When it comes to peace of mind for your home, a smart smoke detector is one of the best and easiest connected home purchases you can make.
Smart smoke detectors are a bit like smart thermostats and smart lightbulbs. Sure, there have been dumb versions of these everyday, essential devices for years and, sure, these devices still do a perfectly adequate job.
But itâs not until you take the plunge and pay the extra for a connected alarm model that you realise just how many more features are now available to you when you add Wi-Fi to the mix.
With smart smoke detectors the big advantage is remote alerts on your phone if an alarm is triggered at home. If youâre instantly warned of something happening at home and youâre not there, youâre far more likely to be able to alert the emergency services before a neighbour notices and does it for you.
Smart smoke detectors: Key considerations
When looking at smart smoke alarm models your first and foremost concern is obviously that itâs a reliable, certified model that will detect smoke. CO and gas detection is also increasingly a common feature on smoke detectors. All of the models weâve listed here meet (or will meet, when launched) the safety standards required in the markets they are on sale in â weâd recommend sticking to known brands.
Take a look at your existing smoke alarm setup. How many have you got, are they all in suitable places and are they wired or battery-powered models? If youâre thinking of replacing multiple models, do the sums first. There are both battery and hardwired models available but costs do vary across different brands.
Next up, think about how smart you want your smoke detector to be. Do you just need it to be able to ping you a message if it detects smoke or do you need it to be able to shut off your heating system if it thinks thereâs a gas leak? Does it need to just alert you to smoke and CO, or do you want it to act as a nightlight and help your smart home know whether you are home or away? If youâre going for some of these more advanced features, make sure you check its compatibility with Alexa, HomeKit and Google Assistant.
Speaking of Alexa and Google Assistant â there have also been smart smoke alarm models announced with digital assistants baked in, so have a think if that might be useful in a room you might install one in.
Smart smoke detectors: Tested
Here are the smart smoke detectors weâve been living with and we can deliver our full verdict onâŚ
When you think about smart smoke detectors, you think of the Nest Protect. Now in its second generation, Nest Protect boasts a spilt-spectrum smoke sensor to detect both fast and slow fires, and is also capable of monitoring carbon monoxide. When this current model Protect went live back in 2015 it came with boasts of an advanced algorithm that could better decipher the difference between steam, from the shower for instance, and actual smoke.
In theory thatâs great â but in practice we set off the Nest Protect in our hallway, the one right next to the bathroom, at least once a week. However, better safe than sorry, right? And the good news is that weâre pretty much done with the downsides of the Nest Protect now â if youâve got over the shock at forking out nearly $120 for a smoke alarm.
Although, to call Nest Protect just a smoke alarm isnât really doing in justice. As youâd expect the Protect syncs up with the Nest ecosystem and is super simple to set up, especially if thereâs a nearby Nest device it can grab Wi-Fi details from. If not, itâs just a case of scanning a QR code in the app. The box packs all the screws and wall-plugs youâll need and there are both battery and mains models available.
The Nest Protect is actually super stylish â well, itâs about as stylish as a smoke detector can get. Itâs wrapped in a curvy mesh plate and the centralised button, with its LED ring, screams âsmart homeâ. That LED ring does more than flash amber and red for incidents too. Like a Nest Thermostat, the Nest Protect can help guide you round a dark house at night using the pathlight feature â essentially a white ring of light that comes on when it detects motion.
That motion detecting is also used to help with your Nest appâs Home/Away status so, along with your Nest Cams and your Thermostat, your smart home has a much better idea of when youâre there or not â so smart home routines of your choosing can kick in.
The alarm on the Protect is a human voice. At first signs of something awry, sheâll say: "Be aware. There's smoke in the [room]". If itâs major itâll be: "Emergency! There's smoke in the [room]." If youâve got more than one Nest Protect installed, donât worry about not hearing the alerts, they will all speak in unison â and you can silence them with a push of the button, or a button on your smartphone too, which will pop up. If youâve got a Nest Cam in the same room, youâll also be able to view a video clip of any incidents and a Nest Thermostat can also shut off the heating system if thereâs need to as well.
With the Nest Protect you donât really need to worry about testing â it packs its own microphone and health-checks the whole system once a month for you. You can manually test one or more alarms manually from the app or direct on a device.
