Security

The Best Smart Smoke Detectors for 2017

(Last Updated On: March 19, 2017)

Smoke detectors can help you avert a disaster by letting you know when there are dangerous levels of carbon monoxide or smoke around the house.  But what if you are not home to hear the alarm?

Instances like this make smart smoke detectors a much better option.

There are three categories of smart smoke detectors: standalone smoke detectors, listeners, and smart batteries.  So if you want to go smart about protecting your home, what are the best smart smoke detectors to consider?

1. Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm

The second-generation Nest Protect boasts a sleeker and slimmer look compared to the first Protect.  The Nest Protect deviates from the traditional puck shape of traditional smoke detectors.  Instead it has a squarish shape and a mesh cover.

It features a ring of LED lamps that lets you know of the smoke alarm’s current status.  Blue means that it is in setup mode, green means everything is working as it should, yellow means that there is a potential threat somewhere, and red means that there is a real threat of carbon monoxide or smoke event.  Nest Protect also has a white LED lamp that works as a nightlight when you walk under the unit.

When it does detect a potential or real threat, the Nest Protect would sound a loud alarm.  There is also a voice message alerting you about the threat.  For instance, when smoke is detected, the Nest Protect will say “Heads up, there is smoke,” then it flashes yellow light and sounds the alarm.

Moreover, Nest Protect communicates with other Nest Protect units you have so that when one detects smoke, all the other units would also sound the alarm.  It will also check battery levels and alert you when the juice runs low.

Nest Protect also has several sensors that detect ambient light, occupancy, electrochemical carbon monoxide, humidity, and heat.  There is also the split spectrum sensor that can differentiate between fast- and slow-burning fires.  It has an embedded microphone that picks up sounds, too.

Additionally, if you connect the device to your Wi-Fi network, it will send a notification to your smartphone of any carbon monoxide or smoke detection event, low battery, and sensor failure.

“What’s more, you can hush the alarms using the mobile app.  The mobile app also gives you an easy way to check whether your Nest Protect is working properly or not.”

Nest Protect works with other smart devices such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Cam, as well as makes use of IFTTT to provide a greater degree of automation.

There are two ways to power your Nest Protect.  One version makes use of six AA Ultimate Lithium batteries while the other is a wired version that draws power from any power outlet and uses three AA batteries for backup.  You can get it in black or in white.

Nest Protect Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm sells for a good price at this listing on Amazon.

Full Review: You can read my full review here.

2. First Alert OneLink Wi-Fi Smoke and CO Alarm

First Alert OneLink Wi-Fi Smoke and CO Alarm is a popular alternative to Nest Protect.  Like the Nest Protect, OneLink eschews the puck shape that we have come to associate with smoke detectors.  It has the same square shape that Nest Protect has, as well as an all-white design.  However, compared with the looks of Nest Protect, First Alert pales in comparison.

First Alert OneLink has most of the features you see on the Nest Protect.  When it detects a threat, it connects to other First Alert units in the same house so that all units sound the alarm together.  It also audibly warns you that there is a threat and sends alerts to your smartphone.

Aside from Wi-Fi connectivity, you can also pair it with your smartphone using Bluetooth.  The smoke detector communicates with your smartphone using Bluetooth, but uses Wi-Fi to send you notifications.

 

As a standalone smoke detector, the First Alert OneLink Wi-Fi Smoke and CO Alarm does its job quite well.  It utilizes photoelectric smoke detectors and instantly sounds an alarm when it smells smoke or detect carbon monoxide.

However, First Alert OneLink suffers from some setbacks when you look at its smart capabilities.

For one, it has HomeKit compatibility and that gives you the opportunity to tell Siri to interact with your smoke alarm.

“You can ask Siri to check the status of the smoke or carbon monoxide detector, such as whether it is tripped, and you can also ask Siri to change the brightness of your unit’s nightlight”

On paper, that is a nice feature to have.  In real life, however, it is not a useful one.  A smoke detector should be responsive; once it detects smoke or carbon monoxide, it should immediately tell you just that immediately.  If you have to ask your smoke detector whether or not it is smelling smoke, then it is not very effective at its job.

Another drawback for the First Alert OneLink is that the push notifications are delayed by as much by 90 seconds.  While the smoke alarm sounds an alert the instant it smells smoke, the push notifications do not arrive to your smartphone for another minute and a half.

The same is true with the mobile app.  The alarm will be sounding for more than a minute before the app updates the status of its alarms.  In the event that the alarm is triggered in the middle of the night, you and your family members would have been fully awake before you are able to silence the alarm.

First Alert OneLink Wi-Fi Smoke and CO Alarm is quite pricey.  It’s a bit pricier than the Nest Protect, but you may find it for a competitive price here.  Nevertheless, the First Alert OneLink Wi-Fi Smoke and CO Alarm could give Nest Protect a run for its money.  Plus, it may be a little flawed, but it still works better than traditional smoke detectors.

3. Roost Smart Battery

Just imagine you have just invested in a couple of non-smart smoke detectors and would like to upgrade to smart smoke detectors because you would like to be alerted even when you are out of the house.  Does that mean that you would need to get rid of your newly-purchased smoke detectors, or perhaps sell them for cheap on e-Bay?   With the Roost Smart Battery, you don’t need to.

