Best Smoke Alarms - Safewise Buyer’s Guide

Top Smoke Alarms - 2016

You’re sound asleep when a fast-burning fire engulfs your home. Do you have smoke detectors to wake you so you can escape?

Unfortunately, many people don’t. In 2014, almost 3,000 people lost their lives in structure fires and 60% of those deaths occurred in homes without smoke alarms.1,2 The bottom line- Smoke alarms can save lives. In order to protect your family, pets, and yourself from injury or death during a fire, smoke alarms are essential. Below, you’ll find the best smoke detectors on the market and other basic fire-safety information that can keep your family protected.

smoke alarm

Smoke And Fire Alarms

Smoke detectors are different than fire alarms. Unlike smoke detectors, which only screen for smoke, fire alarms also contain heat sensors and sprinklers. Fire alarms also have the ability to communicate with emergency services and call for help, while most smoke detectors are only able to alert you when they sense smoke and fire.

Types of Smoke Detectors

Fires happen every day. In 2014, firefighters reported to a blaze every 24 seconds. If you have smoke detectors in your home, you’ll have a better chance of getting everyone out safely. While any smoke detector is better than none, there are a number of models to choose from with varying pros and cons:

Multifunctional

Some smoke alarms do more than detect fire. Many include carbon monoxide detection too-giving you double protection in one device. Multifunctional alarms can be battery-operated, hardwired, or smart, so prices vary.

Smart

Smart smoke detectors are cutting-edge in fire safety. They communicate through apps and deliver alerts if an alarm sounds. Smart alarms can talk to each other too, so you’ll know exactly where the fire is coming from if an alarm is triggered. The only downside is that smart devices are more expensive, but you get a lot of safety for your buck.

Battery-Operated

Battery-operated smoke alarms can’t be wired into your home’s electrical system. Instead, they run on batteries. The upside- They don’t require complicated installation. The only hiccup is that they become inactive if the batteries die. Since dead batteries caused about 25% of smoke detector failures in 2014, this is a potential risk you should be aware of.

There are smart batteries on the market that can communicate with your phone when power is low.3 If you have a battery-operated smoke alarm, this is an option to consider.

Hardwired

Hardwired smoke detectors come with wires that hook into your home’s electrical system. Most come with a backup battery to prevent your device from becoming inactive. Hardwired smoke detectors are an extremely reliable option because the odds of losing power are low. Although, they require more installation knowledge.

Smoke Detector Sensors

Smoke alarms typically have three types of sensors: ionization, photoelectric, and dual. Here are the main differences between the three:

Photoelectric Sensors

Photoelectric sensors are better at detecting smoldering fires that generate lots of smoke. These sensors use a light to detect smoke and sound an alarm.

Ionization Sensors

Ionization sensors are designed to recognize fast-burning, flaming fires through the small amounts of smoke they produce. They’re equipped with two metal plates and a small amount of radioactive material to ionize air. When smoke passes through the device, it interrupts the ionization and triggers the alarm.

Dual Sensors

Dual sensors include both photoelectric and ionization sensors. These are considered to be the safest smoke alarms because they detect both smoldering and flaming fires.

Smoke Alarms

Out of all the smoke alarms out there, we found the top 10. Learn about the pros and cons of each so you can make the best decision for your household.

