There are few things more important, safety-wise, than having a functional smoke detector in your home. Smoke detectors are, as a general rule, fairly inexpensive to purchase and provide such peace of mind. In addition, they can usually be installed simply and quickly, even by non-professionals. Any smoke alarm that has a higher price than average likely offers a few additional features over a basic model; these likely are smart smoke detectors, hopping onto the train toward smart home control. Some of these extra features might include carbon monoxide detection, voice alerts, and even interconnectivity with other smoke alarms throughout the building so that all alarms go off at the same time.
Two Types of Smoke Detector Sensors
Smoke detectors apply two different sensor types, which, when triggered, will set off their alarm: photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms. Photoelectric smoke alarms are designed primarily to detect a sort of smoldering fire, while ionization smoke alarms aim to detect sudden and even fast-burning fires. It is recommended that the best smoke detector, to be maximally effective, should have both types of sensors.
Power Sources of Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors can come in hard-wired or battery-powered options. Hard-wired smoke detectors might need to be installed by a professional. Batteries are included in these hard-wired detectors, although only for backup. Battery-powered smoke detectors are quintessentially simple, as you merely stick the battery into the detector and mount it anywhere you want. But they are also more prone to false alarms or low-battery “chirps.”
Best Smoke Detector
The following is a description of some of the best smoke detectors on the market today.
The Nest Protect smoke detector is not your basic smoke alarm, to be sure. You are getting a lot of additional features, even with the higher cost. Nest Protect provides wi-fi connectivity. Through the app on your smart phone or other device, you’ll be up to speed on your smoke detector’s battery status or a triggered alarm. You can even silence a false alarm via your phone. The Split-Spectrum Sensor, involving both photoelectric and ionization technologies, provides excellent smoke detection and coverage. There are battery-operated and hard-wired options, and you can also interconnect the units throughout your space. Nest Protect also works with lots of other smart home systems, including the Nest smart thermostat, which can help to keep the danger from spreading in an emergency.
The modern, minimalist design is an appealing feature of the Nest Protect. Voice alerts also allow users to quiet a triggered unit before a very loud (85-decibel) shriek is emitted, which is a useful feature for those non-emergency triggers. Self-monitoring is an advanced feature, which allows the detector to self-check its speaker and alarm, quietly, every month (testing its sensors and batteries over 400 times a day) and automatically alert owners if anything is amiss. The high-end Nest Protect also includes a motion-activated LED nightlight as well as a color-changing visual cue as to the nature of an alarm. As its name suggests, Nest Protect includes carbon monoxide detection technology as well. When either carbon monoxide or smoke is detected, Nest Protect will sound the alarm and also tell you what the trigger is and where (in what room) it is coming from. Three AA lithium backup batteries are included, and the smoke detector is expected to last up to a decade.
The First Alert Onelink detector detects both smoke and carbon monoxide abnormalities or emergencies. It is a hard-wired device and works with most existing hard-wired alarms. The backup battery inside the Onelink is rated to last up to 10 years, but it is sealed, which means that you have to replace the entire unit when the battery dies. With the detector’s anticipated longevity, however, this isn’t much different than what we should be doing with other smoke detectors anyway. (In fact, the National Fire Code only permits smoke detectors to last 10 years before they should be replaced.) Multiple Onelink units will link together via a Bluetooth mesh network, and an alert will sound throughout your house when one unit is triggered. Not only that, but the Onelink alarm will tell you what room set off the alarm and why (e.g., smoke or carbon monoxide). A dimmable nightlight is a handy addition to this smoke detector as well.
You can easily replace existing smoke alarms with Onelink, or even install new Onelinks, into your home’s electrical system, as this detector comes with an easy-to-use adapter plug. It should be noted that, although Onelink is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit to add to your smart home’s functionality, it is only compatible with iOS devices at this time. The detector is nearly 7” in length.
The First Alert Onelink Wi-Fi Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm is designed with style AND safety in mind. It responds to smoke quickly and consistently. Oneline Wi-Fi uses push alerts to keep you notified in emergencies (and even triggered non-emergencies), voiced warnings and notifications, and in-app silencing when there are false alarms. The hard-wired alarm talks to other hard-wired detectors, which helps to increase the intelligence of your whole smart home. The battery-powered version, as well as the hard-wired option, have sealed backup batteries that are rated to last 10 years.
As evidence of First Alert’s years in the smoke detection device industry, this Onelink Wi-Fi consistently responds to smoke and blares the accompanying warning faster than even the Nest Protect, in some studies. The correlating Onelink Wi-Fi smart phone app, however, is not among the best, with push notifications and in-app silencing being too slow to be terribly useful.
The First Alert Atom Micro Photoelectric Smoke Alarm is designed, perhaps, specifically for those people who want more of an aesthetically pleasing sensibility in their smoke detector. Think of an average smoke detector, then think of one that’s almost two-thirds (62%) smaller than that size – that’s the Micro, with a 2” diameter. It’s smaller but is designed in a more cylindrical shape than the flatter typical smoke detector. Three finishes are available: white, antique copper, or cherry wood. The Micro uses photoelectric sensors and is battery-operated.
The Micro, being battery-powered with a lithium CR2 battery (included), is quite easy to install; there’s even a SafeMount system that keeps the detector from being mounted until the battery is installed appropriately. Bonus features for this upper-scale smoke detector include a single-button test/silence mode and a flashing LED light that is triggered with a loud (85-decibel) alarm.
The First Alert SA511CN2-3ST looks similar to a traditional, basic smoke detector, but it offers some great technological features. Primarily, this detector allows for interconnectivity between units (other SA511CN2-3ST models) without requiring you to hard-wire the detectors in. It uses Onelink technology for this wireless communication, which results in one alarm’s setting off all the others. This alarm uses photoelectric sensors to detect smoke and fire both.
Loud voice alerts tell users which detector it was that detected smoke to set off the alarm chain, which is helpful on many levels. Other features of this smoke detector include a user-friendly test/silence button, audible low-battery alerts (along with a convenient pullout battery drawer for easy battery replacement), and easily replaceable AA batteries (two) for operation, included.
The Leeo Smart Alert monitor is not an actual smoke detector, neither is it a carbon monoxide detector. Rather, Leeo is a smoke detecting accessory. It plugs into an outlet in your home and “listens” for a smoke detector’s alarm to sound. When this happens, Leeo sends an alert notification to your smart device. Leeo can’t be used to control the smoke detector in any way (e.g., pressing the “silence” button), but it will automatically call a pre-designated number to alert a friend/family member if you are unable to respond to your smart phone’s alert.
Essentially, you can use the basic/traditional smoke detectors that may already exist in your home, and then simply supplement with this Leeo add-on for smarter, more attentive detection. Leeo is small and circular, with an LED backlight that can kind of double as a nightlight. (The LED’s color can be changed via your smart phone app, either iOS or android.) Leeo is also compatible with other smart home devices and systems, such as being able to turn on lights when Leeo is triggered.