Best Smoke Detector: Nest vs Kidde vs First Alert vs BRK

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Kidde logo
First Alert logo
Nest logo

Are your home’s smoke detectors up to snuff? Are you aware that you should replace your smoke detectors at least every ten years? Nearly 62% of home fire deaths occur in homes without working smoke alarms, reports the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

If your home doesn’t have smoke alarms — or you haven’t properly maintained your home’s smoke detector system — you’re putting your family in grave danger. Our smoke alarm reviews provide all the information you need to choose the best smoke detector for your home or business.

Photoelectric vs Ionization vs. Dual: What’s the Safest?

First, what’s the difference between an ionization smoke detector and a photoelectric smoke detector? Ionization detectors are best at detecting fast, flaming fires, while photoelectric sensors respond much better to slow, smoldering fires — anywhere from 15 to 50 minutes faster than ionization technology.

In the past, you only had a choice of one sensor type alarm or the other. But in the last decade or so, dual sensor smoke alarms hit the market running. Dual detectors combine both ionization and photoelectric sensors in a single smoke alarm.

Experts, like the NFPA and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), overwhelmingly agree that a dual smoke detector is by far the safest way to go — or to have both types of single sensor smoke alarms installed in your home. For this reason, our top three winners are all dual sensor smoke alarms. Safety (and simplicity) are our number one priorities for our readers!

Are There Safety Standards for Smoke Alarms?

All of our top picks meet nationally recognized UL217 standards, which are widely considered the top-of-the-line safety standards. Smoke alarm models that meet UL217 standards score highest in performance and safety.

How Should You Maintain Your Smoke Alarms?

It’s imperative to keep your smoke detectors in top working condition to ensure your home’s safety. The USFA recommends testing each smoke alarm once a month and changing batteries at least once a year in both battery operated smoke detectors and hardwired alarms with a battery backup. The NFPA found that in all home fires reported to U.S. fire departments between 2009-2013 in which smoke alarms were present but did not operate, nearly half of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries. And dead batteries caused one-quarter of the smoke alarm failures.

Best Smoke Detector Reviews

As we stated above, we chose our best smoke detectors based first on safety, but with additional factors in mind: ease of installation, price, features and consumer reviews. Now, on to our smoke alarm reviews!

First Alert BRK Hardwire Dual Sensor Smoke Alarm Review

First Alert BRK Hardwire Dual Sensor Smoke Alarm#1

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The First Alert BRK 3120B Smoke Alarm is arguably the best dual photoelectric and ionization smoke alarm on the market. This hardwired alarm with battery backup gets rave reviews for its performance and fewer false alarms than similar products.

The BRK 3120B features easy access, a loud 85dB alarm, and two latching features — an alarm latch that identifies the initiating alarm and a low battery latch that identifies which unit is in low battery mode. And you can interconnect up to 18 units in your home or business.



  • Excellent dual sensor technology
  • Simple installation (for a hardwired alarm)
  • 360 degrees of direct access to smoke alarm
  • Easily accessible single button silence/test button
  • 10-year warranty
  • Interconnects with up to 12 alarms and 6 other First Alert devices
  • Requires hardwiring so it takes more effort to install than battery operated alarms
  • Wiring may not match up with older homes


  • $27.18
  • 2 AA batteries included for battery backup
  • 10-year warranty

Kidde Hardwired Dual Sensor Smoke Alarm Review

Kidde Hardwired Alarm#2

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The Kidde P12010 Hardwired Dual Sensor Smoke Alarm is one of the best smoke alarms on the market and a huge rival with our number one pick.

What keeps the Kidde P12010 out of our top spot? This smoke detector is another excellent dual photoelectric and ionization sensor alarm, but its lack of a low-battery silencer and more customer complaints about false alarms puts it just behind the First Alert BRK 3120B.

Still, the Kidde’s slightly lower price per unit could make a difference if you’re on a tighter budget. You can interconnect the Kidde with up to 12 other smoke alarms and up to 12 other Kidde devices like CO detectors and heat sensors.



  • Dual sensor technology
  • Easy installation (but requires hard wiring)
  • Easy-to-reach hush/test button
  • Red LED light flashes every 30 seconds to indicate the alarm is operating
  • 10-year warranty
  • Interconnects with up to 12 alarms and 12 other Kidde devices
  • Hardwiring takes more effort to install than battery operated alarms
  • No low-battery silencer (only hush for 10 min.)
  • Many more false alarm reports by consumers than our top choice
  • Wiring may not match up with older homes


  • $35.10
  • Includes one 9-volt battery for backup
  • 10-year warranty

First Alert Dual Sensor Battery-Powered Smoke Alarm Review

First Alert Dual Sensor Battery-Powered Smoke Alarm#3

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The First Alert SA320CN Dual Sensor Battery-Powered Smoke and Fire Alarm wins our third spot as the best smoke detector.

