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2018 Best Fire and Smoke Alarms: Buyers Guide

Written by: Rebecca Edwards  |   Updated: January 18, 2018

Smoke alarms save lives. Protect what matters most with the top fire and smoke alarms on the market. It’s easy to take smoke alarms for granted, but they can save your life—and your home. Below, you’ll find the best smoke detectors on the market, plus other fire safety information that can keep your family protected.

Best Smoke Alarms of 2018

Detector
Pros
Cons
Where to Find It
Top Pick
Nest Protect (2nd gen) Nest Protect (2nd gen) Read Review
  • Pros
  • Split-Spectrum smoke detection
  • Syncing
  • Voice alarm
  • Cons
  • Higher price
Top Pick
First Alert Onelink First Alert Onelink Read Review
  • Pros
  • Smart
  • Self-sufficient
  • Interconnectable
  • Cons
  • Only compatible with Apple devices
Kidde KN-COSM-BA Kidde KN-COSM-BA Read Review
  • Pros
  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Loud
  • Cons
  • Battery-operated only
First Alert BRK 3120B First Alert BRK 3120B Read Review
  • Pros
  • Dual sensor
  • One-touch silence button
  • Cons
  • Basic design
Kidde i4618 Firex Kidde i4618 Firex Read Review
  • Pros
  • Affordable
  • Interconnectable
  • Equipped with false alarm control
  • Cons
  • Not compatible with older models

Things to Consider in a Smoke Alarm

All smoke detectors are not created equal. These are the factors you should keep in mind when selecting a smoke alarm to protect your home and family.

Battery-Operated or Hardwired

Most smoke alarms run on batteries, but you can get smoke alarms that are hardwired. Hardwired detectors are usually installed during construction, and can be part of an interconnected smoke detector system. Hardwired smoke alarms run on your house’s electrical system and typically come with battery backup. It is possible to install a hardwired smoke alarm after construction.

The main issue with battery-powered smoke alarms is that it’s up to you to make sure the batteries are fresh and ready for action. Even though all battery-operated smoke alarms signal you when the batteries are low, many people still neglect to make sure their smoke alarms are working. The same goes for the battery backup on hardwired detectors. If you opt for battery-operated smoke detectors, set up a reminder so you don’t overlook testing and changing out batteries.

Connected or Stand-Alone

Interconnected smoke alarms guarantee that if fire is detected in one area of the house, every smoke alarm will go off. This means that you’ll hear the alarm even if the fire is in the basement and you’re upstairs. Stand-alone detectors only alert you to danger in the immediate area where they are installed.

Another feature of connected smoke alarms is low-battery warnings. If one detector has a low battery, they will all beep to let you know. While this is good for keeping you on top of battery replacement, it can be frustrating while you try to find the one smoke detector that needs new batteries.

Smoke Alarm Features

Today you can get a smoke alarm that does more than alert you to the presence of smoke. Check out some of the extra bells and whistles:

  • Remote Control and Alerts
    Monitor your home’s safety from anywhere with a smoke alarm that sends alerts to your phone if smoke is detected or batteries are running low.
  • Voice Hush
    Say goodbye to annoying nuisance alarms. Detectors with voice hush let you tell the smoke alarm to stand down, so you don’t have to choose between taking care of a smoking pot on the stove and physically silencing the alarm.
  • Silence Buttons
    Silence buttons provide a safe way to quiet unnecessary alarms without disabling the smoke detector. Most buttons will silence the alarm for up to fifteen minutes, which gives you enough time to clear out steam or smoke from daily activities.
  • Connection to a Central Monitoring Station
    Smoke alarms that are part of a monitored home security system give you the added reassurance of 24/7 monitoring.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection
    Many smoke alarms now monitor both smoke and carbon monoxide. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that provide two-in-one protection can save you worry and money.
  • Smart Detection That Identifies the Location of Fire or Smoke
    Know where the danger is as soon as you get an alert. Some smart smoke alarms can pinpoint the exact location of the fire, which makes evacuation and fire response more effective.

