1. Home
  2. Safety News

Best Smoke Detectors of 2020

Smoke and fire detectors are a small change to help your home in a big way. Find out which is the best.
Written by | Updated July 10, 2020
Best overall
Nest ProtectGoogle Nest Protect
  • Split-Spectrum smoke detection
  • Syncing
  • Voice alarm
  • Split-Spectrum smoke detection
  • Syncing
  • Voice alarm
Techie pick
First Alert Carbon Monoxide DetectorFirst Alert Onelink
  • Smart
  • Self-sufficient
  • Interconnectable
  • Smart
  • Self-sufficient
  • Interconnectable
Budget pick
Kidde Smoke DetectorKidde Smoke Alarm
  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Loud
  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Loud

Bottom line: Nest blends smart features and practical safety

It’s easy to forget your smoke alarm’s there until it starts beeping or chirping. But while we take them for granted, they’re always watching over us.

Nest Protect combines smart features to replace pesky chirping with app notifications and doubles as a carbon monoxide detector

Nest Protect costs around $120, but it’s still more affordable than other smart smoke detectors on our list. All its extras make it worth the price. On top of smart home connectivity, it offers voice alerts and even a nightlight to guide your way through the hallway at night. 

Nest Protect tops our list because it elegantly marries these features without feeling overwhelming. Check out our full review of Nest Protect to learn more about the best smoke and fire detector. 

Compare smoke detectors and alarms

List Price
Sensor Type
Carbon Monoxide Detector
Battery Backup
Smart Features
Best overall
Techie pick
Budget pick
Basic pick
Best false alarm prevention
Google Nest Protect First Alert Onelink Kidde Smoke Detector First Alert BRK 312OB Kidde i4618
Nest Protect First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector Kidde Smoke Detector First Alert BRK 312OB Kidde i4618 Smoke Detector
$119.99 $172.99 $32.94 $21.45 $61.29
Split-Spectrum Photoelectric Ionization Photoelectric and Ionization Ionization

Yes

Yes

Yes
No
X
No
X
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
X
No
X
No
X
View on Kohl's View on Amazon View on Amazon View on Amazon View on Amazon

*Amazon.com price as of 07/10/2020 at 11:46 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.

Our approach

To determine the best smoke alarms, 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.

Learn more about how we conduct reviews like this one from our methodology page.

Smoke alarm and detectors reviews

Best Overall
Nest Protect

Google Nest Protect

#1. Google Nest Protect: Best overall

The Google Nest Protect fits right into the brand’s flock of smart home safety devices. This combination smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide detector links to your home Wi-Fi, allowing you to monitor your home from your mobile device. 

On top of being a smart smoke detector, it’s polite. Instead of dealing with low-battery chirps, you’ll get updates on your phone when the battery or sensor wears down. It also has a pathway light setting to make those midnight trips to the bathroom easier. 

Throughout the day, the Nest Protect performs 400 safety checks to make sure all’s well. But if the Nest Protect does sense a problem, you’ll hear a clear human voice alert you of danger. 

We chose the Nest Protect as the best overall smoke detector for all its smart features. It’s changed the game for fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide detection, but it’s still pretty expensive (especially if you’re installing multiple alarms). But with its ten-year shelf life, it’s an investment worth considering.

Pros

  • Split-spectrum smoke detection
  • Syncing
  • Voice alarm

Cons

  • Higher price

Want to learn more?

Check out our full review of the Nest Protect smoke and fire alarm. We also have other reviews on Nest products like the Nest Thermostat, Nest cameras, and Nest Secure system.
Techie pick
First Alert Carbon Monoxide Detector

First Alert Onelink

Pros

  • Smart mobile alerts
  • 400 safety checks
  • Alexa built-in

Cons

  • Only compatible with Apple smart devices
Budget Pick
Kidde Smoke Detector

Kidde KN-COSM-IBA

#3. Kidde Smoke Alarm: Budget pick

Kidde is the largest manufacturer of fire safety products in America, and customers trust them to provide top-notch protection.