While interconnected dual sensor units are your best option, that’s not always possible. The battery operated First Alert SA320CN is ideal for older homes that can’t accommodate modern hard wiring or for those who don’t have the DIY skills to install a hard-wired system.

This dual photoelectric/ionization unit gets excellent reviews on Amazon for performance and a lower rate of false alarms, but you will have to replace its AA batteries regularly.

This detector is also available with a sealed 10-year lithium battery (model #SA3210). While expensive up front, the SA3210 could be a better option over the long run, saving you the cost and hassle of changing AA batteries. And if you live in California, smoke alarm laws now require you to have a 10-year lithium battery in any battery-operated smoke alarm.



  • Dual sensor technology
  • Most simple detector to install
  • Smart sensing technology reduces non-emergency or nuisance alarms
  • Choose between two models (10-year lithium or regular AA batteries)
  • Batteries are easily accessible
  • Single hush/test button
  • Not hardwired, so you can’t interconnect multiple alarms throughout your home
  • Lithium battery model is expensive
  • No low-battery silencer (only temporary hush)
  • Must change batteries regularly to ensure AA battery unit works


  • $31.15
  • Batteries included for both models
  • 10-year warranty

Honorable Mention: Nest Protect Smoke Plus Carbon Monoxide Review

Nest Protect Smoke Plus Carbon MonoxideView on Amazon

The Nest Protect Smoke Plus Carbon Monoxide 2nd Generation is the only smoke detector included in our smoke alarm reviews that is WiFi enabled. This high-tech detector is an interconnected photoelectric system that connects through WiFi with your iPhone, iPad or Android, allowing you to receive smartphone messages if your alarm triggers or its battery is low.

Nest’s 1st Gen. Smoke Plus Carbon Monoxide Alarm had some problems working through some tech issues, but it appears that the later generation products have hit the ground running. It is, arguably, the best photoelectric smoke detector on the market and our recommended pick for best wireless smoke detector. But it comes at slightly higher price.



  • WiFi-enabled detectors send alerts to your smartphone
  • Easy installation
  • Detects carbon monoxide
  • Heat and humidity sensors reduce false alarms
  • Self-tests batteries and sensors
  • Voice alarm
  • Safety lights illuminate your pathway
  • Battery operated units sync together via WiFi
  • Can hush low battery or false alarm from your smartphone app
  • App controls other Nest products like the Nest Cam and Thermostat
  • Expensive
  • Warranty is only 2 years
  • Requires more batteries than other top models


Nest 2nd Gen. comes as a battery-operated or hard-wired unit. Both are the same price.

  • $122.89
  • Requires iOS 8+ or Android 4.1+ for smartphone alerts
  • Battery operated unit includes 6 long-life AA lithium batteries
  • Hard-wired unit includes 3 long-life AA lithium batteries

Read our in-depth Review of Nest Protect

Infographic: Other Dangers Lurking In Your Home

In addition to smoke and carbon monoxide, here are some other dangerous places that could cause potential problems in your home (and how to prevent them).

Infographic: Dangers in the Home and How to Prevent

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Where Are the Safest Places to Install Smoke Detectors?

Smoke detector placement is as important as the type of smoke detectors you install in your home. According to the NFPA, the ideal placement is in every bedroom and other sleeping areas.

Make sure you install at least one at each of the following locations:

  • On every floor of your house
  • In every bedroom
  • In your basement
  • Near your attic
  • In living rooms
  • In the den
  • In kitchens
  • On the landings between your floors

Video: Smart Choices for Smoke Alarm Placement

Widespread coverage is the best solution. Check out the video below for more details about smoke detector placement in your home.

Your Safety Is Our Priority

Here at Safe Smart Living, your safety is our number one priority. We hope we’ve armed you with the information you need to know and choose the best smoke alarms for your home. To learn other ways you can protect your home, read our reviews of fire ladderscarbon dioxide detectors, and home security systems.

What best or worse case scenarios have you encountered with home smoke alarms?

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Sally is a passionate writer but her interests do not stop there. She spends a lot of time daydreaming about the beach, however, she spends most of her time taking advantage of all the activities her town has to offer in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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