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Best Smoke Detectors
If you want to make sure your home is well protected from fires, then you can’t go wrong with our list of the best smoke detectors. We spent hours performing market research and product testing to find the best options to make your home a bit safer.
There are some household purchases you can afford to take a chance on. If you buy a shoddy blender and it breaks, you might lose out on your breakfast smoothie, but you’ll get over it by lunch. But there are other purchases you shouldn’t take a risk on. If you buy a second-rate smoke detector and it breaks, you can lose a lot more than your breakfast.
There are devices for all kinds of homes and budgets. But first, let’s review some of the basics of smoke-detector technology. Keep reading to get started finding the best smoke detector for you.
- : Best for most
- : Best smart device
- : Best 10-year battery
- : Best CO detector combo
- : Best budget pick
Types of smoke detectors
- Ionization smoke alarms: These are best at detecting the small particles released by fast, flaming fires. The only downside to ionization smoke alarms is that they’re sensitive. Even the smoke produced by burnt food or by steam from the shower can trigger them, so you may get more false alarms if the alarm is placed in the kitchen or near a bathroom.
- Photoelectric smoke alarms: These types of smoke detectors are best at sensing smoldering fires that create a lot of smoke without many (or any) visible flames. They’re not as prone to false alarms as ionization smoke detectors, but photoelectric alarms may still be randomly set off if dust builds up inside them.
- Dual-sensor smoke alarms: With dual sensor alarms, you get the best of both technologies. But there are still some drawbacks. Some models require both sensors to be triggered before the alarm will go off, but this may delay the alert from sounding. Other models only require one of the sensors to be tripped, but that also creates the potential for more false alarms.
Type of smoke detector
What it’s best at detecting
Ionization smoke alarm
Fast, flaming fires with little smoke
Can be triggered by steam or cooking
Photoelectric smoke alarm
Smoldering, smoky fires
Can be triggered by too much dust
Dual-sensor smoke alarm
Both types of fire
Delayed alerts or false alarms
Hardwired (with battery backup)
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Photoelectric + blue LED + carbon monoxide
Hardwired and battery-powered models available
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Photoelectric + carbon monoxide
Hardwired and battery-powered models available
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Hardwired (with battery backup)
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What to look for in a smoke detector
The best smoke detectors can detect different types of fires using ionization and photoelectric technology while connecting with other units to provide your home with a reliable safety net.
Features to look for in top-rated smoke detectors:
- Dual-sensor smoke alarms with ionization and photoelectric sensing
- A hardwired setup or battery-operated unit with a long lifespan
- The ability to connect with other sensors in your home
- Built-in carbon monoxide detectors for extra protection
When shopping for a smoke detector, the best units will feature dual-sensors. There are two technologies generally used within consumer smoke alarms—ionization and photoelectric sensors. While ionization sensors are excellent at detecting flaming fires, photoelectric sensors do well at detecting smoldering fires. A smoke detector with both types of sensing technology will offer the broadest protection for your home.
If you can hardwire your smoke alarm into your building’s power, that is the best option. However, battery-operated units can also be quite reliable when they offer long operating times. If you select a battery-operated smoke detector, be sure to check how often the battery needs to be replaced or recharged.
You may even be able to connect your smoke detector to other units, allowing one smoke alarm to sound others in the house. This type of setup can be beneficial when a fire starts in one area of your home, but you are in another location, such as the bedroom.
Lastly, for extra protection, select a smoke detector that also includes a built-in carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide is known as a silent killer, and it is essential to have a sensor in your home to keep you and your family safe from the odorless gas.
Other features that you might want in your smoke alarm include digital displays, silence buttons, flashing lights (for the hearing impaired), and smart technology that connects with your phone.
First Alert BRK 3120B: Best for most
Why we chose the First Alert BRK 3120B
This alarm’s dual-sensor technology will detect smoke from both smoldering and flaming fires (and maybe the occasional burnt piece of toast). It also features OptiPath 360 patented technology, which means air (or smoke) can enter the device from all sides.