Compare Smoke Detectors and Fire Alarms

 

Nest Protect

Nest Protect Check Price on Amazon

First Alert Onelink

First Alert Onelink Check Price on Amazon

Kidde KN-COSM-BA

Kidde KN-COSM-BA Check Price on Amazon

First Alert BRK 3120B

First Alert BRK 3120B Check Price on Amazon

Kidde i4618 Firex

Kidde i4618 Firex Check Price on Amazon
Warranty

2-year limited

10-year limited

10-year limited

10-year limited

5-year limited

Sensor

Split-spectrum featuring photoelectric and LED

Photoelectric

Ionization

Photoelectric and ionization

Ionization

Power

Battery

Hardwired

Battery

Hardwired

Battery

Battery

Hardwired

Battery

Hardwired

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Detection××
Home Automation

Nest

Amazon Alexa

Google Home

Wink

Nexia

Vera

Apple Homekit

None

None

None

Alerts

Alarm

Voice

Mobile

Alarm

Voice

Mobile

Alarm

Voice

Alarm

Alarm

Best Smoke Alarm Reviews

Nest Protect

Nest Protect

Best for smart home integration

Nest Protect has transformed the standard for home safety products—making it our top smoke alarm pick. It comes with carbon monoxide detection, home automation capabilities, and a self-monitoring system that performs 400 safety checks per day.

Pros

Nest Protect is the smartest smoke detector on the market. Its app sends alerts to your phone so you can silence false alarms or call for help no matter where you are.

  • Split-Spectrum Smoke Detection
    Nest created its own sensor, a photoelectric and LED hybrid, to eliminate radioactive material (found in ionization sensors) and enhance smoke detection.
  • Syncing
    If you have multiple alarms, they’ll talk to each other. When one alarm sounds, they’ll all be triggered to tell you exactly where the danger is coming from.
  • Voice Alarm
    Instead of a loud beep, you’ll hear a human voice if smoke is detected.
Cons

You get advanced protection and a bunch of extra features with Nest Protect, but they come with a higher price tag than most other smoke detectors.

  • Higher Price
    You’ll pay more than $100 for a single Nest Protect smoke alarm, which can make installing multiple devices cost prohibitive.
First Alert Onelink

First Alert Onelink

Best for battery life

First Alert Onelink is a smart alarm that detects both smoke and carbon monoxide. It also comes with voice alarm and a battery that has a ten-year life expectancy.

Pros

This smoke detector aims to eliminate the problem of dead batteries. Thanks to the included long-life battery, you don’t have to worry about late-night chirping or the added cost of changing out batteries.

  • Smart
    You can use Apple’s HomeKit technology with the Onelink alarm. You’ll get mobile alerts if the smoke alarm sounds, and you can control it from your phone.
  • Self-Sufficient
    This device does 400 safety checks per day to ensure it’s working properly.
  • Interconnectable
    Because it’s compatible with most existing hardwired alarms on the market, you can make your whole smoke alarm system smart with just one First Alert Onelink device. And you don’t have to rewire, thanks to the included adapter plugs.
Cons

The battery is sealed within the device, so you’ll have to replace your entire smoke alarm when the battery dies.

  • Only Compatible with Apple Devices
    First Alert Onelink only works with Apple devices, so if you want smart capabilities and have an Android, you’re out of luck.
Kidde KN-COSM-BA

Kidde KN-COSM-BA

Best for customer satisfaction

Kidde is the largest manufacturer of fire safety products in America, and customers trust them to provide top-notch protection. This dual smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detector has more than 1,600 reviews on Amazon and a 4.4-star rating.

Pros

The Kidde KN-COSM-BA smoke detector receives high praise from customers. We read review after review from people who credit this smoke alarm with saving their lives and homes.

  • Affordable
    You can protect your home and family with this highly rated device that’s priced to work for most budgets.
  • Easy to Install
    There is no wiring required, so it’s easy to install. All you need to do is open the box and this reliable detector is ready to go (batteries included!).
  • Loud
    A smoke alarm doesn’t do you much good if you can’t hear it. Many customers report how loud the beeps and voice alerts are—even for those with hearing loss.
Cons

In a world of smart devices, this smoke detector is fairly basic. Although it does offer voice alarm, there are no home automation or remote monitoring capabilities.

