Best Smoke Detectors of 2020

Fire safety is nothing to take a chance on, so protect your home with one of these premium smoke alarms.

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.

If you want to make sure your home is well protected from fires, then you can’t go wrong with the smoke detectors on this list. There are devices for all kinds of homes and budgets. But first, let’s review some of the basics of smoke-detector technology.

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.
Types of smoke detectors
Type of smoke detectorWhat it’s best at detectingPossible downsides
Ionization smoke alarmFast, flaming fires with little smokeCan be triggered by steam or cooking
Photoelectric smoke alarmSmoldering, smoky firesCan be triggered by too much dust
Dual-sensor smoke alarmBoth types of fireDelayed alerts or false alarms

Things to consider before buying

There’s more to a smoke alarm than the type of sensor it uses.

Some devices are battery-powered, while others are hardwired into your home’s electrical system (so you don’t have to deal with that pesky low-battery chirp). You’ll want to examine your electrical wiring to see what will work best for your home.

Many modern smoke alarms can be wirelessly linked so that when one is triggered, all of them go off. This is called “interconnectability,” and it’s a good idea for big houses where an alarm going off two floors below wouldn’t even wake up the lightest sleeper.

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.

Many of the devices on this list are equipped with these features, so let’s go ahead and dive into the details.

The best smoke detectors of 2020
Device Price* Sensor typeBattery-powered/wired More info
First Alert BRK 3120B$26.98Dual sensorHardwired (with battery backup) View on Amazon
Google Nest Protect S3003LWES$99.00Photoelectric + blue LED + carbon monoxide Hardwired and battery-powered models available View on Amazon
X-Sense SD03$27.99Photoelectric 10-year batteryView on Amazon
First Alert SCO500B$59.99Photoelectric + carbon monoxideHardwired and battery-powered models available View on Amazon
Kidde i12060$12.96IonizationHardwired (with battery backup) View on Amazon

Amazon.com List Prices (as of 12/04/19 2:48 MST)

First Alert BRK 3120B: Best for most

Don’t let this smoke alarm’s cheap price and simple design deceive you. It’s a top-quality product.

First Alert BRK 3120B features
DevicePriceTypeBattery-powered/wired More info
First Alert BRK 3120B$26.98Dual sensorHardwired (with battery backup) View on Amazon

Amazon.com List price of $26.98 (as of 12/4/19 2:48 PM MST).

Why we chose the First Alert BRK 3120B

Smoke alarms come with all kinds of bells and whistles these days, but it all comes down to one job: detecting smoke. The BRK 3120B, which is equipped with both ionization and photoelectric sensors, is really good at that job.

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.)

Pros

  • Uses both photoelectric and ionization smoke sensors
  • Interconnects with up to 18 First Alert devices (including CO detectors and heat alarms)
  • Includes two AA backup batteries
  • Low-battery alerts
  • Hardwired
  • Two silencing buttons—one for the alarm, one for the low-battery chirp
  • OptiPath 360 Technology provides direct access to the smoke sensor
  • Flashing LED lights identify which unit initiated an alarm or low-battery alert
  • Great reviews

Cons

  • Some homes may not support the needed wiring
  • No emergency safety light

Google Nest Protect S3003LWES: Best smart smoke detector

Nothing is smarter than protecting your home with a top-quality, talking smoke alarm + carbon monoxide detector.

Google Nest Protect S3003LWES features
DevicePriceTypeBattery-powered/wiredMore info
Google Nest Protect S3003LWES$99.00*Photoelectric + blue LED + carbon monoxide Hardwired and battery powered models available View on Amazon

Amazon.com List price of $99.00 (as of 12/4/19 2:48 PM MST).

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.

Light Bulb icon
Want to make your existing smoke alarm “smart”?
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.

The Nest Protect S3003LWES is the second generation of smoke alarms from Google, and it has plenty to brag about. This alarm’s “split-spectrum” sensor uses traditional infrared photoelectric and blue LED technology to protect against both slow and fast-burning fires.

