Smart smoke detectors have one (very important) job: alerting you when a fire is imminent or actually happening. The loud beeps they make may be annoying, but that’s a small price to pay considering the alternative. New smoke detectors are more connected, longer lasting, and smarter than before, so you’re less likely to get false-positives when you accidentally burn a bag of popcorn.
A lot of gadgets are superfluous, but a good smoke detector is one of the few pieces of tech we consider to be an absolute necessity. Getting an alert that there’s smoke in your home — whether you’re there or not — can help improve your peace of mind, and keep you safer. We found the best smart smoke detectors, and highly recommend installing one in your home.
— Best Overall: Google Nest Protect— Best Budget: X-Sense WiFi Smoke Detector— Best Multi-Pack: Kidde Smoke Detector— Best for Smoke: First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound
How Do Smart Smoke Detectors Work?
If you’re going to rely on a gadget to protect you from a potentially life-threatening situation, it’s important to understand what’s happening below the hood.
According to the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, smoke detectors can be broken down into two categories: ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors, each of which has a specific trigger that sets off their alarm. Neither is better than the other, so don’t worry about getting “the wrong kind of smoke detector.”
Ionization smoke detectors will start blaring when particles fill their chamber and block the small electrical current that’s being generated between two plates inside the smoke detector. This electrical current is different from the one that’s generated by the batteries powering your smoke detector, so it won’t turn off if your room gets too smoky.
Photoelectric smoke detectors have a small beam of light inside the chamber, which can be interrupted by smoke particles. If the smoke detector senses that the beam of light has been obscured, it’ll start going off.
Traditionally, both types of smoke detectors weren’t smart enough to differentiate smoke coming from an over-microwaved burrito and an actual fire, but newer ones are a little more sophisticated.
How We Picked the Best Smart Smoke Detectors
Our smoke detector recommendations are based on research. Below are the factors we considered most highly when deciding which smoke detectors to include in this buyer’s guide.
Power Source: Most smoke detectors can run on either battery power or a direct connection to your home’s electrical grid, which come with their own pros and cons.
Running a smoke detector on battery power means it’s your responsibility to change the batteries out on a regular (typically annual) basis. Smoke detectors will beep when their battery is low, so you’ll know when to swap them out. Most battery-powered smoke detectors run on a pair of standard AA batteries, which you’re likely to have around the house.
Some detectors that are hardwired into your home’s electrical system are lower maintenance, but may require you to have an active power line in the optimal spot. If that’s not the case, you’ll need to run the appropriate wires to the area where you’d like to install the smoke detector, or pay an electrician to do so. If you want multiple smoke detectors in your home, this can get a little complicated and expensive.
Carbon Monoxide Detection: Some smoke detectors can also alert you when they detect the presence of carbon monoxide, which is a very useful feature. Carbon monoxide is an odorless, poisonous gas that’s released by fuel that hasn’t been combusted, like a gas stove that’s leaking. Getting at least one smoke detector that can alert you to the presence of carbon monoxide is a very wise investment.
Button Size: If a smoke detector starts beeping loudly due to a false-positive (again, burnt food is the most common culprit), you can shut it off by pushing a button on the smoke detector’s face. We like smoke detectors with big buttons as they’re easier to push in those situations.
Smart Features: Some smoke detectors can be connected to your home’s WiFi network, which allows them to send an alert to your phone when they’re triggered. This can be a very helpful feature if a fire starts when you’re away from home, and plan to be gone for an extended period of time.
The Best Smart Smoke Detectors: Reviews and RecommendationsBest Overall: Google Nest ProtectGoogle
Why It Made The Cut: The Google Nest Protect’s smart features and sensors are very helpful, and its modern look is equally impressive.
Specs:— Power Source: Battery or hard wiring— Carbon Monoxide Sensor: Yes— Internet Connectivity: Yes
Pros:— Can send you alerts— Has a battery powered or hardwired option— Can sense what’s causing the smoke in some instances to prevent false positives.
Cons:— Battery-powered model requires a lot of batteries
Nest made a name for itself in the connected thermostat, but its smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector, called the Nest Protect, deserves your attention. The company offers the Nest Protect in battery-powered and hardwired configurations, and we appreciate the ability to choose the one we want without sacrificing any features. We’re less impressed by the fact that the battery-powered model requires six AA batteries, but one set is included with the package.
We’re primarily recommending the Nest Protect because of its smart features, which address most of the issues we’ve had with standard smoke detectors. It has dedicated sensors that can differentiate between fast-moving and smoldering fires, and will send you an alert about where the smoke is coming from based on its location. Nest says it’s designed the Protect’s chamber to lower the probability of false positives, and the smoke detector’s LED will glow yellow if some smoke is detected, so you’ll have a head’s up that it may be triggered soon.
Having some additional time to open a window, turn on a fan, or dispose of a burnt piece of food before setting off your smoke detector is a big positive. This feature can also act as an early warning sign about a smoke build-up in your home that you may not be able to smell yet, so you can check on what’s happening. If you do get a false positive, you’ll be able to silence the smoke detector in the Nest app on iOS and Android. The app will also send you notifications when smoke is detected whether you’re in or out of your home.
