The death toll from house fires in the US is one of the highest in the industrialized world, and the United States Fire Administration has some stark facts that highlight the importance of “prevention, preparedness, and response”:

  • 3,000 deaths occur each year as a result of house fires
  • There are over 20,000 fire-related injuries each year
  • 100 firefighters lose their lives in the line of duty every year
  • Property losses as a result of fire have reached almost $11 billion per year

Given these data points, it should not be surprising that it is a statutory requirement across 47 states that all new homes are equipped with hard-wired smoke detectors. What do you do, though, if you live in an older house without that safety net or are considering a remodel that includes fire detection equipment?

Many people rely on battery-powered smoke alarms, but which ones do you buy? In this article we review 6 of the best to give you the full picture.

  • Auto battery self-check
  • Alerts via SmartPhone message
  • Voice alerts at 70 dB
  • Location alerts
  • 2-year limited warranty

  • Lithium battery with a 10-year lifespan
  • 85 dB alarm
  • Lower power consumption
  • Photoelectric technology
  • 1-year warranty

  • Dual smoke and carbon monoxide Alarm with indicator lights
  • 85 dB alarm
  • Low battery signal lasts 8 hours
  • 7-year limited warranty

  • 10-year sealed lithium battery
  • Hush button
  • Photoelectric technology
  • Location based attributes
  • 10-year limited warranty

  • Connects with other First Alert alarms
  • 11 programmable locations
  • Voice alarm
  • Test and silence button
  • 7-year limited warranty

  • 85 dB alarm
  • Self-testing function
  • Shockproof design
  • Low battery monitor
  • 5-year warranty


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Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm

This Nest dual monitor is rather stylish, and because it detects the presence of smoke and carbon monoxide, it saves you having to buy two separate monitors. This is the first monitor on the list that uses wireless technology to send warning alerts to your smartphone or tablet, and if you have multiple Nest detectors around the home, it can even tell you via a message the location of the fire.

This detector also comes with a self-checking battery monitor that stops the possibility of late night alarms beeping to let you know your battery is low; what this does is send a message to your phone telling you to replace the battery. Nest is trying to create a utopian ideal that allows all your Nest products to connect to form an electronic umbrella that protects you and even saves you money.

On the downside, added smart features only serve to make this unit complicated and possibly prone to malfunction. It relies on connectivity to alert you to the dangers, and we all know how unreliable that can be at times. Also, some more mature buyers may not take to the connectivity aspect as it feels a little “techy” and some might see it as a gimmick. And then there’s the cost; at a whopping $100 plus, this thing is going to need to be outstanding to justify the outlay.

Pros

  • Smart technology
  • Connects to your smart devices
  • Communicates with other wireless products
  • Sends message alerts rather than a loud alarm
  • Self-checking battery system

Cons

  • It may be too complicated for some
  • Relies on connectivity which could fail
  • Costs over $100


This Alert Pro model has a built-in lithium polymer battery which is sealed and lasts for 10 years according to the manufacturer. The advantage of a lithium battery means that instead of worrying that a standard battery will lose power, this model gives you the peace of mind that it will go the distance. It also means that you never have to worry about those annoying midnight alarms telling you that the battery in your smoke monitor needs replacing.

It still has a low battery warning light because at some point you are going to have to change the unit, just not every couple of months. This model also has a malfunction indicator, should anything stop working, and because it also employs photoelectric technology, it can detect a slow fire in good enough time to alert you so you can get to safety.

On the downside, it does mean that you will be buying a new smoke detector every 10 years because the unit is sealed which isn’t good for the landfill; then again, neither are all those replacement batteries that standard smoke alarms have. The other issue with lithium batteries is that they are susceptible to changes in the temperatures, so if you decide to install one in your garage, it might stop working when winter hits.

