Find out if you’re better off with Nest’s smart smoke alarm or if you should get the affordable smoke and carbon monoxide detector from First Alert. We’ve compared both options to help you get the best one for your home.
Nest Protect is one of several items in Nest’s smart home series, and it’s unlike any other smoke detector on the market. The Nest Protect detects both smoke and carbon monoxide, performs automatic self-testing, and can be controlled entirely from your phone.
SafeWise Top Pick for Smoke Detector
Best for smart home enthusiasts
Bottom Line: It’s expensive, but the Nest Protect Smoke Alarm is one of the best options on the market.
The Nest Protect self-tests hundreds of times each day and sends alerts to your phone when the battery is low.
When the alarm is triggered, Nest Protect speaks clearly in a human voice rather than bombarding you with beeping.
This smart alarm sends notifications to your phone if there’s danger, and you can silence the alarm from your phone too.
What We Don’t Like
The cost can add up—especially if you need multiple alarms.
Customers report false alarms due to steam.
The Nest Protect sells for about $120 when we last checked.
Nest has managed to make an attractive smoke alarm that also simplifies the alert process and can last up to ten years. The Split-Spectrum Sensor detects both slow- and fast-burning fires quickly. If the alarm is triggered, Nest Protect’s voice will tell you whether it’s from smoke or carbon monoxide, and you’ll get a notification on your phone with the same information.
The Nest uses lights in addition to a voice to let you know what’s going on. When you turn off the lights, the Nest flashes green for a moment if everything is working properly. If you’ve burned something in the kitchen or done something to generate a small amount of smoke, the light will turn yellow. If there is an emergency, the Nest triggers the alarm and begins to pulse red.
You can order either a hard-wired or battery-operated device. When the batteries get low, Nest Protect will send a notification instead of chirping.
The Nest Protect comes with a backplate for mounting to the wall or ceiling, four mounting screws, a 120V connector, three wire connectors, and backup batteries.
The Nest Protect is compatible with other Nest products as well as many other brands’ products, including Philips Hue lightbulbs, SkyBell doorbell, and Google Home. You can even do things like program your Philips Hue smartbulbs to turn red when Nest Protect detects an emergency. Check out the full list of Nest compatible products.
The Nest Protect is one of the most powerful smoke detectors available today, but it does come at a cost. If you need to outfit several rooms with a smoke detector, you could get a Nest Protect for more vulnerable areas like the kitchen and opt for a less expensive model for the rest of the house.
First Alert Smoke Alarm
The First Alert Smoke Alarm is an improved version of the standard smoke alarm. It detects both smoke and carbon monoxide and has a simple design with a single button for testing or silencing the device.
Best for the penny-pincher
Bottom Line: The First Alert smoke alarm gets the job done at a reasonable price but isn’t compatible with home automation.
What We Like
The First Alert Smoke Alarm loads batteries from the side for easier access.
Separate lights indicate if the alarm is detecting smoke or carbon monoxide.
It’s a hardwired design with backup batteries included.
What We Don’t Like
The smoke alarm doesn’t have smart capabilities.
The ionization sensor is slower to detect smoldering fires.
The First Alert Smoke Alarm is around $35, and a two-pack is available for less than $70.
The First Alert Smoke Alarm is good for up to ten years and includes a 9V battery backup to provide continuous protection even when your home is without power. The front of the alarm has lights to indicate whether it detects smoke or carbon monoxide and a single button for testing the alarm or silencing low-battery chirps for up to eight hours.
This model can connect to other First Alert smoke alarms and uses a latching alarm system, which remembers which unit first indicated smoke or carbon monoxide, helping you to find the problem.
The First Alert Smoke Alarm comes with a mounting plate and the necessary hardware to attach it. One 9V battery is included, but you may want to buy an extra pack of batteries to have on hand.
This smoke alarm will connect to compatible BRK and other First Alert smoke detectors, but it does not connect with other home automation systems.
Nest Protect vs. First Alert
Detect both smoke and CO
Connect with other units of the same brand
Use battery backup
Uses voice warnings rather than sirens
Sends alerts to your phone
Detects smoldering and fast-burning fires well
Traditional siren system
No smart capabilities
Detects fast-burning fires well
When you compare the features side by side, there really is no competition: the Nest Protect is the better smoke alarm by a wide margin. It provides more features and functionality than the First Alert smoke alarm, but it does come at a higher cost.
But if you want a budget smoke/CO alarm and don’t need to connect it to a larger home automation system, then the First Alert Smoke Alarm is a solid choice.
Written by Patrick Hearn
The SafeWise Team is here to help you keep your home and family safe. Whether you’re looking to pick a security system or identify and remove common risks in your home, we’re here to help you find the best products and well-researched answers. At SafeWise we combine our years of experience in home safety and security with user reviews and feedback to help take the guesswork out of living safe. Learn more