Works with Nest also comes into its own with the Protect with extra smart home functionalities for emergency situations kicking in from other brandsâ devices. You can have your Lifx or Hue bulbs go red during a smoke alarm, for example â red light has a longer wavelength than other visible light so it scatters less off smoke particles and makes it easier to see.
- Extra smart home features
- Calming voice rather than alarm
- Cool looking for your stylish home
- Steam sets it off
- Pricey compared to dumb rivals
- No AI assistant
Halo+ Smart Smoke
Nest certainly isnât the only horse in this race worth betting on - Halo Labsâ Smart Smoke alarm gives it a run for its money with its own unique features of its own, most notably weather alerts.
The Halo+ is a smoke and carbon monoxide alarm - fully certified to ANSI/UL 217 and 2034 standards respectively - with sensors to pick up both slow and fast-moving fires. The alarm is hardwired and connects to your Wi-Fi, but with a battery backup, and comes with a mounting plate, screws and all the necessary bits to get it set up.
On installing it, donât be alarmed (geddit?) by the voice that comes out of it. The Halo+ uses voice alerts to tell you exactly what an alarm means, and during setup it likes to say hello.
The Halo+ also has a glowing light around the outside, which will illuminate different colors depending on what itâs trying to tell you. This is also used for weather alerts, which can warn you of inclement weather - earthquakes, tropical storms and everything in between.
If you live somewhere more exposed to extreme weather, the Halo+ offers something over the Nest Protect. If you donât, this feature may feel a tad superfluous - in which case you can pick up the regular Halo, which lacks weather alerts, for $20 less.
With the Halo+ setup process youâre given a lot of customization options for these alerts, so you can choose which ones you actually hear about, and even what type of warning you hear. For flash floods, for example, you can be notified of flash flood statements, watches and warnings, or just one or two. You can also have it tune to a NOAA radio station, which will blare out of the alarm to keep you informed should a weather disaster happen.
As for doing its most basic job, the Halo+ was fast at detecting smoke and speedy at sending a notification to our phone. Obviously the alarm is going to be blaring too, but you'll also get a voice speaking out of the Halo to tell you what it's actually picking up, like, âDanger, smoke detected in the hallwayâ.
And in terms of how it slips into the smart home, the Halo works with Samsung SmartThings and Lowe's Iris. There's Alexa support too; by installing the Halo skill we were able to ask Alexa to turn on the hallway alarm light (useful when you're chancing your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night), change its color and even test the alarm. However for safety reasons, you can't ask Alexa to turn the alarm off when it's blaring.
- Weather detection and alerts
- Loads of customizations
- Illuminating ring is cool
- Expensive, especially the Halo+
- Needs more smart home support
- Not the best looking
Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm
Compared to the likes of the Nest Protect and First Alert OneLink the Netatmo keeps thing pretty simple. It doesn't have the CO detection skills of the Nest Protect, instead being focused entirely on smoke alerts. It packs in an 85dB alarm and sends a real-time alert to the user's smartphone if smoke is detected.
The design is pretty standard for a dumb smoke detector, clad in white plastic. So why buy this over one of its dumb detector doppelgĂ¤ngers?
Well, it hooks up with the Netatmo Security app, which offers you an overview of the status of the smoke alarm. If your alarm sounds it will notify you via the app, once you linked the Netatmo to your wireless network.
Also, if you run an Apple HomeKit ecosystem, it will plug into that and alert you via a push notification. The HomeKit integration doesn't really add that much value â but it will show among your devices, and offer an at-a-glance way of checking that everything is working.
The Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm packs 10 years of battery life â which is the legal limit for smoke alarms, after which they should be thrown away. That means there's no replacement battery on board. You'll get an alert via the app in 10 years to say that the life of the Netatmo is running low (and an audible beep from the device) â so let's just all hope we're actually using smartphones and apps by that point eh?
We did a few unscientific tests in the home, and found the Netatmo to be perfectly in line with a dumb smoke detector in terms of sensing smoke. Unlike Nest there's no grace period where it warns you smoke is detected before bringing the noise â and if the alarm sounds for burned toast you press the unit to silence (or from the app, if it's out of reach). You also don't have to wait for the alarm to silence, and a press at any time will put it into an enforced hush mode.
If hushed the unit will flash with a red light â one that's not particularly noticeable, we might add. If you ignore it, the Netatmo will return to normal mode in around 15 minutes without further action. You will get a push notification from the Netatmo Security app to tell you the alarm has been hushed, but none to say it's returned to Activated.