The Kidde KN-COSM-IBA 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.

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.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Easy to install
  • Loud

Cons

  • Battery-operated only

Smoke detectors for people with hearing loss

If you or someone in your family experiences hearing loss or deafness, a wire-in strobe light can help. These devices connect with your existing smoke and fire alarms. When the smoke detector senses danger and sounds the alarm, the strobe light will flash to signal trouble.
Best Basic Pick
First Alert BRK 312OB

First Alert BRK 312OB

#4. First Alert BRK 312OB: Best basic pick

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.

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.

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

Pros

  • Dual sensor
  • One-touch silence button

Cons

  • Basic design
Best False Alarm Prevention
Kidde i4618 Smoke Detector

Kidde i4618

#5. Kidde i4618: Best false alarm prevention

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.

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.

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.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Interconnectable
  • Equipped with false alarm control

Cons

  • Incompatible with older models

What to consider when buying a smoke detector

From 2013 to 2017, just over a quarter of reported fires happened in homes. That’s more than 350,000 fires per year.

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 few things to look for when buying a new smoke alarm.

Multifunctional

The best smoke alarms can detect smoke particles, flames, and carbon monoxide. A multifunctional alarm can save you battery life or energy from your house for hard-wired smoke detectors. Combination smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide detectors are easier than ever to find.

Smart

While classic ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors are helpful, 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.

Backup power

If your home’s power goes out, you still need to know if there’s a fire or smoke emergency. Hard-wired smoke detectors need to have a battery backup or some other backup power source to keep them running. If the power goes out, it takes your smoke detector with it. Battery powered smoke detectors should have a test button or chirp when the battery starts to drain.

Types of smoke detectors

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

Photoelectric

Photoelectric 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

Ionization smoke detectors use 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.

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 detector installation and maintenance

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.

Check batteries
According to a 2019 report, dead batteries are responsible for 25% of smoke alarm failures. Additionally, about three of every five deaths caused by home fires were from homes with a malfunctioning smoke alarm or no smoke alarm at all.2

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Get connected
Connecting your smoke alarms ensures everyone in your home knows about the emergency. You can install the connection easily and it will sound the siren throughout the house using each of your fire alarms. It takes a few extra steps to set up and test, but it means family members in every room will get the warning.

Smoke detector FAQ

How do I stop my smoke detector from beeping? 

If your smoke detector is beeping regularly, it could be because the batteries are running low. Try changing the batteries first and if the beeping continues, the device may be sending false alarms. Make sure it is far enough from the bathroom or stove to avoid sensing heat or steam any time you use the room. 

Are smart smoke detectors better?

There are advantages and disadvantages to smart smoke detectors, but it boils down to your preference and budget. Smart smoke detectors connect to your phone, allowing you to know when the alarm sounds when you aren’t home. But these aren’t totally foolproof either. They’re connected to your Wi-Fi, so if your internet connection drops, you may be without protection. 

How often should I test my smoke detectors?

For the best results, we recommend testing your smoke detectors once a month. You’ll always be ready for an emergency and this will prevent false alarms and beeping from drained batteries. 

How many smoke detectors should I have?

You should have at least one smoke detector per floor and outside of each of your sleeping areas.

How can I prevent house fires?

Smoke and fire detectors are good for warning you when an emergency happens, but how do you prevent a fire in the first place? Start with a few common safety practices like careful cooking, cleaning out lint traps frequently, and storing flammable products safely. It’s also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher on hand in the house and show everyone how to use it.

Sources

1. National Fire Protection Association Research, “Home Structure Fires” Published October 2019. Accessed June 30, 2020.
2. National Fire Protection Association, “Smoke Alarms in U.S. Fires” Published January 2019. Accessed June 30, 2020.

*Amazon.com list price as of 07/10/20 11:46 MST. Product prices and availability are accurate as of this date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any prices and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.