It also 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.

Pros

  • Dual photoelectric or “split-spectrum” sensor
  • Electrochemical CO detector
  • Sleek design
  • Alarm can be silenced from the app or by pressing the silencing button
  • LED lights and voice warnings for each situation
  • Helpful customer service
  • Interconnects with up to 18 devices
  • Integrates with Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Cam
  • Heat, humidity, and ambient light sensors
  • Connects to your phone via Wi-Fi; periodically checks connectivity
  • Hardwired model with backup batteries available

Cons

  • 2-year warranty
  • Pricier than standard smoke detectors
  • Uses 6 AA batteries
  • Relies on Wi-Fi to connect to your phone or tablet
  • May not connect to a router that doesn’t support IPv

X-Sense SD03: Best 10-year battery smoke detector

A great option for those who can’t hardwire a smoke alarm (or those who might forget to change the batteries).

X-Sense SD03 features
DevicePriceTypeBattery-powered/wiredMore info
X-Sense SD03$27.99*Photoelectric10-year batteryView on Amazon

Amazon.com List price of $99.00 (as of 12/4/19 2:48 PM MST).

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.

This photoelectric alarm takes three samples of smoke before sounding its alarm, which means fewer false triggers from steamy showers. 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).

Pros

  • LED light that activates when the alarm is tripped
  • Low battery alert
  • 3-year warranty
  • 10-year sealed battery
  • Silence button
  • Advanced photoelectric sensor

Cons

  • Not as effective as dual-sensor alarms
  • Not hardwired
  • Not interconnectable

First Alert SCO500B: Best smoke + carbon monoxide detector

This talking alarm will help protect you from smoldering fires and invisible gases.

First Alert SCO500B features
DevicePriceTypeBattery-powered/wiredMore info
First Alert SCO500B$59.99*Photoelectric + carbon monoxide Hardwired and battery powered models available View on Amazon

Amazon.com List price of $59.99 (as of 12/4/19 2:48 PM MST).

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.

The First Alert SCO500B is a battery-powered combination smoke alarm and CO detector, but if you’d like a wired version, you can check out the BRK SC7010BV.

Pros

  • Built-in carbon monoxide detector
  • Voice alerts
  • Interconnectable with up to 16 other devices
  • Low battery alert
  • 7-year warranty
  • Battery powered
  • Silence button
  • Advanced photoelectric sensor

Cons

  • Photoelectric fire alarms are not as effective as dual sensor alarm

Kidde i12060: Best budget smoke detector

This cheap, stripped-down smoke alarm works best when paired with other devices.

Kidde i12060 features
DevicePriceTypeBattery-powered/wiredMore info
Kidde i12060$12.96*IonizationHardwired (with battery backup) View on Amazon

Amazon.com List price of $12.96 (as of 12/4/19 2:48 PM MST).

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.

This hardwired ionization smoke alarm has all of the standard features: a silence button, a low battery alert light, and an easy-to-access backup battery. It’s also interconnectable with up to 24 other devices.

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.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy-to-access backup battery
  • Interconnectable with up to 24 other devices
  • Low battery alert
  • 10-year warranty
  • Hardwired
  • Silence button

Cons

  • Ionization smoke detectors are not as effective as dual sensor alarms
  • Prone to false alarms

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.

Recap

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.

Fire prevention is one of the most important factors in building a safe home, so we’re always trying to improve our reviews and recommendations. We’d love to hear what you think about these fire alarms and other devices. Let us know in the comments section below!

Sources 

  1. Amazon, “Customer Reviews
  2. US Fire Administration, “Smoke Alarm Outreach Materials
  3. National Fire Protection Association, “Installing and Maintaining Smoke Alarms

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  • Tim Alosi

    Hi … from the FirstAlert / BRK site, the 7020B is discontinued. Can you recommend an alternative?