If you opt for a battery-powered Nest Protect smoke detector, you’ll be able to check on its battery status by looking at its LED light ring. If the ring is green, you know the batteries are fine, if it’s a different color, you may need to swap the batteries out for a fresh set. Little features like this one make the Nest Protect easier to use, which can’t be said for other smart versions of some electronics.
The Nest Protect is an upscale smoke detector, but it looks nice, and can keep tabs on what’s happening in your home wherever you are.
Best Budget: X-Sense WiFi Smoke DetectorX-Sense
Why It Made The Cut: This affordable smart smoke detector will send alerts to your smartphone and allows you to silence it temporarily through an app as well.
Specs:— Power Source: Battery— Carbon Monoxide Sensor: No— Internet Connectivity: Yes
Pros:— Price— Can silence by phone— Easy to install
Cons:— No carbon monoxide sensor
This battery-powered smoke detector runs on a single lithium battery and only requires a screwdriver to install. When it’s triggered, the X-Sense will sound a 85db (decibel) alarm, which is loud enough to wake you up from sleep. This smoke detector will also send a notification to the accompanying app and let you turn off the alarm through the app as well.
Best Multi-Pack: Kidde Smoke DetectorKidde
Why It Made The Cut: Kidde’s two-pack of smoke detectors provides lots of coverage in one cost-effective swoop.
Specs:— Power Source: Battery— Carbon Monoxide Sensor: No— Internet Connectivity: Yes
Pros:— Cost— Sends notifications to phone— Wide coverage
Cons:— No carbon monoxide sensor
If you live in a big home, you may want to install several smoke detectors, so you can be alerted about a potential fire the moment it happens, which is why we’re recommending this two-pack of smoke detectors from Kidde.
Kidde’s smoke detectors will blare an 85-decibel alarm when triggered, and you’ll need to push a physical button on the smoke detector to stop the battery-powered alarm. You can also download an associated app to get notifications send to your smartphone.
Best for Smoke: First Alert Onelink Safe & SoundFirst Alert
Why It Made The Cut: First Alert’s Onelink Safe & Sound is the most technically advanced smoke detector we’ve ever seen, even if some of its features aren’t totally necessary.
Specs:— Power Source: Corded, Battery— Carbon Monoxide Sensor: Yes— Internet Connectivity: Yes
Pros:— Multiple power sources— Alexa support— Doubles as a speaker
First Alert’s Onelink Safe & Sound is the most technically advanced smoke detector we’re recommending, but its cool extras also inflate its price.
This smoke detector shares many of the same great smart features as the Nest Protect, our top pick in this guide. It can send you alerts when it detects smoke in your home while you’re away, and even allows you to keep tabs on the current carbon monoxide levels of your home in an app. These features are legitimately helpful, but First Alert decided to take the additional steps of turning this smoke detector into a smart speaker.
The Onelink Safe & Sound has a microphone, and allows you to control it using Alexa, Amazon’s smart-home assistant. Alexa can play music, retrieve answers to questions, and control other smart-home accessories. This smoke detector also allows you to stream music to it directly from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac using AirPlay 2. In fact, you can set up multiple Onelink Safe & Sound smoke detectors and end up with a whole-home audio system.
The idea of being able to use your smoke detector’s speaker, which was designed primarily to alert you to the presence of danger, is very cool, but not totally necessary. Yes, this feature allows you to actively use your smoke detector all the time instead of only during emergencies, but we still feel it’s a little extra. These features also inflate this smart smoke detector’s price up above $200.
That said, if you want a smoke detector that can do way more than detect smoke, First Alert’s Onelink Safe & Sound is the right choice.
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Smart Smoke Detectors
Placement: Smoke detectors should be installed toward the top of your room because smoke, being warm, rises. This allows the smoke detector to send you an alert while there’s still some fresh air in your room closer to the floor.
Room Height: If your room has very tall ceilings, you may be better off getting a smart smoke detector, which allows you to disengage it using an app because hitting its button will be more difficult.
Q: How long do smoke detectors last?
Most smoke detectors need to be replaced every 10 years. In most cases, manufacturers will print a date on the smoke detector itself telling you when it should be discarded.
Q: How do I responsibly dispose of my old smoke detector?
If you’re replacing an old smoke detector, we recommend reading our guide on how to responsibly dispose of e-waste.
Q: Should I use rechargeable batteries with my smoke detector?
No. This is one of the very few cases where we recommend using a standard set of AA batteries instead of a pair of rechargeable ones. Rechargeable batteries become less efficient over time, which means you’ll need to swap them out more frequently as time goes on. If you’re okay with that inconvenience, rechargeable batteries will work.
Q: How difficult is it to hardwire a smoke detector?
The answer to this will vary based on the age, layout, and materials used in your home. If you’re not comfortable with working on electrical equipment, we highly recommend paying a professional to do the installation for you.
Final Thoughts on the Best Smart Smoke Detectors
A smoke detector is one of the few gadgets that has the potential to save your life, so it’s critical you keep one that’s receiving power and doesn’t need to be replaced.
The best smart smoke detectors are generally worth the splurge if you go on vacation or travel for work on a regular basis, as the remote alerts allow you to contact the fire department and your landlord (if applicable) immediately. The worst case scenario is that your smoke detector never goes off, but continues to silently keep you safe.
Image Source: NYtimes