- Simple to set up
- No smart frills
- Easy to leave hushed
- HomeKit only
- Not exactly a looker
Roost Smart Battery
Okay, weâll be totally up front â we havenât actually tested a Roost smart smoke alarm because, technically, Roost doesnât make smart smoke alarms. Sure, the RSA-400 and the RSA-200, which it does sell, are labelled as smart smoke alarms on its online store. But thatâs only because they come along with the Roost Smart Battery â a Wi-Fi packing 9-volter that fires alerts to your smartphone if its microphone picks up an alert.
The idea is that, rather than shelling out north of $100 to get a smart smoke alarm you just spend the $34.99 on a smart battery that upgrades your current dumb model.
Weâve actually been testing the Roost Smart Battery in an old smoke alarm that we bought in about 2003 but the quality of the alerts you get â i.e. whether it alerts for CO and gas as well as smoke â depends on what the smoke alarm you install it into, as it's just reacting to an alarm siren itself.
Like the Nest Protect, the app gives you the option to silence the alarm with one tap â if youâve just burnt the toast again, for example â and installing this clever battery also means no more annoying chirps in the middle of the night when the battery needs changing; youâll just get an alert on your phone. On that note, Roost states youâll get 3â5 years of use from it before youâll need to replace it and when you do, itâs just $14.99 for a lithium pack that slots in.
Setup is simple using the easy-to-use, if somewhat basic, app â you just need to add your Wi-Fi password and do a little sound test using your phone and youâre away. From within the app you can also set up the Roost Smart Battery to alert friends or family â people selected will get an invite to download the app, but you can also set one phone number as a default emergency contact.
If an alarm does sound your phone will alert you and from the app you can silence it, snooze it (weâre not sure why thereâs a snooze option), ring your emergency contact and you can also contact your friends and family youâve set up too. The Roost Smart Battery canât distinguish a test from an actual alarm â itâs just reacting to a sound â and donât forget youâll still need to test the system yourself.
- A budget option
- No need to replace existing alarms
- Easy to use app
- No testing
- No integrations
- Not actually a smoke alarm
First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound
The big thing with the Safe & Sound is that it doubles as an Alexa smart speaker. That's right, it's got Alexa built right in - and yes, that means it can be used as a music speaker. Welcome to the future.
Setup is pretty simple. Once you've plugged it in, you can use the HomeKit code and scan it in to get it working. You can just use the companion app to set everything up, but we found HomeKit installation easier due to how buggy the app was. We had some trouble connecting, including a complicated bit that requires you to hold your phone near the device.
First Alert says to only install the Safe & Sound on the ceiling. That's unlike other smart smoke alarms, like the Nest Protect. Speaking of the Protect, the Safe & Sound is far chunkier than the Protect. It's 6.8 inches wide and long while the Protect is 5.3 inches wide and long. It's also 2.26 inches thick while the Protect is 1.5 inches thick. It's hefty.
There's a built-in CO2 alarm and smoke alarm, and you can use Alexa to keep tabs on the battery and health of the alarm. You can also test your alarm using the companion app if you don't want to get up on a chair to press the physical button.
Sound quality on the speaker is good; it can be incredibly loud, and there's no simple or easy way to adjust the volume unless you're using the companion app. For what it's worth, there's a unique novelty to having an Alexa device stream sound from above you. It gives Alexa a voice-of-God quality that's makes it feel weirdly omnipresent.
Alexa itself is pretty useful on the Safe & Sound - it's the same Alexa you know and love, but your mileage is going to vary based on where you put it. Our Safe & Sound was placed on a stairway, so we can use Alexa while we're ascending or descending the stairs.
It's also compatible with OneLink Connect, which allows you to extend your Wi-Fi connection throughout your home. We were not able to test that out, but we did test out the nightlight feature, which you can control via HomeKit if you choose. You can also use the companion app to change the color.
Sadly, that companion app is the worst aspect right now. It takes a couple seconds to load whenever you want to do anything, and it's not well designed or easy to navigate. There were also some times where the app wouldn't recognize the alarm - hopefully something that will be fixed with updates. One thing we have not yet gotten to test out is AirPlay 2 compatibility, as that's coming later this year.
- Great sound
- Alexa built in
- Buggy app