Sure, the First Alert BRK 3120B may not be the fanciest looking device out there, but it does sport some nice features, like a 10-year warranty and interconnectability. And when it comes to overall value, it really can’t be beat.
If you don’t trust us, then trust the nearly 4,000 (!) Amazon ratings that have given this product a 4.5 star average.1 (Speaking of Amazon, the company has made the BRK 3120B an
“Amazon Choice” item, meaning it’s eligible for Prime and is frequently sold at a steep discount.) If you’re moving into a new home or just ready to change out all of the smoke alarms in your current one, you can buy the BRK 3120B in packs of 3, 6, or 12. Just make sure that your place is wired for smoke detectors. (If you’re looking for a similar smoke detector that’s battery-powered, Amazon also sells the First Alert SA320CN.)
Google Nest Protect S3003LWES: Best smart smoke detector
Why we chose the Google Nest Protect S3003LWES
You’re having a relaxing evening cooking dinner and sipping on a glass of wine. But your fire alarm doesn’t know that the “smoke” it senses is just your water boiling for the pasta. It’s screaming bloody murder and you have to stand on a stool awkwardly to turn it off.
But what if your smoke alarm could tell the difference between steam from the stove and smoke from a fire? And what if it warned you with a pleasant voice rather than a wail? And what if you could silence it easily just using an app on your phone?
All of that and more is possible with smart smoke detectors like Google’s Nest Protect.
It comes equipped with heat and humidity sensors that can help it differentiate between smoke and steam. Add to that a built-in carbon monoxide detector, and you’ve got one powerful (and good-looking) machine. No wonder it costs a pretty penny.
The Nest Protect can be a perfect addition to your automated home, and can connect to other devices like a smart thermostat. It’s available in both wired and battery-operated models. Just make sure that you have an internet connection and a phone that can support all of its futuristic features.
If you already own a perfectly good smoke detector but you want some of the benefits offered by devices like the Google Nest Protect, then you might want to look into the Roost Wi-Fi battery. You can download an app that will notify you when your alarm goes off or when the battery needs replacing.
X-Sense SD03: Best 10-year battery smoke detector
Why we chose the X-Sense SD03
Dentists say you should floss your teeth every day, mechanics suggest rotating your tires every 3,000 miles, and the US Fire Administration says to check your smoke detector batteries at least once a month.2 But then, well, life happens.
This is one reason it’s nice to have a 10-year battery on your smoke detector. While you should still check it for overall functioning every month, it won’t run out of juice on you if you don’t. But not all 10-year smoke alarms are created equal.
Many of the cheapest 10-year devices out there use simple ionization sensors. But the X-Sense SD03 uses an advanced photoelectric sensor. While this is still not as good as having a dual-sensor alarm in your home, it’ll still alert you to both smoldering and flaming fires.
When it does go off, it has a three-color LED light that’s easy to spot in the dark (and can help alert the hearing impaired).
First Alert SCO500B: Best smoke + carbon monoxide detector
Why we chose the First Alert SCO500B
House fires—with their heat, flames, and smoke—are obviously scary. But you should be just as scared of another, less obvious danger: carbon monoxide (CO).
CO is produced anytime fuel is burned and it can be poisonous if it builds up in your home. If your home uses any fuel-burning appliances such as a furnace, water heater, range, cooktop, or grill, you should have a CO detector (here’s a look at the best standalone carbon monoxide detectors).
Luckily there are plenty of smoke alarms out there that come with built-in CO detectors. The Google Nest Protect (listed above) is a great option. But if you want a cheaper, simpler device, we suggest the First Alert SCO500B.
This photoelectric detector has voice alerts that will tell you whether it is sensing smoke or carbon monoxide. You can wirelessly connect up to 16 of these devices, and the voice alerts will tell you which one is being triggered when the alarm sounds.
