As we approach the colder winter months, and you plan to spend more time inside by the fireplace or cooking things in the kitchen, it's important that you have a working smoke and fire detector in your home. Its loud, piercing alarm should wake you if there’s smoke or fire, so you and your loved ones can safely escape, or put out the fire. Smart smoke detectors go a step further, as they can send an alert to your smartphone if they sense something amiss. That way, if you’re at work, or out of town, you can call the fire department or a neighbor check on your house, to see if everything is OK. Another benefit of a smart smoke detector is that you can temporarily silence the alarm from your smartphone — so there’s no more trying to jab the Silence button with a broomstick after you set it off while cooking a steak.
There's not a lot of choice when it comes to smart smoke detectors. Our favorite for a few years running is the Nest Protect. It's the most full-featured alarm, blaring out a loud siren and telling you where the problem is. It works with a lot of other smart home systems, and even performs self-checks every month. However, if you don't want to spend more than $100 on a smoke detector, then check out the Roost Smart Battery. This 9-volt Wi-Fi connected battery costs just $35, goes into any smoke detector, and alerts your phone when the alarm goes off.
Nest’s smoke alarm detects both smoke and carbon monoxide, and when it does pick up something, it will not only sound an alarm, but will also tell you in what room the alert is coming from, and the nature of the alert. An LED ring on the bottom of the alarm also changes color, giving you a visual cue.
The Nest Protect comes in both wired and battery-powered versions. If you have more than one in your home, and one goes off, the others will too, alerting you to the location of the fire.
The Nest Protect also works with a wide range of smart-home devices. For example, in the event of an emergency, the Nest can automatically turn on your lights, making it easier for you to get out of your house.
What Owners Are Saying
On Best Buy, the Nest Protect has an average rating of 4.8 stars from more than 1,200 reviews.
While many acknowledged its high price, most complimented its performance, compatibility with other smart home devices, and built-in night light. "
"What I personally like is the ability to know exactly where smoke would be coming from. If I were to be on the fourth floor in the middle of the night, it would say 'there is smoke in the living room'," wrote one reviewer.
The Roost battery is the best — well, only — option for those who already have smoke detectors, and want to make them “smart.” That’s because the Roost battery, which is Wi-Fi- enabled, sends an alert to your smartphone when the siren goes off. The second-generation battery looks and acts like the original, but has a much easier setup process.
Through the app, which can accommodate a large number of connected batteries, you have the option to silence the alarm for up to 2 minutes, and automatically send an alert to someone else. Additionally, you can link the Roost battery to other smart-home products through IFTTT, to, say, turn on your lights when the alarm goes off.
The battery is designed to last up to five years, and will work with any smoke/CO alarms that use a 9-volt battery, which includes hard-wired alarms with a 9V battery backup.
Update (9/18): Roost has updated its app so that users can get notified when there is a severe weather alert, such as hail, freezing temperatures, heavy rainfall and snow, and storms and high winds.
What Owners Are Saying
The original Roost Battery has only about 200 reviews on Amazon, where it gets an average of 3 stars. Among the top comments, several praised Roost’s customer service in troubleshooting issues.
“This device is pretty innovative, and a super easy, super cool way to connect up your alarm monitoring,” wrote one person.
Like the Nest Protect, the Onelink Safe & Sound detects smoke and carbon monoxide, sends an alert to your smartphone, and tells you the type and location of the fire or condition. But for those times when it's not warning you of fire, you can use it for a great many other things. With Amazon's Alexa (and a very competent 10-watt speaker), the Safe & Sound can play music, listen to audiobooks, and access Alexa's thousands of skills. (It's also compatible with Apple's HomeKit). However, the Safe & Sound requires a hard-wired connection, and we found that the location of these connections doesn't make it the most conducive for using all of Alexa's capabilities.
OneLink is also planning to sell two less expensive versions without Alexa built in; one that's hardwired, and one that will run off battery power. Pricing and availability for the latter two have yet to be announced, but expect them later this year.
What Owners Are Saying
As the Onelink is relatively new, there aren't that many reviews of it on Amazon. Of the 70-odd reviews, the most positive commenters noted its ease of installation, as well as the fact that they could stream music, and that the alarm's nightlight was bright. Chief complaints were that it doesn't support all of Alexa's features (such as Drop-in), and that it's expensive.
"The speaker is okay, definitely not audiophile level, but capable, installation was easy, and the light that shows it's listening or received a notification also doubles as a night light," wrote a Vine reviewer.
What to look for in a smart smoke detector
Fire and smoke detection sensors. All smoke detectors use one of two types of sensors to detect fires. Ionization-type sensors are best at detecting fast-burning fires, while photoelectric sensors are generally better at alerting you about smouldering, or slow-burning fires. You should have both types of alarms in your house. Smoke alarms such as the Nest Protect are designed to pick up both types of fires.
Carbon monoxide and other gas detection. Even if you don't have a fire in your home, you can be suffocated by carbon monoxide. A good detector should also protect you against this.
Hardwired vs. Battery-powered. If your home has hardwired alarms, they will all be interconnected, so that if one goes off, they all will go off. Hardwired alarms also receive their power from your home, and only use batteries as backups. Standalone detectors run on batteries alone, so they may need to be replaced more often, and cannot signal each other in the event of an emergency (the Nest is an exception to this). However, it's a lot easier to mount standalone smoke detectors where you need them.
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