Pros

  • Sealed Lithium battery gives 10 years of life
  • Malfunction warning light
  • Battery warning light
  • Test button

Cons

  • Bad for landfill
  • Lithium batteries cease to function in sub-zero temperatures

First Alert is a big name in smoke detectors and has notched thousands of sales on Amazon. This model is a combination alarm, utilizing photoelectric smoke-sensing technology that recognizes the signs of low, smoldering fires and alerts you before the situation gets dangerous. It also uses electrochemical sensors to detect carbon monoxide in the atmosphere.

There is an indicator light that changes color depending on the health of the battery and the detector; for example, if the light is yellow, it indicates that the battery is low and needs replacing. Should the battery alarm activate, there is a mute button that silences it for up to 8 hours, making it ideal for those nighttime alerts that have you leaping from your bed in a panic. The alarm is an ear-splitting 85 dB, so when it goes off there’ll be no danger of missing it.

As with most of the smoke alarms featured here, they are available in multi-packs so that you can have fire protection in most of your principal rooms. On the downside, many have reported that this unit beeps a lot, especially at random time during the night, and there are heaps of complaints that this alarm malfunctions after the first month, and even though it has a 5-year warranty, some have yet to receive their replacement up to 8 months later.

Pros

  • Trusted brand name
  • Combination alarm for added safety
  • Color changing indicator light
  • 85 dB alarm
  • Mute button

Cons

  • Temperamental at random times
  • Poor customer service
  • Prone to malfunctions after the first month

Kidde has developed a range of smoke alarms that cater to specific locations in the house. The one featured is a kitchen smoke detector and has been programmed to sense cooking fires and more intense heat situations as well as reduce the number of times the alarm sets off needlessly because of steam and cooktop heat. There is also a bedroom and hallway monitor that, when connected, can alert you to the location of the fire.

This detector is another combination monitor, so it saves you the cost of buying two separate models; it also employs sealed-in lithium power that has a 10-year lifecycle. As with the Alert Pro Smoke Alarm the Lithium technology means that the alarm is always on, giving you the comfort of knowing that you are protected night and day.

On the downside, as with the other lithium sealed monitors, they are prone to malfunction depending on the weather conditions. One final thought: why does a smoke detector with a 10-year lifespan only have a 1-year warranty? It seems odd that it doesn’t have a guarantee that matches the claim of 10 years of operation.

Pros

  • 10-year lifetime operation
  • Lithium battery
  • Programmed for dedicated rooms
  • No need to check the battery weekly or monthly

Cons

  • Expensive when you have to buy each dedicated monitor
  • Lithium is unstable in cold conditions
  • Only a 1-year warranty

Ths First Alert model is programmable with up to 11 locations so that when a fire breaks, you’ll know where to find it. This is a dual monitor that employs a photoelectric sensor to detect smoke and an electrochemical sensor for carbon monoxide. It also connects with other First Alert alarm systems to create a wireless safety network that protects your home and your family. These alarms also come as a 2-pack option, like many of the others on the list, and that helps to reduce the costs slightly and increase the coverage.

On the downside, a single monitor is going to set you back close to $50, with the 2-pack coming in at around $95. Also, they aren’t that easy to program, and if you have them connected to other detectors in the house and the wireless connection fails, then it could render the alarm less effective.

Pros

  • Wireless connectivity
  • Programmable
  • Combination Alarm
  • Voice alerts
  • Location alerts

Cons

  • Relies on connectivity which can be unreliable
  • Expensive to purchase
  • Tricky to programme

This Alert Pro combination detector is designed to protect you from the dangers of smoke, fire, and the silent killer that is carbon monoxide. This model doesn’t have the convenience of a 10-year lithium battery, but it does have a self-checking battery system for added peace of mind. It is compact, has an indicator light, and also features an 85 dB alarm, so no one in the house should miss it if an emergency arises.

The warranty is decent, at 5 years, although some alarms in its class come with 7 and 10-year warranties. It’s also more expensive than the lithium model, and that doesn’t take into account the extra cost you will incur buying replacement batteries. In addition, many people report that these monitors suffer from build quality issues, and given the price compared to other detectors, it does seem a little too cheap.