  • Battery-Operated Only
    This Kidde smoke alarm can’t be hardwired, so there’s no option to connect it with other alarms throughout your home.
First Alert BRK 3120B

First Alert BRK 3120B

Best for eliminating false alarms

This First Alert smoke alarm uses a dual sensor to detect multiple kinds of fires and decrease false alarms. It’s also hardwired with a battery backup, so you don’t have to worry about power failure.

Pros

Say goodbye to shrieking beeps while you’re cooking or after a hot shower. The First Alert BRK 3120B comes with a photoelectric sensor that’s sensitive enough to tell the difference between everyday activities and real threats like a smoldering fire.

  • Dual Sensor
    First Alert’s smoke alarm comes with both ionization and photoelectric sensors to detect fast- and slow-burning fires.
  • One-Touch Silence Button
    It’s easy to silence false alarms on the First Alert BRK 3120B. One touch of your finger is all that’s required to hush an alarm or test the unit.
Cons

Although this smoke detector has two smoke sensors, it doesn’t come with carbon monoxide detection.

  • Basic Design
    This no-frills smoke alarm doesn’t come with smart capabilities, remote monitoring, or voice alert.
Kidde i4618 Firex

Kidde i4618 Firex

Best for when you need multiple devices

This is the second Kidde smoke alarm to make our list, and it’s the most affordable. The Firex is easy to install and can be interconnected with other alarms to create a full-house smoke detection system.

Pros

Changing batteries has never been easier. It’s simple to keep this smoke detector ready for action with the slide-load battery door on the front.

  • Affordable
    You can protect your home for less than $15 with the Kidde i4618 Firex smoke alarm. The price makes it easy to add multiple detectors to protect every level of your home.
  • Interconnectable
    The Firex can connect with up to twenty-four devices, including heat, CO, and smoke detectors. Best of all, it works with devices from different brands.
  • Equipped with False Alarm Control
    Safely silence annoying alarms caused by non-emergency events like a steamy shower or burned dinner. When you press the hush button, you desensitize the alarm for a maximum of eight minutes, after which it will resume normal operation.
Cons

The Firex has only an ionization sensor. While this provides early detection for fire particles, which is useful in a flaming blaze, it doesn’t provide accurate detection for smoldering fires.

  • Not Compatible with Older Models
    Users report issues connecting the Kidde i4618 Firex with older smoke detectors. If you’re not looking to replace all of your smoke alarms, this could be an issue.

Types of Smoke Detectors

Fires happen every day. In 2016, a house fire was reported every ninety seconds.1 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 detectors do more than detect fire. Many include carbon monoxide alarms too, giving you double protection in one device. Multifunctional alarms can be battery-operated, hardwired, or smart—so prices vary depending on the functions included.

Smart

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

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 due to a power outage. Hardwired smoke detectors are an extremely reliable option because the odds of losing power are low. One downside is that they can be trickier to install.

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 smoke alarms use sensors that 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 smoke alarms use sensors that are able to detect faster-burning fires with large flames. This is important because flaming fires produce small amounts of smoke that can be harder to detect. 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, which triggers the alarm.

Dual Sensors

Dual sensors include both photoelectric and ionization sensors. These are considered the safest smoke and fire detection devices. Because they detect both flaming fires and smaller, smoldering fires, it’s unlikely that any fire-related danger will get past these double-duty sensors.

Smoke Alarm Tips

Smoke alarms can save a life, but they have to be properly installed and maintained. Don’t risk your family’s safety—use these tips to keep your smoke detectors in tip-top shape.

changing a battery in a smoke detector

Check Batteries

Between 2009 and 2013, dead batteries caused 31% of smoke alarm failures in home fires where a battery-powered smoke alarm was present.2 Nest reports that nine out of ten people don’t check batteries. This is dangerous! A smoke detector won’t do you 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.

smoke alarm mounted on the wall of a child's bedroom

Arm Every Level

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends putting a smoke detector on every level of your home: in every bedroom, outside every sleeping area, and in your basement. On floors without bedrooms, install alarms in the living area or near stairways. If you have a large home, consider adding even more to cover the whole footprint.

fire alarm mounted high on a kitchen wall

Mount High

Smoke rises. It’s important to put your smoke detectors within a foot of your ceilings and ten 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.