Kidde i12060: Best budget smoke detector
Why we chose the Kidde i12060
Experts at the National Fire Prevention Association recommend that you “install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area, and on every level of the home, including the basement.”3
For single folks or college students, that might mean two or three smoke detectors. But for bigger families in bigger houses, it could be 10 or more. That means if you’re buying high-end smoke alarms like the Google Nest Protect, you could easily spend more than a grand on protecting your house.
But there are smoke detectors out there that cost a lot less and still work just fine. One of those is the Kidde i12060, which is our pick for the best budget smoke detector.
While it may not be the sleekest or “smartest” device you can buy, it should work well for basic fire detection, especially if used in conjunction with a photoelectric fire alarm, like the First Alert 0827B listed above.
Tips for installing and maintaining your smoke detectors
Having two or three fire alarms in your home is better than having none at all, but ideally you’d have one in every bedroom and at least one in a common area of each floor (including the basement). Smoke alarms should also be placed at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances to avoid false alarms.
Once you’ve carefully installed your smoke detectors, you’ll want to follow these guidelines for maintenance.
- Replace alarms every 10 years.
- Test alarms once a month to make sure they’re working.
- Replace the batteries once a year.
- Periodically vacuum out detectors to avoid dust buildup.
Here’s a quick review of our picks for the best residential smoke detectors of 2020.
Best for most: The First Alert BRK 3120B is a simple but high-quality smoke detector. With dual sensors and OptiPath technology, it can quickly detect both smoldering and big-flaming fires. It’s a great choice for most homes, and it’s cheaper than many lower-quality devices.
Best smart device: The Google Nest protect S3003LWES is a technology-packed smart alarm that can sense smoke, heat, humidity, and carbon monoxide and communicate with your phone, so that you always know what’s going on in your home, whether you’re there or not. It’s an awesome jump forward in home safety technology, if you can afford it.
Best 10-year battery: The X-Sense SD03 is a photoelectric fire alarm that will guard your home from fires for 10 full years—24 hours a day, seven days a week—on just a single built-in battery. It’s a great option for those who can’t hardwire their alarms and may have a hard time remembering to replace batteries.
Best with carbon monoxide detector: The First Alert SCO500B uses to a photoelectric sensor to detect smoke and an electrochemical sensor to detect carbon monoxide. It’s equipped with a voice alert system that can tell you what triggered the alarm and where it is coming from. It’s a great all-in-one device for bedrooms, living rooms, and basements.
Best budget pick: The Kidde i12060 is an ionization smoke alarm that costs about as much as a movie ticket. It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as some other smoke detectors, but it’ll get the job done. It’s a great addition to a home that’s already equipped with a few photoelectric or dual-sensor alarms.
Even with a fire alarm, don’t forget to keep a fire extinguisher on hand. And if you’d like to get a new carbon monoxide alarm to go with your smoke detector, check out our review of the best CO alarms.
We analyzed dozens of smoke alarms available on the market during our research process to find the best for your home. Among the factors that we considered when reviewing, the following played the most critical roles:
- Ionization vs. photoelectric technology
- Wired or battery-powered installation
- Interconnectivity with other smoke alarms
- Carbon monoxide detector
- Included warranty
What are better, ionization or photoelectric smoke detectors?
Ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors work differently. While an ionization smoke alarm is vernally more responsive to flaming fires, photoelectric smoke alarms are more responsive to smoldering fires. The National Fire Protection Association recommends using both types of smoke alarm technologies in your home.
What is better, hardwired or battery smoke detectors?
Generally, a hardwired smoke detector is more reliable due to its power source. While a battery-operated smoke detector may run out of power, a hardwired smoke alarm is generally always running. However, battery smoke doctors can be installed easier without the need to run dedicated wires.
Are dual-sensor smoke alarms better?
Yes, dual-sensor smoke alarms use both ionization and photoelectric detection methods. As each method best responds to a different type of fire—smoldering vs flaming—it is highly recommended to select a smoke detector that offers both technologies inside.
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