Pros

  • Cheap to buy
  • Self-checking battery system
  • 85 dB alarm
  • Indicator light
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Seems a bit too cheap
  • Build quality issues

Comparison Chart

FEATURESFirst Alert Smoke and Carbon Monoxide DetectorAlert Pro Smoke AlarmNest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Alarm Db8585N/A
Lithium BatteryNo YesYes
Warning indicatorYes Yes Yes
Size Inches2 x 5 x 510 x 10 x 5.55.3 x 5.3 x 1.5
Weight 11.2 oz5.6 oz1 lb
Voice AlertNo No Yes
Wireless ConnectivityNo No Yes
ProgrammableNo No Yes
Warranty7-year1-year2-year limited
FEATURESKidde P3010K Smoke AlarmFirst Alert Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Voice LocationAlert Pro Alert Plus Combination Alarm
Alarm Db85N/A85
Lithium BatteryYesNo No
Warning indicatorYesYesYes
Size Inches5.2 x 5.2 x 1.65 x 5 x 24.6 x 4.6 x 1.9
Weight 14.4 oz1 lb6.4 oz
Voice AlertNo YesNo
Wireless ConnectivityNo YesNo
ProgrammableNo YesNo
Warranty10-year limited7-year5-year

Buyer’s Guide:

Smoke Detectors

It is best to place the smoke detectors in a location where the alarm or voice alert can be heard clearly. Look for the central locations of each room; for example, a central spot on the ceiling of the kitchen or lounge would suffice, and in the communal areas like the hallway and stairs.

Combination alarms are better value for money when you compare them to buying two individual systems. Smoke alarms tend to be set high on a ceiling as smoke rises, but if the monitor was to detect a presence of carbon monoxide, it could be too late by the time the alarm is triggered on the ceiling, so it might be more prudent to forego the cost-saving element and buy separate alarms. In essence, it comes down to preference and budget, but you shouldn’t try and cut corners when it comes to safety.

PROS
  • They save lives – In a house fire, you have seconds to evacuate, and smoke detectors give you that window of opportunity. You are 50 percent more likely to die in a fire without one.
  • They give you peace of mind – Wouldn’t it feel good knowing that you have done everything to protect your family from a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning? You wouldn’t expect your children to ride in the car without a seat belt, so why scrimp on fire safety?
  • It could lower your homeowner’s insurance – Many insurers will offer incentives and discounts to households who have smoke alarms. It reduces their risk of paying out after a fire event, and it makes you a safer bet to insure.
CONS
  • Maintenance – Smoke detectors need regular sweeping and hoovering to remove the dust from their sensors. Without regular cleaning, you could endanger the effectiveness of the detector.
  • Remember to check the battery – Non-wired detectors rely on batteries, and they should be monitored weekly, especially if you have the standard 9V varieties.
  • Expect some night time disruption – All battery operated detectors will, at some stage, suffer from battery failure, and it always seems to happen in the dead of night, waking you in a blind panic.

  • Should I have a smoke detector in every room?
  • You can never have too many detectors, but we would recommend sticking to the principle rooms or the spaces where the highest risk will come, like the kitchen or laundry room.
  • Will a smoke detector work in an RV?
  • As they are portable and battery operated, yes they would work in an RV or event a boat. It’s worth remembering that fires are just as prevalent in mobile vehicles as they are in homes, and while it may be easier to escape such a small space, you can never put a price on early detection; seconds saves lives.
  • How long will the 9V battery last?
  • You should expect the battery to last a minimum of 6 months, but many have reported their battery surviving for a year or more. It’s important to recognize the difference in quality when it comes to battery brands. Buying cheap isn’t always the best policy.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, there are no downsides to having smoke detectors because they save lives. Sure, there are inconveniences with random beeping and alarms going off when the batteries fail, but that’s all they are. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and if a smoke detector saves just one life, then it has justified its existence and your prudence for taking family security so seriously.

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