A smoke detector is critical for keeping your home safe. In case of a fire, a smoke detector will alert everyone in your home of the danger and help to make sure that they have gotten out safely. All homes and apartments come with a smoke detector already installed that has to comply with certain laws in order to ensure public safety.

However, these already installed smoke detectors may not actually do everything that you want. While they will detect signs of a fire in your home and send out an alarm, there are many products on the market that do much more and can even sometimes integrate with your home security system.

There are actually a number of smoke detector types and every company that produces them offers something at least a little bit different. Older smoke detectors tend to actually be heat detectors. They will pick up on a sudden rise in temperature and are best used for small spaces. Smoke alarms are more common in modern homes and use a variety of methods to detect signs of fire.

How do smoke detectors work? There are ionization smoke alarms, photoelectric smoke alarms, and smoke alarms that use a combination of both techniques.

  • With ionization smoke alarms, they contain a small amount of radioactive material (very, very small). The radiation it emits passes through an ionization chamber, an air-filled space between the detectors electrodes, and allows a small constant current to move between the electrodes. When smoke enters an ionization smoke detector, it disrupts this process and sets off the alarm. These types respond better to high energy fires.
  • In photoelectric smoke detectors, there is a light source, a light beam collimating system, and a photoelectric sensor. Then smoke enters this alarm’s optical chamber and crosses the path of the light beam, the light gets scattered and is redirected to the sensor, setting off the alarm. These alarms respond better to low energy or smoldering fires.
  • Combination smoke detectors use both detection techniques and are recommended by the National Fire Protection Association since they offer the best detection for all types of fires.

What is the best smoke alarm for you? There has been an increasing trend towards smart fire alarms out there, ones that do a lot more than just send out an alarm. Many are not only designed to detect smoke but also poisonous carbon monoxide. There are a number of options out there. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Leeo Smart Alert Smoke/CO Remote Alarm Monitor for iOS and Android

This is another smart fire alarm. It will monitor your home for both smoke from fire and carbon monoxide buildup and sends alerts to your smartphone if the alarm goes off. It will also call friends and family for help if you do not respond to the alert. You must have an iPhone 4S or later running iOS 8+ or an Android phone with Bluetooth 4.0 and running 4.3+, in-home Wi-Fi, and you must use the free Leeo app for either iOS or Android. This alarm is powered by plugging it into a wall. It has a nightlight that can be adjusted either manually or through your smartphone app.

Pros

  • Smartphone alerts are how we live our lives and knowing what’s going on at home is very important if you’re at work or traveling. The app can even alert 911 if you like.
  • You can adjust the nightlight color to any of over 16 million colors depending on your mood or in response to environmental conditions.
  • All you have to do to get this alarm working is to plug it in, connect it your Wi-Fi, and download the app.
  • This smoke detector is designed to pick up on your existing alarms going off and react accordingly. This is a good way to get alerts sent about them to your phone without having to buy all new alarms.

Cons

  • If you plug this alarm in, you won’t be able to use that plug for much anything else. The design flared out so that it blocks the other plug for larger sockets.
  • Because of how this alarm detects you existing alarms, it can sound over them and have difficulty detecting them correctly. This can result in confusion.
  • Because it will probably be sitting low, it may not detect all fires very well.

Conclusion

This is a useful smart fire alarm. It has a few design flaws, but it’s not hard to set up and works very well. It’s a budget-friendly way to make sure alerts from your alarms, including the existing ones, get to your phone so you can make sure help gets where it needs to go no matter where you are.

Smoke Detector by First Alert SCO500B Interconnected Wireless Battery Combination Smoke CO Voice

This First Alert smoke alarm is higher end than the company’s previously discussed version. You can get it as a single pack, or in packs of 2, 4, 6, or 12. You can also add an expert installation option if you prefer. This is a combination smoke detector. It is battery powered. It interconnects with the First Alert ONELINK security systems, allowing for you to integrate it into your smart home security system. There is a low battery warning beep and light, as well as a single test and silence button.

