Everyone knows what a smoke detector looks like, or do you? They're typically small, round, white disk shaped devices that are mounted on the ceiling. Smoke detectors work using several different approaches outlined on Wikipedia, with the goal to sound an alarm if smoke is detected.
Smoke Detectors are Required by Law
The alarm is used to alert family members, even if they're sleeping, that there's potentially a fire and they need to leave their home. Houses have been required to have smoke detectors since 1999, and the standards governing their use are part of the National Electrical Code in the US.
Here are just a few reasons why you don't want to ignore this small and key safety feature that the law requires in every home.
- Fires kill approximately 3,000 people, injure more than 20,000 people each year and cause property losses of almost $11 billion a year.
- More than one-third (37 percent) of home fire deaths result from fires in which no smoke alarms are present.
- In one-fifth of all homes with smoke alarms, none were working according to a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) survey.
- The risk of dying in a home fire is cut in half in homes with working smoke alarms … so why aren't homeowners more diligent about installing smoke alarms? Testing them to make sure they're working is also important (read the results of one home inspection where only 1 smoke detector worked).
How Smoke Detectors are Evolving
Smoke detectors are getting smarter like smart locks, smart doorbells, smart lighting and more. If you've already put together your smart home strategy, you probably know which of the smart smoke detectors will fit into your home network.
Before we jump into the new features enabled by smart phones, let's review the two types of smoke detectors:
- Enhanced smoke detectors that integrate the electronics to not only detect smoke and CO problems, but many other features listed below.
- Listening detectors that don't identify smoke or CO. These devices “listen” for the traditional smoke detectors signaling when there's a problem. While these detectors are less expensive, you need multiple ones if you want remote alerts for your entire house.
Note: The table below looks at several “enhanced” smoke detectors. You can also find some of these features in “listening” detectors like the Ring Alarm Smoke and CO Listener.
Here are some of the most popular features you should consider when shopping for a smart smoke detector. These products are constantly changing so please make sure to verify specifications and look for a model that only includes the features you want.
|Feature||First Alert Z-Wave Detector||First Alert Onelink Safe & Sound||Google Nest Protect|
|Photoelectric & electrochemical smoke sensors & alarm||X||X||X|
|Carbon monoxide (CO) alarm||X||X||X|
|Sends alerts to smart devices||X||Onelink Home App||X|
|Wi-Fi connectivity||Z-wave hubs||Z-wave hubs||Any Wi-Fi|
|Changes color to indicate “heads up” vs “emergency”||X|
|Turn off alarm remotely||X||X|
|Smart speaker connects to …||Alexa or Google Assistant||Nest Protect App|
|Control other smart home features||Apple HomeKit||X|
|Multicolored night light||X||X|
|Choice of battery powered or hard-wired||Battery||Only hard-wired||X|
|Interconnection of multiple detectors||X||X|
Learn the Why & How for Smoke Alarms in Your Home
- State-by-State Residential Smoke Alarm Requirements by The US Fire Department (100 pgs).
- Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires by Marty Ahrens, March 2014 (87 pgs) – offers extensive survey data on home fires and smoke alarms, with a goal of reducing deaths.