Never Run Out of Batteries

Set up recurring delivery for smoke alarm batteries on Amazon. That way, you’ll always be ready to replace a dead battery in your smoke alarm. Time the delivery schedule to match regular smoke alarm maintenance so you’ll never overlook changing out old batteries.

nurse showing a smoke detector to an older person

Keep It Clean

Dirt and debris interfere with the sensors on your smoke alarm. Dusty buildup can lead to false alarms or delayed detection during an emergency. Whether you have a photoelectric alarm or an ionization detector, regular cleaning will keep your smoke alarm in working order.

large bay window

Dodge Drafts

Keep smoke alarms away from windows, doors, and air ducts. Drafts can disrupt the operation of smoke detectors and increase the occurrence of nuisance alarms.

smoke alarm mounted on a ceiling

Get Connected

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission found that interconnected smoke alarms do a better job of detecting fires and alerting all occupants to danger.3 When it comes to safety, taking the extra step to install and connect hardwired smoke detectors is definitely worth it.

Make Your Smoke Detector Smarter

If you want a smart upgrade but still have lots of life left in your existing smoke detectors, try one of these products. They use Wi-Fi to monitor your alarms and send notifications to your smartphone when danger is detected.

Product
Pros
Cons
Where to Find It
Leeo Smart Alert Leeo Smart Alert
  • Pros
  • Sends mobile alerts if a smoke or CO alarm is detected
  • Plugs into any outlet; no smart home hub required
  • Can also alert your emergency contact list or fire department
  • Cons
  • Can’t detect smoke, fire, or gas on its own
  • Doesn’t come with battery backup
Roost Smart 9V Battery for Smoke Alarms Roost Smart 9V Battery for Smoke Alarms
  • Pros
  • Puts an end to low-battery chirps
  • Sends alarm notifications to your smartphone
  • Remotely hushes false alarms
  • Cons
  • Doesn’t work with all smoke alarms
  • Has shorter battery life than advertised

Smoke Alarm Terminology

Photoelectric

A type of smoke alarm sensor that uses light to detect smoke. When smoke particles are suspended in the air (as with a smoldering fire) the particles scatter the beam of light in the sensory chamber, which sets off the alarm.

Ionization

This type of smoke alarm sensor uses radiation and an ionization chamber to detect smoke. The ionizing radiation helps detect small amounts of smoke in the air, as with a flaming fire. When smoke enters the sensor chamber, the current of the ionizing radiation is disrupted, which triggers the alarm.

  1. National Fire Protection Association, “Fires in the US
  2. National Fire Protection Association, “Smoke Alarms in US Home Fires, September 2015
  3. US Consumer Product Safety Commission, “2004-2005 National Sample Survey of Unreported Residential Fires, July 2009

Our Approach

Smoke alarm installation

To determine the best smoke alarms of 2018, we scoured industry research and evaluated product features, performance, and specs. We consulted the National Fire Protection Association and US Consumer Product Safety Commission for guidance, and pored over expert ratings and real customer reviews. Our top five smoke alarms were selected from twelve different devices that were compared for reliability, effectiveness, price, and customer satisfaction.

30+ hours of research
12 products reviewed
2000+ reviews consulted
22 coffees consumed

Find Your Perfect Home Security System

This is Not a Drill: Get a Free* Smoke Detector!

Purchase a plan through Protect Your Home, ADT’s Authorized Premier Provider, and get this complimentary gift plus $850 to put toward security equipment.*

*With $99.00 Customer Installation Charge and purchase of alarm monitoring services. Termination fee applies. For new customers only. See Important Terms and Conditions to this offer here.
Smoke Detector