Joshua Dinaburg, a researcher at Jensen Hughes, presents at the 2015 SUBDET Conference Tuesday in Orlando, Florida.
Cooking fires are the leading cause of residential fires in the U.S., accounting for about two of every five fires, according to a recent NFPA report. But there is an effort underway to help develop better technology to prevent these fires.
That effort was the topic of one of today’s feature presentations at the Fire Protection Research Foundation’s 2015 Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research and Applications (SUPDET) Conference in Orlando, Florida. The conference, which brings together some of the world’s leading researchers in suppression and detection technologies, began today and will run through Friday.
A number of devices have surfaced in recent years that promise to detect abnormal conditions and automatically shut off cooking equipment before a cooking fire ignites. These new devices work in a number of ways, such as measuring the temperatures of heating elements, pans, and even the air near the stove, said Joshua Dinaburg, a researcher at Jensen Hughes.
It’s a promising development, but the problem is “it’s the wild wild west right now,” Dinaburg said Tuesday during his SUPDET presentation. “There is no way of confirming that these devices do what they say they do.”
Beginning in 2010, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, with Dinaburg as a lead author, commenced a project that looked at developing standards for evaluating the performance of these new technologies. Two reports have been published; the first in October 2013 and the most recent in July 2014. The project is still ongoing.
In the latest research, “we ran number of cooking tests, basically heated oil up in stoves and let it ignite,” Dinaburg said. “We measured the pan temperature, the oil temperature, and gas concentrations. We looked at a number variables, including oil types, oil depths, different range tops, different pan materials, and pan size, trying to find the most challenging detection scenarios” to test the equipment against.
What was found is, there is no one-size-fits-all testing scenario.
“Selecting the most challenging test depends on the detection technology you’re using,” Dinaburg said. “There is a difference for smoke-based testing, verses temperature- based testing.”
For instance, oil types—such as canola verses corn—didn’t matter as far as ignition temperatures of cooking fires. However, old oils produced more smoke at a much lower temperature than fresh oil.
There’s still more work to be done, both in testing the technology and developing the cooking pre-ignition detecting equipment itself, Dinaburg said.
“There’s definitely a challenge with the smoke detection method as far as nuisance alarms,” he said. “It is much easier to install a temperature sensing device, but in some scenarios temperature doesn’t detect everything that smoke has the potential to. There are drawbacks and benefits to each.”