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

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Smoke Detectors
Combo Smoke & CO
1st
BRK Logo
2nd
Kidde logo
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First Alert 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 and carbon monoxide detectors — or you haven’t properly maintained your home’s 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.

Article Overview

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 National Fire Protection Association (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 smoke alarm winners are all dual sensor smoke alarms. Safety (and simplicity) are our number one priorities for our readers!

Best Smoke Detector Reviews

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.

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.

Pros

Cons

  • 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

Price

  • $26.98
  • 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.

Pros

Cons

  • 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

Price

  • $35.51
  • 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.

Pros

Cons

  • 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

Price

  • $22.99
  • Batteries included for both models
  • 10-year warranty

Best Combo Smoke And Carbon Monoxide Detector Reviews

We’ve also included our top picks for the best combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to meet multiple home safety needs in one device. But if you’re looking for a separate CO detector, be sure to read our reviews of the best carbon monoxide detectors.

Note: The following UL217-certified combo smoke and carbon monoxide detectors only use photoelectric technology, rather than having dual photoelectric and ionization sensors. So it’s important to have dual smoke alarms placed in other areas of your home for your ultimate safety. 

Nest Protect Review

Nest Protect Smoke Plus Carbon Monoxide#1

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The Nest Protect Smoke Plus Carbon Monoxide 2nd Generation is a high-tech, WiFi-enabled alarm that gets excellent customer reviews. This 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 product has hit the ground running. It is, arguably, the best combo photoelectric smoke and carbon monoxide detector on the market. But it comes at a higher price.

Pros

Cons

  • 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
  • Not dual sensored

Price

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

  • $119.99
  • 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

First Alert SC07 Talking Smoke Alarm & Carbon Monoxide Detector Review

SC07 Combination Talking Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detector#2

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If you’re on a budget and can’t afford a WiFi-enabled detector, the First Alert SC07 combination smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector is a safe, smart choice. This alarm is voice-enabled and tells you whether the danger is smoke or carbon monoxide and where the threat is among up to 11 pre-programmed locations in your home. The alarm is loud enough to hear throughout your home, and users say installation is a breeze.

Pros

Cons

  • Budget-friendly
  • Easy installation
  • Tells you whether the threat is smoke or CO and where it’s located in your home
  • Easy-to-reach hush/test button and easy access to change batteries
  • 7-year warranty
  • Not hardwired, so you can’t interconnect with other alarms throughout your home
  • Not dual sensored
  • Requires regular battery changes

Price

  • $47.75
  • Includes 2 AA batteries
  • 7-year warranty

First Alert Onelink Review

Onelink#3

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Onelink is a carbon monoxide and and smoke detector in one (similar to Nest Protect). It is also Alexa-enabled and Apple HomeKit-compatible, so you can ask it the weather, play music or request it turn your lights off.

This detector is hardwired and can replace your current smoke detector. It has a 10-year battery backup and 85dB alarm. The Onelink Home app sends push notifications to alert you of any fire, smoke and carbon monoxide.

Onelink has some really cool technology, but if you simply need a smoke detector, we’d suggest sticking with the basics. They are less expensive than Onelink and you are less likely to run into any confusion with how to use it.

Pros

Cons

  • WiFi-enabled detectors send alerts to your smartphone
  • Simple installation (for a hardwired alarm)
  • Detects carbon monoxide
  • Voice alarm
  • Alexa-enabled and Apple HomeKit-compatible
  • Expensive
  • Requires hardwiring so it takes more effort to install than battery operated alarms
  • Consumer complaints about certain elements not working (nightlight, Alexa connectivity, etc.)
  • Not dual sensored
  • Warranty is only 3 years

Price

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:

  • Every floor of your house
  • Every bedroom
  • Basement
  • Near your attic
  • Living room
  • Den
  • Kitchen
  • On the landings between your floors

How Should You Maintain Your Smoke Alarms?

It’s imperative to keep your smoke and all other types of 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.

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).

Smoke Detector Placement Infographic

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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 extinguishersfire ladderscarbon monoxide detectors and home security systems.

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

About The Author:

While attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s graduate school for journalism and public relations, Sally began a long career researching and writing about hard-to-understand topics, such as insurance and finance.

Her additional experience in marketing, fundraising, public relations and financial planning at various foundations and nonprofit organizations over the years has given her the practical tools to inform consumers about making the smartest business and personal financial decisions.

Speaking of smart living — growing up in the (at-the-time) per-capita murder capital of the U.S. (Richmond, VA) taught her a thing or two about the need for personal and home safety. Sally stays on top of all the latest gadgets and services to protect her and her teenage daughters from potential predators and thieves. And she brings this knowledge to every article she writes.

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