Pros

  • This is a great alarm if you’re looking to create a comprehensive smart home security system. It allows you to place alarms in 11 locations and it will alert you where it is detecting smoke from via Smart Alert’s ONELINK app.
  • Setup and programming are relatively simple and should not take much longer than an hour, if that.
  • A networked set of these First Alert smoke detectors will go off sequentially in order to let you know where the fire is. This allows everyone, from small children to older adults, to know where they need to go to be safe. It is also very, very loud, which is what you want from a smoke alarm

Cons

  • If you’re having trouble with setup, know that there is a small window of time for you to link all the alarms and other ONELINK systems. If you miss it, you’ll need to start over.
  • If you want a simpler smoke detector that isn’t part of a home security system, there are cheaper solutions.

Conclusion

This First Alert smoke detector has a lot of great features, so long as you integrate it with the ONELINK system. Because its battery powered, it will still work if the power goes out, and it is certainly plenty loud. If you like the features of this alarm and are not tech savvy, you may want to pay for professional installation.

Battery-Operated Smoke Alarm by Kidde RF-SM-DC Wireless Interconnect Battery-Operated Smoke Alarm


Pros

  • The setup for this Kidde fire alarm is very simple. It should take you about 10 minutes to install one smoke detector. Just be sure to follow the manual and have all the tools you need on hand. Also, double-check your wireless code.
  • You can install this wireless smoke detector in sheds and other external locations, thanks to its batteries.

Cons

  • Sometimes the Kidde alarms will not work when you are testing them. The button will not always set off all the smoke detectors in the network.
  • Sometimes the communications between the smoke detectors can fail to work even when dealing with actual smoke if they are placed outside. They’re very good when in the same room indoors. Clear line of sight is generally a better set up for these smoke detectors.

Conclusion

The Kidde RF-SM-DC wireless interconnect battery-operated smoke alarm is a very reasonably priced alarm system. It can have network connection issues, but it’s a generally reliable smoke detector. Install is pretty quick, though it might be a challenge for people without a lot of gift on the technical side, especially with wireless devices. In that case, you may want to pay for the expert installation option.

Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm, Protect Your Home From Fire and Gas Leaks, Even When You’re Away, Battery Powered (Second Generation

This is the Nest smoke detector meant to integrate with Nest’s smart home systems. It integrates with the Nest Aware app on your phone, where it will alert you of low battery and any alarms going off. It comes with six long-life AA batteries. It is also a carbon monoxide detector and a heat detector. It also has an ambient light sensor and an occupancy sensor with a 120-degree field of view out to 20 feet. The light ring on it has 6 LEDs and the color will change depending on the condition of the alarm.

Pros

  • This is a very comprehensive smart fire alarm. It is a must if you are considering buying any of Nest’s products, a key part that can be used to help secure your home. Nest products work well and their app is very well designed.
  • The alarm will alert if you get an alarm, starting with a verbal warning. If cooking smoke or shower steam are triggering it, this will give you a brief window to dismiss the alarm before it sounds.
  • If you follow the manual, this is an easy device to set up and integrate into your home.

Cons

  • There is limited customization of test options and other settings. This is a very smart fire alarm, but it has its limits.
  • You may have to factory reset the device when you have network changes.

Conclusion

If you’re interested in Nest products at all, whether their security cameras or their thermostat, this is almost a must. It integrates with Nest’s product line very well and not only helps make your home safer but also more comfortable. It’s not perfect and it could use more features, but it is an excellent smart smoke detector.

Smoke Alarm by Kidde Battery-Operated(Not Hardwired) Combination Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Voice Warning KN-COSM-BA

This is a smart smoke alarm that also is a carbon monoxide detector. It will announce the kind of hazard it detects to help make sure you react in the right way. It is battery operated and uses two AA batteries. Its LED light that flashes green for normal operation and red for alarm conditions. It will also give an announcement for when it has a low battery through the voice alert while also making a chirping noise. It also features a hush mode.

Pros

  • This alarm’s ability to detect fire and carbon monoxide is very helpful. You don’t need to buy another alarm for either since it’s all in one package.
  • The installation process is quick and pretty easy.