Plus, if you think that spending $100 for a smoke detector is a bit much, or if you have a large home and getting several smoke detectors to fully protect your entire home is very impractical, the Roost Smart Battery is a good option.

Smart batteries work differently from other smart smoke detectors.  You use the Roost Smart Battery to power your current smoke detector.  You are, in short, making your old non-smart smoke detector into a smart one.  You would be giving your current non-smart smoke detector a means to connect to your Wi-Fi network.

 

The installation is quite simple.  If you can replace a battery, then you can set up a Wi-Fi connected smoke alarm.  It would not even take more than five minutes of your time.

How does it work?

Roost Smart Battery has a small port at the back serving as the battery’s microphone.  It also has a Wi-Fi antenna.  Download the companion app and go through the easy set up process to pair the battery with your phone.  After that, Roost Smart Battery will be able to send you notifications.

“When your alarm sounds, the Roost Smart Battery will pick up the sound with its microphone and then sends you an alert.”

Your phone will sound a similarly loud and annoying sound, differentiating it from the notification sound you get when you receive an e-mail, text, or social media update.

When you do get an alert on your phone, you can call a pre-set emergency number, view monitors, silence the alarm, or view details.  And when the battery juice runs out, you just open the bottom of the battery and pop in a replacement energy source that costs only $15.

This works only with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that use a 9V battery.  Admittedly, the range of smart features on the Roost Smart Battery is rather limited.  Plus, the silence alarm option will not work if you have a hardwired alarm that draws power from an electrical outlet and uses the battery only for backup. For the latest pricing, be sure to check out this listing.

What to buy?

Nest Protect vs OneLink vs Roost Smart Battery

Nest Protect and First Alert OneLink Wi-Fi Smoke and CO Alarm pretty much offer you the same features and functionality, but Nest Protect is less expensive and works better than First Alert OneLink.

Meanwhile, Roost Smart Battery is a great solution for those that already have non-smart smoke detectors in place.  It is probably the only product out there that you can retrofit into your existing smoke detectors and help you get alerted when you are out of the house.  Unfortunately, the smart features are limited to that.  However, like Nest Protect, Roost Smart Battery delivers prompt notifications, something the OneLink struggles with.

The Roost Smart Battery also does not have the sensors that you find on Nest Protect.  It also does not give you any integrations: no HomeKit, no IFTTT and it does not work with other connected devices.  Yet with its price and ease of installation, it is still worth considering.

But wait… Alternatives to the best smart smoke detectors?

You might want to wait until other smart smoke detectors come out.

For instance, Birdi has an upcoming device that combines smoke and carbon monoxide detection with air quality assessment.  That means you are also alerted on dust, pollen, soot, humidity, temperature, stale air, particulates, and pollution.  It will even tell you if somebody is smoking a cigarette while you were away.  It also has sensors to detect fast- and slow-burning fires, a feature that was exclusive to Nest Protect until now.  You can pre-order the Birdi Smart Detector for $119.99.

Meanwhile, a good alternative to the Roost Smart Battery is the Leeo Smart Alert, which is comparable to the Nest Protect in pricing (check this listing). Leeo listens to your current smoke alarms.  The moment it sounds, Leeo will notify you via your smartphone.  You can also set it to make automated phone calls and use IFTTT recipes to help it work with other connected devices.

About the author

Patrick Sinclair

Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn't have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!

1 Comment

  • While I do not have any of the First Alert OneLink units, I do have nine (9) of the AC (Wired) Nest Protects. It doesn’t matter if you go with the battery or the wired Nest Protects they have the same capabilities. I will say the biggest difference is that with the battery units, they are not constantly connected via WiFi. This is to preserve the battery life. The only other difference is that the battery models use 6 AA batteries whereas the Wired versions only have 3 AA batteries.

    I’m going to list a huge con of the Nest Protect units. In many areas, the smoke detectors are wired so that are AC powered per building codes. If you live in an older home, they are probably battery powered but a lot of areas, homes less than 20 years old typically have AC or wired smoke detectors. While the Nest Protects build a Mesh wireless network for them to communicate. The traditional smoke detectors that are AC (wired) have a fourth wire (red), which allows all of the smoke detectors to go off in the event of a fire. This is what the Nest Protect does as well via WiFi (WLAN) or the Mesh network that is creates. The con here is that you cannot mix and match Nest Protects and traditional smoke detectors because the Nest Protects do not use the fourth wire. This means that if you have a Nest Protect where it sees smoke and it is the only Nest Protect you have but you have other traditional smoke detectors, the smoke will need to reach one of the traditional units before the rest of the smoke detectors will go off. A good example is if you have a finished basement, the smoke detector in the basement could go off, but if you are on the second story, you may not hear the smoke detector. So the fourth wire allows the others to go off so you know there is a fire. If you only put a Nest Protect in the basement, if it senses smoke, it could go off and the other detectors would stay silent until the smoke or fire triggers them. So if you go with the Nest Protect, you really need to replace all of your smoke detectors.

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