’t too likely to be set off by vapes, simply because of the nature of cloud vapour. For the most part, cases where fire alarms have been tripped by vaping were caused by either large numbers of vapes being used in an enclosed space, or vapour being blown directly into the detector. At Orange County we always encourage you to follow local laws and common courtesy regarding vaping indoors or in public spaces.
If you are vaping indoors, consider using a well-ventilated room with lots of windows. Be careful not to vape directly next to detectors and make sure, if there’s a group of you vaping together, that those clouds don’t get too dense or too big. It might also be worth considering a more discreet vape for indoor use: keep the big clouds outside.
If you keep these guidelines in mind you should have no trouble with your vape setting off fire alarms. As always there’s a little bit of the unknown in saying this; some fire alarms are much more sensitive than others, we can never be exactly certain how dense your vape cloud will be, and there’s every chance that new detectors being developed will use a method of detection much more susceptible to vapes. Either way, being careful of where you vape and how you do it will give you the best chance of enjoying that drag without setting off any alarms, or even worse the sprinklers.