Get smart about smoke alarms
Smart home technology is all about taking ordinary devices and making them extraordinary. Now it’s time for the smoke alarm to take its turn in the smart spotlight. Quite possibly the most maligned and abused safety item ever, the humble yet life-saving device is getting a complete overhaul thanks to the Internet of Things.
There’s no question that every home should have a smoke alarm. Approximately 2,500 people are killed each year in residential fires, and another 500 die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Installing smoke and CO alarms throughout your home is the first step toward protecting yourself and your family.
Smoke alarms first entered homes in the 1960s, but they were large, cumbersome and contained a proprietary, hard-to-replace battery. The first nine-volt battery-powered unit hit the market a decade later and quickly became the standard, but then that incessant chirping signifying a low battery caused numerous smoke detectors to meet the business end of a broom. The battery problem was more recently solved by the ability to wire smoke alarms into a home’s existing wiring, preventing the dreaded 2 a.m. chirp. Hardwiring also provided the ability to create a “connected” system, allowing one alarm to alert its brethren when activated.
Today, utilizing your home’s high speed internet connect and the addition of Wi-Fi to our smoke alarms means that you don’t even need wires to connect these vitally important gadgets anymore. Plus, you don’t have to be in the home to hear the alarm—the Wi-Fi connection allows “smart” smoke alarms to send an alert to your smartphone wherever you are.
Here is a rundown of some of the newest, smartest smoke alarms currently on the market to help you find the best fit for your home:
Kidde Wireless Smoke and CO Alarm, $49
The battery-operated Kidde 2in1 Wireless Combination Smoke, Fire and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Alarm employs wireless-interconnect technology—if one alarm sounds, all interconnected units will sound. Additionally, when connected to a home automation system, such as the Wink App, it can be configured to send you a message on your smartphone when any alarm is activated. The device is also equipped with a voice warning that will identify the type of threat, and alert you by saying “Fire! Fire!” or “Warning! Carbon monoxide.”
Nest Protect, $99
Smart home pioneer Nest followed up its groundbreaking learning thermostat with the Nest Protect. Available in both hard-wired and battery-operated units, this industrial-grade smoke sensor can be silenced from your phone (no more frantically waving a dishrag at the ceiling!), tests itself automatically, and lasts up to 10 years. It will send you an alert on your smartphone that identifies exactly where the problem is and what is wrong, whether it’s a fire or CO leak. It also doubles as a nightlight, turning on a path light when you walk under it—a handy extra safety tool during emergencies.
The “smarts” in the system also work with Nest’s thermostat. If you have both installed, the Protect can tell your thermostat to turn off when it senses a CO leak or fire. Nest also makes a Wi-Fi camera, Nest Cam, which will automatically record a clip if your Nest Protect senses smoke or CO so you can go back and see what happened. The Nest cam can be viewed remotely, allowing you to keep an eye on what’s going on at home when you’re away.
BRK First Alert Interconnected Smoke and CO Alarm, $31
This combination smoke and CO alarm features voice and location capabilities and is designed to be positioned in up to 11 pre-programmed home locations. This room specification allows the built-in voice alarm to not only tell you if the danger is smoke or carbon monoxide, but also what part of the home is in danger. This device keeps its smarts to itself and doesn’t connect to the internet, but when paired with up to 18 hard-wired alarms, all the alarms will announce the location if fire or smoke is detected.
First Alert ZSmoke, $49.99
This First Alert Z-Wave combination photoelectric smoke and carbon monoxide alarm can be tied into most Z-Wave-enabled home automation systems, such as Nexia Home Intelligence LINK, allowing it to trigger events such as shutting off the house fan if smoke is detected, sending an alert to your smartphone or flashing the lights in the house when smoke is detected—helpful for attracting the attention of neighbors or hard-of-hearing residents. Interconnection with other smart home devices, like a home alarm system or door locks, could enable the alarm to trigger the outdoor siren and unlock the front door for speedier access when help arrives.
RemoteLync by Kidde, $99.99
If you already have a house full of top-of-the-line smoke and CO detectors that you don’t fancy replacing but you like the idea of being notified when they go off and you aren’t home, then Kidde’s RemoteLync is a great solution. It plugs into a single outlet, listens for a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm, and uses the home’s Wi-Fi to remotely alert you. It can communicate with most alarms manufactured after 1999, plugs into a standard 120V outlet and doesn’t require a smart home hub or any other adapter. Simply download the RemoteLync app (android or iPhone), connect it to your home Wi-Fi and you’re set.
The advent of the smart home has offered today’s homeowner’s many fun and cool conveniences, but the remarkable ability of these smart smoke alarms to protect our homes and our loved ones is perhaps the coolest feature of all.
Author: Jennifer Tuohy writes about Fire Safety technology for The Home Depot. She provides info on the latest fire protection products and how they can keep you safe. To see a selection of smart smoke alarms that Jennifer talks about in this article, visit homedepot.com.