We scoured industry research, ratings, and reviews to bring you the best smoke detectors.
Best Smoke Detectors of 2021
Some Kidde smoke alarms have been recalled and we're changing our recommendations to better serve our readers. The one listed in this article has not been recalled.
If you already have a Kidde alarm, they are replacing them for free. You can get a replacement online or by calling +1-844-796-9972 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET on Saturday.
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 looking out for us.
Nest Protect costs around $120, but 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 and best carbon monoxide detectors 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.
Here are the best smoke detectors of 2020
Compare smoke detectors and alarms
Best false alarm prevention
Google Nest Protect
First Alert Onelink
First Alert SA320CN
First Alert BRK 312OB
Kidde i4618 (pack of 6)
Photoelectric and Ionization
Photoelectric and Ionization
|Carbon Monoxide Detector|
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*Amazon.com price as of 05/12/2021 at 12:20 p.m. (MT). Read full disclaimer.
Smoke alarm and detectors reviews
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.
This smart smoke detector is 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 10-year shelf life, it’s an investment worth considering.
2. First Alert Onelink Smoke Detector: Techie pick
The First Alert Onelink comes armed with a photoelectric smoke detector and an electrochemical sensor for catching carbon monoxide.
But, on top of keeping your family safe, it comes with a built-in Alexa assistant. You can speak to the smoke alarm to get the weather, play music, and set timers. Plus, you can install it anywhere a normal smoke detector goes—like your kitchen or bedroom.
Like the Nest Protect, it connects to your Wi-Fi and sends alerts to you through an app. If something goes wrong while you aren’t home, you’ll know. It still has some old-school features too. On top of voice alerts, it has a powerful 85 dB alarm that goes off when it detects smoke, fire, or CO gas.
We like how customizable and connected the Onelink smoke detector is. But, like the Nest Protect, it’s also pretty expensive for a fire alarm. We recommend the Onelink if you already enjoy smart home devices or have a steady home automation system in place.
3. First Alert SA320CN: Budget pick
The First Alert SA320CN is fairly basic compared to our top two picks. It's reliable, though, and that's the most important thing when it comes to fire detection. Plus, First Alert is a brand that's been around since 1958 and is highly trusted.
The 85-decibel siren could be louder, but we think it should do just fine if you place multiple alarms throughout your home. It can detect both fire and smoldering using its dual sensors, and it has a testing button that can also be used to mute the alarm.
It's not the flashiest, but we think it's a great pick if you need a budget-friendly, no-fuss smoke detector.
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.
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.
5. Kidde i4618 Firex: Best false alarm prevention
This Kidde smoke alarm 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.
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. 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 few things to look for when buying a new smoke alarm:
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.
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 devices 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.
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 smoke alarm sensors use 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 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 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.
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.
How we reviewed the best smoke detectors
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 five best smoke alarms were selected from 12 top 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 detector FAQ
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's far enough from the bathroom or stove to avoid sensing heat or steam any time you use the room.
There are pros and cons 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.
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.
You should have at least one smoke detector per floor and outside of each of your sleeping areas.
Smoke and fire detectors warn 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.
Related pages on SafeWise
1. National Fire Protection Association Research, "Home Structure Fires" Published October 2019. Accessed October 19, 2020.
2. National Fire Protection Association, “Smoke Alarms in U.S. Fires” Published January 2019. Accessed October 19, 2020.
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