7 November 2021
As Debbie and I continue to work through the details of our home planning, there are aspects that are not as fun or glamorous as others. But it doesn’t mean they’re any less important, especially where life safety or the law are concerned. Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms fall into that area that still needs addressing for us.
I’ve looked at many of the alarms out there, from ‘dumb’ but dependable solutions to gadgets that we can integrate into our smart home design perfectly. Admittedly, no one likes dealing with these as there are a lot to choose from dealing with them once they’re installed. I’m talking about the ‘change the battery chirp that always comes in the middle of the night to the alarm sounding when you accidently leave the bag of popcorn in the microwave too long. By the way, if you haven’t changed the batteries on your smoke alarms you might want to do that today — special days like Daylight Savings or New Year’s are good target dates to make sure the batteries are changed annually.
As I’ve already mentioned, these alarms aren’t the most exciting of gadgets to purchase. They’re incredibly useful and important but they’re rarely the kind of technology that’s going to get someone like me (or you?) fired up. Still, it’s wise to buy the right kind of smoke and carbon monoxide alarm for your home. They’ll most likely be the first (and sometimes only) alert you’ll get in the awful event of a fire or carbon monoxide leak. And they’re legally required by the state of Texas as of 2007: ‘ … requires one- and two-family dwellings constructed in Texas to have working smoke detectors installed in accordance with the requirements of the building code in effect in the area in which the dwelling is located.’ I’d imagine the laws in your state, province, etc. are similar if not the same.
I’ll focus on battery-powered alarms rather than hardwired solutions here as there probably aren’t many of you out there building new homes. Or willing to go to the expense of wiring an existing home to accommodate them. But I will note when you can opt to connect the alarm up to the main power. This eliminates the need for battery changes though they generally have battery backups in case of power outages.
Regardless of your situation, here are the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms I’m looking at for our new home.
Nest should already be a familiar name to you if you’ve been reading any of my posts. A couple weeks ago I highlighted the Google Nest Learning Thermostat in my post Smart Home Gift Ideas for the Holidays. The Nest Protect Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm may be the best alarm on the market for a lot of general reasons but also because it aligns with our smart home build plans. A hard-wired version is available and it integrates well into the smart home ecosystem.
It connects to your Wi-Fi, providing you with phone alerts if the alarm goes off or if the batteries are running low. And more interestingly, it speaks to you too — telling you when it detects smoke and warning you that the alarm is about to go off. By giving you that moment to stay ahead of the alarm, it’s perfect for those times when cooking has caused some smoke and a regular alarm would react as if there were a genuine fire. And it’s the only alarm with ‘Steam Check.” It uses custom algorithms and a humidity sensor to look for steam, so your shower or pasta won’t set it off.
In addition to its voice, Nest Protect uses colors to communicate. It has a bright light ring so it’s easier to see in an emergency and better at helping you see things in the dark. On top of that, it acts as a subtle nightlight to illuminate the hall when you pass by and even integrates with the Nest thermostat to act as an occupancy sensor. That way you can use the Nest energy saving features even if your thermostat is located somewhere it can’t see household activity very well. When smoke or carbon monoxide reach dangerous levels, the alarm sounds, pulses red and tells you where the emergency is. The Nest Protect has the most accurate type of carbon monoxide sensor available as they’ve improved their carbon monoxide sensing algorithm. And the carbon Monoxide sensor lasts 10 years.
You’re supposed to test smoke alarms monthly, but most people don’t. So Nest Protect checks its batteries and sensors over 400 times a day. And it quietly test its speaker and horn once a month. It also maintains a log so you can check back on its activities and what may have occurred in the past.
As you can tell, this may be my favorite for a lot of reasons but it’s a far pricier option than a regular basic smoke/carbon monoxide alarm, so keep that in mind if considering this. But such features make it worth the premium price tag as far as I’m concerned.
As you all may be aware by now, I’m a big Amazon Alexa smart home fan. So as much as I love the technology and capabilities of the Nest Protect, the First Alert Onelink may end up being the alarm we end up with. For those Apple fans out there, the First Alert OneLink is also compatible with Apple HomeKit.
The alarm itself is a pretty conventional smoke and carbon monoxide alarm. It provides remote notifications of an emergency in your home for 24/7 safety, plus tracks carbon monoxide levels. Through First Alert’s Onelink Home app you can also customize nightlights, and more, very much like the Nest Protect.
The moment it detects a problem, notifications are sent, with an 85-decibel alarm activated alongside a voice alert. Key voice location technology announces the type and location of the danger in your home, keeping your entire home safe and connected during an emergency. It also connects with any other hardwired alarms in your home (including First Alert and non First Alert brands), and can send a mobile notification for any detected emergency. I really prefer the Nest approach with a verbal warning before the alarm but the Alexa integration is hard to overlook.
With its Alexa support, it doubles as a smart speaker, so you can enjoy all the benefits of Alexa while being protected. It has all the Alexa benefits of the standard voice assistant like asking to play music, catch up on the news, check the weather or control your other smart home devices. And all with the convenience of a multi-room distribution. AirPlay 2 enables a wireless multi room audio system, creating an easy way to stream music anywhere in the home to different iOS and other AirPlay 2 compatible devices.
And another thing I really like is that fits our home build plan as it’s available in a hardwired capacity — actually ONLY hardwired. So if you need a battery dependent alarm system, this isn’t the one for your home.
As not everything in our home will need to be ‘smart’ or wired, the First Alert Interconnected Wireless Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Combo Alarm could fit that bill. With this, you get the best of both options. The alarm wirelessly interconnects with up to 16 First Alert enabled devices through radio frequency communication. When an emergency arises, they all issue an 85-decibel siren when one detects smoke or carbon monoxide. For those who want a comprehensive detection system without hiring an electrician or worrying about hardwiring, this battery operated CO smoke detector combo is an ideal solution.
The photoelectric smoke sensor is designed to reduce false alarms from cooking smoke or shower steam while remaining sensitive to real danger. The advanced electrochemical CO sensor detects carbon monoxide leaks from multiple sources, including faulty fuel burning appliances.
A voice alarm is also activated with 11 programmable location settings available so you can be told exactly where the danger is. It’s worthwhile buying a couple of the devices for your home, with it possible for you to connect up to 18 First Alert enabled alarms, easily protecting your home.
Obviously there are dozens of other options when it comes to smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. You should do you own research as this is a life safety aspect and personal preference for your home. I’ve outlined the top models I’m considering for our home build here as they align with our plans, lifestyle and needs. Again, I prefer the hardwired and voice assistant integrated options but these may not be right or possible in your home.
We’d be interested to hear if any of you are using any of these already in your home and what your feedback is on them. If you have other models you’re happy with we’d love to hear about those as well. And keep your comments, DMs and emails coming as we enjoy hearing from you and the questions and suggestions for future topics to look into. Until next week …
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