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Will Incense Set Off A Smoke Detector?

Updated: Oct 1, 2022

Many people are curious about the answer to this question. In this blog post, we will explore whether or not when you burn incense sets off smoke detectors.

Smoke Detector (Fire Alarm)

A smoke detector is a device typically installed in places such as homes, offices, and schools that detects the presence of smoke and alerts the occupants of a building or room. Smoke alarms usually have a sensor that detects smoke particles in the air, and they will activate when the level of smoke is high enough to cause an alarm.

Roof mounted Smoke detector surrounded by smoke and glowing a red light

Early warning Smoke detectors are usually placed near entrances to rooms where people are likely to be trapped if there is a fire.

How does a smoke detector function?

Smoke detectors are designed to detect smoke and fire by detecting the heat generated when a fire is burning. The detector senses this heat through a metal-oxide-semiconductor (MOS) diode, also known as an "electronic thermometer". Smoke enters the device at one end and travels along the path of least resistance towards a small window in the front of the unit that allows it to escape out of the backside. As smoke passes by, it heats up, causing the MOS diode to generate an electrical signal which is amplified and sent to your home's central station.

Red colored fire alarm with strobe light mounted on the wall

If there is potential danger present, then your building's fire alarm system will be triggered. If you have one or more detectors on your home's ceiling or wall, they will sound off simultaneously once they sense enough heat from any given location throughout your house. For example, if there were two different fires in different rooms on opposite ends of your apartment complex at once, then both smoke detector sets would go off.

Incense Burning

Incense is a material used to create a pleasant scent in various ceremonies and rituals. It is composed of aromatic compounds, which are burned as an offering to deities or spirits. In some cultures, incense is also used for meditation, yoga and relaxation. As per some studies, there are various benefits of burning incense when we burn incense like Chandan(sandalwood), lavender, helps the body and mind to unwind and relax, increase focus and increase cognition.

A girl lighting incense stick with a lighter indoors

Incense is available in various forms such as sticks, cones and resin. Stick form being the most popular one is extensively used across the globe.

Does Incense Set Off Smoke Alarms?

When using incense, it is important to be aware of the type of incense and the effects it may have on smoke detectors. Typically, burning 1 or 2 incense will not set off a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke and fire and modern-day "Photoelectric" fire alarms are able to distinguish between dense smoke and incense smoke (an exception to this rule can be when you burn hundreds of incense sticks or cones at once or burn it close to the fire alarm).

Pale yellow roof mounted old Smoke detector

Older generation "Ionic" smoke alarms are highly sensitive and are unable to distinguish between fire and incense smoke, some common types of incense burnt across households include sage, lavender, and cedar.

Sage is a popular choice for cleansing and purification ceremonies and can set off such obsolete ultrasensitive smoke detectors as it creates a slightly dense smoke than the regular incense. Lavender is often used for relaxation and has a calming effect, which may also set off an alarm. Cedarwood has a strong scent that can be irritating to some people, which could also set them off, the smoke and chemicals in incense can react with the components of such a smoke detector, causing it to emit a false positive warning signal.

You can also check for the markings of Ionic or Photoelectric on your smoke alarms to determine whether it will set off the alarm or not by incense.

Closeup macro shot of a burning incense emitting smoke

When burning any kind of incense indoors, it is also important to be aware of the potential dangers associated with a fire hence one should always follow the right procedures for burning incense safely for an enjoyable experience.


Does a cigarette set off a fire alarm?

No, if your lighting only a one or two. The most common cause of fire alarms going off is when a cigarette or other object falls from the ceiling and hits a sensor, causing it to go off. This can happen if you are smoking in a room where there are no windows, for example in an empty space above your kitchen cabinets. Sometimes the sensors that detect falling objects will be too sensitive and set off false alarms because they have been damaged by people walking over them with heavy shoes or bumping into them with their heads.

A lit cigarette placed close to a smoke detector

If you suspect this problem may be affecting your alarm system, contact your local smoke detector manufacturer (or any other manufacturer) for help fixing it.

Can vapour from electronic cigarettes set off a fire alarm?

Electronic cigarettes are not considered a fire hazard, as they do not burn. In the event of an emergency, electronic cigarette users would be advised by their local fire department to evacuate the building and wait for emergency services to arrive. Electronic cigarette vapour is non-toxic and cannot cause fires or explosions.

E-cigarette along-with its liquid kept on a brown surface

However, it is recommended that you leave electronic cigarettes out of reach of children in order to prevent accidental poisoning. Also, there are no known significant health risks associated with using e-cigarettes as long as they are used properly and according to the manufactures instructions. E-liquids should always be stored in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight or heat sources such as radiators. Vapours may irritate the eyes and respiratory tract if inhaled directly, so we recommend wearing eye protection when smoking an e-cigarette.

Can Burned Food Set off the Fire Alarm?

Smoke detectors are designed to detect fires, but they can also be triggered by burning food. If you're cooking something on the stove and it begins to smoke, be sure to keep an eye on the fire alarm!

Can a burning incense set off a smoke detector in the dorm?

Fire Alarms are often installed in dormitories to prevent fires. Can a burning incense set off a smoke detector? There is no definitive answer, as the sensitivity of detectors can vary depending on the model and location. However, it is generally safe to assume that any type of burning material, including incense, can potentially set off a smoke detector. Always check with your dormitory's management to confirm whether or not burning incense is allowed and whether or not any specific safety precautions are in place for fire prevention.

What can set off Fire Sprinklers?

The water sprinklers that are commonly found on the ceilings of apartment buildings most of those are set off by heat, rather than smoke, so incense or candles wouldn’t normally set off a sprinkler.

Automated roof mounted fire sprinkler

There are still a few things that can set off fire sprinklers, things like grease, oils, and other combustible materials can cause fires in the sprinkler systems. Additionally, certain types of smoke or gas can also set off the sprinklers. Also before you decide to burn any kind of incense or candles on somebody's premises you should always ask for the permission of the property owner and also whether it is safe and/or acceptable.

What Should You Do If a Smoke Detector Alarms

If you are in a smoke-free environment, you should take the following steps:

1. Close all doors and windows to prevent smoke from entering the building.

2. Activate the fire alarm.

3. Get outside and check for fire extinguishers so you can put out any fires before they start. If no fire extinguisher is available in your building, then call emergency services immediately or call security guards from nearby office buildings or police stations who can help with putting out the flames.

4. Go to an open area outside the building where you can safely breathe away from any smoke or fire.

5. Wait for instructions from emergency personnel.

6. Do not worry about getting wet while fighting a fire in this situation as long as it is safe to do so!

To Conclude

Smoke detectors or Fire Alarms are installed for our own safety and while burning a few incense, candles or cigarettes does not set off modern-day detectors, it might not always be a false positive alarm and should always be checked before landing to a conclusion. If you are concerned that your smoke detector may have been triggered by incense or candles you can get in touch with the manufacturing company that installed the fire alarm for a better understanding as well as you can also contact your local fire department for help.

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