Top Smoke Alarms

Detector

Price

Sensor

Capabilities

Pros

Cons

Sensor

Split-Spectrum featuring photoelectric and LED

Capabilities

Smart, digital, dual-sensor, hardwire, battery-operated, voice alarm

Pros

Smoke & carbon monoxide detection

Smart

Unique sensor

Battery and hardwire

Cons

Price

First Alert Onelink

Read Review

Sensor

Photoelectric

Capabilities

Smart, digital, app, dual sensor, 10-year battery

Pros

Smoke & carbon monoxide detection

Smart

Cons

More Expensive

Only compatible with Apple devices

kidde KN-COSM-BA

kidde KN-COSM-BA

Read Review

Sensor

Ionization

Capabilities

Battery-operated, dual sensor

Pros

Smoke & carbon monoxide detection

Voice alarm

Top rated

Affordable

Cons

No hardwire option

First AlertBRK 3120B

First Alert BRK 3120B

Read Review

Sensor

Photoelectric and ionization

Capabilities

Hardwire, backup battery, dual sensor

Pros

Dual Sensor

Affordable

Hardwire and backup battery

Cons

No CO detection

Semi Basic

Home Alert Smoke Detector

Home Alert Smoke Detector

Read Review

Sensor

Sount sensor

Capabilities

Battery-operated or hardwire

Pros

Smart

Multi-functional

Unique

Cons

Price

No actual detection included-responds to sound

You’ll need to buy smoke alarms

Leeo Smart Alert™

Read Review

Sensor

N/A

Capabilities

Carbon monoxide and smoke detector syncing, home automation

Pros

Compatible with carbon monoxide detectors made after 1996

Simple home monitoring

Can call for help

Cons

This is not a carbon monoxide alarm

Can only detect and alert you of problems

*SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.

Monitored Smoke Alarms

The previous smoke alarms are great stand-alone safety equipment. However, you can get even more protection from a monitored smoke alarm. If you have a home security system, you can most likely add on monitored smoke detection. If there is a fire, your 24/7 professional monitoring center will know about it immediately. That way, they can alert you and the fire department to minimize damage and keep you safe. Here are some of the top companies where you can purchase monitored smoke alarms:

Pros
  • Low battery warning displayed on control panel
  • Home automation experts
  • Doesn’t chirp until battery is critically low
Cons
  • Battery-operated
  • Only one sensor
Features
  • Photoelectric sensor
  • 24/7 monitoring
  • wireless
Pros
  • Smoke and heat sensor
  • Get alerts on your smart devices
  • Wireless
Cons
  • Battery-operated
Features
  • Detects smoke and heat
  • 24/7 monitoring
  • wireless
Pros
  • Create a plan to tell ADT what to do in case an alarm sounds
  • Alarm system unlocks doors if smoke detectors sound
  • Hardwired with backup battery
  • Extra accessories
  • Wireless
Cons
Features
  • 24/7 monitoring
  • accessories
  • preset commands for ADT to follow
  • wireless
Pros
  • Email/text notifications
  • Dual sensor
  • Wireless
Cons
  • Battery-operated
Features
  • Photoelectric and ionization sensors
  • 24/7 monitoring
  • text/email alerts
  • wireless
Link Interactive
Pros
  • Multiple alarms to choose from
  • Heat, smoke, and freeze sensor
  • Wireless
Cons
  • Battery-operated
Features
  • 24/7 monitoring
  • triple sensor
  • wireless

Smoke Alarm Tips

Once you have your smoke detectors, you’ll need to know how to use them. Here are some tips to help enhance your safety:

Check your batteries.

If you choose a basic battery-operated smoke alarm, you’ll need to check it often. Out of all smoke alarm failures in 2014, about 25% were caused by dead batteries. Nest reports that 9 out of 10 people don’t check batteries.4 This is dangerous! Having a smoke detector doesn’t do any good if it isn’t working, so make sure to check your batteries every month and use the "test" button intermittently to ensure proper function.

Include a smoke alarm on every level of your home.

The National Fire Protection Association recommends putting a smoke detector on every level of your home, in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and in your basement.5 If you have a large home, consider adding even more to cover the whole footprint.

Mount smoke alarms high on walls.

Smoke rises. It’s important to put your smoke detectors within a foot of your ceilings and 10 feet from cooking areas. For vaulted ceilings, avoid putting smoke detectors in the "pitch" of the roofline. Instead, mount fire alarms three feet below the ceiling so they can accurately read smoke.

House fires are a scary thing that happen too often. Follow the tips above and choose one of these top smoke detectors to prepare yourself for the worst. An accident can become a tragedy far too easily, so do all you can to safeguard your home, family, and yourself.

If you’re interested in top carbon monoxide detectors, head over to our other buyer’s guide. There, you’ll find products, tips, and information.

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