We reveal the 3 best smart smoke alarms that we have found in 2016 so far, and even more importantly, why we believe that a smart smoke detector is arguably the most essential component of your smart home. We recently did a deep dive on the Nest Protect, a smart smoke alarm that really hammered home the need for an upgrade to this old household staple. Frankly, a lot of smart home gadgets are just that, gadgets, but in our opinion, if you are trying to make the case for your first ‘smart home’ purchase, then you need look no further than a smart smoke detector.
Why you need a smart smoke alarm
When we first heard about the trend for technology companies like Nest, Roast and Birdi to manufacture ‘smart’ smoke alarms and detectors, we kind of thought the world had gone a little bit mad.
Smoke detectors and arguably even more importantly, Carbon Monoxide detectors have been around for years and are generally considered adequate, in a quiet way, for doing the job. One in a thousand days, you may actually require it, and maybe one in a hundred it may fire off somewhat erroneously when you’ve overcooked the toast.
Then we gave it some thought, and the need became a little more apparent. So we created an infographic to make our point
Please help us spread awareness for this issue by sharing this graphic on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. It will help save lives.
Houses burn up to 8x faster now than 30 years ago, so smart smoke detectors are a wise investment to keep your family safe and to give you better reaction time
Firstly, did you know that the average house fire which would have taken 30 minutes to level a room in 1970, would do the same amount of damage in just five minutes now? As explained when Nest took out a sponsored post on the New York Times website; thirty years ago we had 17 minutes to escape a house fire, and today that is down to just three to four minutes.
As explained in this USA Today piece, a large part of the reasoning behind why these homes burn so fast, is down to the furniture that we decorate them with. The so called ‘Ikea generation’ of homes, stocked with flimsier wood and cheaper, lighter materials burn down faster. Much faster. Compare this to old oak furniture and other hard woods, which took a comparable eternity to burn down.
Newer buildings are equally guilty too, meaning that they are generally made in a more transient and fast manner. Cheaper materials and constructions erected in weeks verses years have led to high rise buildings which both burn faster and are also markedly harder to escape.
All of this plays into the hands of companies like Nest, who produce the smart smoke detectors. The fact they are taking out a paid post on the New York Times says it all, and clearly hints at whipping up a red scare, yet their overall point is pertinent: We do not have as long to react to a house fire today as we used to, and we need all of the warning we can get in order to ensure that we can safely evacuate our family.
Existing smoke alarms are pretty useless unless you’re at home
Then we come on to our second point. Existing smoke detectors do not offer much value unless you’re at home. For one, they’re not exactly scorchingly loud. They are noisy enough if you’re at home, but they’re not loud enough to alert your neighbours if there is an actual problem.
However, the bigger issue is really Carbon Monoxide, the ‘silent killer’. There have been stories of families getting home and suffering ill affects from Carbon Monoxide through exposure caused by say a day-long (whilst they were out and about) leak. Where a smart smoke and CO detector comes in, is that it will warn you of the problem wherever you are in the world.
So if you’re at work, you can be told via the companion app that there is an issue, and you can take action, getting the problem solved much faster.
Smart smoke detectors make life easier
We have probably all had the very annoying situation where you’re lying in bed and suddenly a shrill beeping sound goes off. No, not the alarm itself, but the warning sound that the batteries are running out of juice. This is an important warning, but if a battery is designed to last say a year in one of these devices, and the alarm is designed to trigger the warning when it detects that the battery is down to say 15% of its reserves, then clearly doing the math, the warning is not strictly required at 4am, when it could easily wait until say 8am. This is where the smart brains behind devices like the Nest Protect comes in. With many smart smoke detectors, they use their app to alert you, not a seriously annoying shrill sound. They also understand the math and the impact of what time of day they tell you, so they’re not called smart for no reason.
Then there is the common issue of the burned toast, which we touched on earlier. Normally, queue a few minutes of furiously wafting the tea towel whilst chucking open all of the windows and doors. Then eventually the alarm gives up and you can start consuming your charcoal toast.
Wouldn’t it be much easier if you could just silence the alarm via a simple touch of a button on the app? many devices send push notifications to you when the alarm triggers, and you can then quickly access the app on your smartphone (or iPad) and kill the sound instantly when you know its in error.
Its features like this that actually make a smarter smoke alarm make much more sense, so now that we get the value proposition, which ones are worth pondering if you’re thinking of investing? Lets take a look.
With over a decade of battery life, you can expect to avoid the dreaded shrill for some time with the Nest Protect. This £89 investment, brings a raft of other cool features too.
The Google owned company have fitted out their device with a market leading detector, which is the base of any competent solution here. So rest assured that it does the day job very well.
The companion app gives you the full control to see what’s going on instantly, so if the alarm fires, you can differentiate between fire, carbon monoxide and burning toast. We love the devices ability to give you an audible spoken warning straight rom the detector, telling you what room the problem is in and letting you act faster.
Birdi smart smoke detector, CO alarm and air quality measurer
Birdi may just be the best smart smoke alarm on the market in early 2016. This is a really serious piece of technology by a company who focus entirely on building smart smoke alarms.
We really love their detection tech which helps them recognise the type of fire, or more specifically if its a faster or slower burning one. They have also developed technology to help eradicate false alarms, so that burning toast causes much less of a household drama.
The air quality filter is the real unique differentiator. It detects levels of pollution as well as common allergens like pollen. The air filter can detect cigar and cigarette smoke too, so if you put your property on AirBNB for the weekend with a strict no smoking policy, then the Birdi can help catch the culprit.
At $119, the Birdi solution is in the same price bucket as the Nest protect, and you can learn more on their official website here
The First Alert Smoke alarm is the first to integrate with Apple Homekit, making it an obvious choice for Apple fans
As covered by the Verge in November 2015, the Apple HomeKit solution finally has a smoke alarm, which is brought to us by First Alert. With the Google acquisition of Nest, it is now unlikely that the technology will ever end up on Apple, so we were left seeking another solution.
The only major standout difference between the Nest protect and the First Alert, which appears to be a fairly fragrant knock-off, is the way they handle the battery situation. Nest makes an AA battery last a decade, whereas First Alert has a built-in battery, meaning that when it expires after ten years, you have to throw away the device. This is intended to fit in with American laws that dictate the need to change alarms every ten years. Otherwise, you can see the First Alert as being the Apple Nest equivalent.
Which is the best smart smoke alarm?
So there we have it. We have made the case for why we need a smart smoke alarm/detector, and provided three options for you to consider when buying one. This is one area where I don’t necessarily feel the need to recommend a specific ‘best smart smoke alarm’, because i think all three bring great value points. I’d settle for knowing that more people have upgraded to have one of these, because in the modern world of modern homes, i think the humble smoke detector really does need a smart upgrade. As a closing thought, i purchased the Nest Protect, and as you can see from my review, i find it to be pretty superb!
Read: Nest protect review