Cons

  • This is an ionization smoke detector only, meaning it will not do as well detecting smoldering low energy fires.
  • This smoke detector goes through batteries very quickly. Be sure to change the batteries regularly.
  • Know that carbon monoxide is heavier than air and will linger near the ground. Smoke, on the other hand, rises. A carbon monoxide detector that is placed like a smoke alarm will not give you alerts of carbon monoxide buildup.

Conclusion

This is a viable smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector. It’s reasonably priced and comes in packs on 1, 3, and 6. It has its issues, but if you want to overhall your detection based on a budget, it is a reasonable option. You can get expert installation for less than $100.

Smoke Alarm by First Alert CO615 Dual-Power Carbon Monoxide Plug-In Alarm with Battery Backup and Digital Display

This carbon monoxide detector plugs into your wall, so no need to batteries. It constantly monitors carbon monoxide levels anywhere in your home. It also has a battery backup that uses 2 AA batteries, which are included. It also comes with a six-foot power cord so it can be placed on a shelf or nightstand if you want it somewhere other than the wall. It beeps and its indicator light flashes when the batteries are low. It uses an electrochemical sensor to detect high carbon monoxide levels, displaying the current carbon monoxide level on its large and clear backlit front display. It also has an end-of-life timer for the carbon monoxide detector that will alert you when the carbon monoxide detector needs to be replaced

Pros

  • Its battery backup power system means that you don’t have to worry about your home becoming less safe from carbon monoxide in the event of a power outage.
  • When something is wrong with the carbon monoxide levels in your home, this detector will flash red constantly and beep a whole lot. You can’t ignore it.

Cons

  • Make sure to read the instructions. The red solid light is an indicator that the detector is on and doing its thing. This can be confusing.
  • The display emits a steady blue glow. It’s not very bright but it might be disruptive to some people when they try to sleep at night.

Conclusion

The First Alert carbon monoxide detector is a highly recommended companion for the First Alert smoke alarms. It’s just as easy to install and use. The battery backup is nice for when the power goes out. Carbon monoxide is a serious danger and this kind of alarm might well save your life and that of your family.

First Alert SA320CN Dual-Sensor Smoke and Fire Alarm, Battery Powered

This First Alert smoke alarm runs off of AA batteries and the company recommends the Polaroid brand of AA batteries. Batteries are included, as well as a mounting bracket and the necessary hardware. It is a combination alarm, with both an ionization and photoelectric detection method. The alarm is 85 decibels, more than loud enough for your average sized home. It beeps pretty loudly when the battery is running low as well as flashes its battery indicator light. The battery should last yearly, but change it semiannually to be certain everything is in working order.

Pros

  • This alarm has been engineered to reduce the likelihood of it giving false alarms from cooking smoke or steam from your shower.
  • It’s very simple to work with a single button you can use to conduct tests as well as silence the alarm thanks to its smart smoke detector sensor.
  • Installation is very quick since it is battery powered and needs no wiring.
  • Changing the batteries is a simple and quick process. Just open the battery compartment, and slide the new batteries in. There is no need to take the First Alert smoke alarm off the ceiling or wall.

Cons

  • Combination alarms tend to burn through their batteries a bit faster than smoke detectors with only one kind of detection method. They also have an overall shorter functional lifespan.
  • Over time, the First Alert smoke detector can start to go off when there is no indication of a fire. This is not a very common effect, but it does happen often enough to note.
Conclusion

The First Alert SA320CN Dual-Sensor Smoke and Fire Alarm is a solid purchase that is largely reliable as a smoke detector for all kinds of fires for at least several years. It is also pretty cheap, typically running under $25, with the added benefit of being easy to install and having easy to change batteries. Its smart smoke detector sensor should prevent the number of false alarms you have from cooking dinner.

So Which Smoke Detector Do You Pick?

It’s up to you. As you can see, there are a lot of options in terms of features as well as budget. Evaluate all your options and see what works best for your circumstances. Decide if you want a carbon monoxide detector built-in or separate, if phone alerts would be helpful, or if you want to deal with replacing the batteries. There are a lot of options out there if you want to make sure your home is safe, but you should do what you need to make yourself feel comfortable about the safety of yourself and your family.