Smoke alarms generally have one purpose and that's to alert you of a fire. But did you know that you can make your humble abode even safer thanks to smart smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms? Not only do they send notifications to your phone, but most of them are pretty easy to install, too. Whether it's smart water leak detectors or smart thermostats, turning your living space into a smart home is both safe and convenient.
We put the best smoke detectors and monitors on the market through their paces to find which one you should buy, and we found the Nest Protect(available at Best Buy for $119.99) to be the top choice. Between the easy installation and intuitive app, there's a lot to love. But if you're looking for something a little more barebones, don't worry, we've got plenty of other options for you, too.
These are the best smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and monitors we tested ranked, in order:
The Nest Protect Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Alarm is a reasonably priced smart detector with ample functionality. The 2nd generation Nest Protect comes in both battery operated and hardwired models, and instead of traditional photoelectric or ionization technology, this alarm uses a split-spectrum sensor to monitor for both smoldering and fast-burning fires. In addition to sending you push notifications when it senses smoke or carbon monoxide, it offers voice alerts, a night light option, low-battery alerts, and a monthly self-test feature.
It takes about five minutes to set up the Nest Protect, and the process is impressively thorough, asking you for the detector location, as well as your self-testing and night light preferences. The Nest app is intuitive and easy to use on both iPhones and Androids—not surprising given that Nest is a leader in the smart home space. In our tests, the smartphone notifications arrived around 30 seconds after the alarm sounded, which wasn’t the fastest, but we liked that the alerts specify whether it’s a just a “Heads Up” (a little bit of smoke) or a genuine “Emergency” (get out of the building).
Overall, we’d feel safe with this smart smoke alarm protecting our homes, and there are thousands of positive reviews that testify to the superior performance of this product. Plus, it’s significantly less expensive than other comparable smart smoke detectors with similar features.
I’m Camryn Rabideau, a freelance contributor for Reviewed. From household linens to smart home gadgets, I've been doing product testing for a number of years. And, like most people, I want to keep my humble abode as safe as possible. That's why I dived back into the world of smart home to test the best smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors available today.
To test these smoke detectors, we first installed and synced each device with its app. After the initial setup, we ran a “self-test” on each model and navigated around both the iOS and Android versions of the apps to assess usability.
Finally, we used aerosol-sprayed smoke to set each alarm off. We did this twice for every model—once while the phone was connected to Wi-Fi and once when it was not—to see if there was a difference in how quickly notifications were delivered. During these tests, we also evaluated the quality/volume of the alarm, quality of the smartphone notifications, and ease of silencing the detector. Other factors we took into account were interconnectivity, app connectivity, and perceived reliability.
What You Should Know About Smart Smoke Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Monitors
What is a Smart Smoke Alarm?
Like most smart home devices, smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors connect to your home’s Wi-Fi and, subsequently, your smartphone. In other words, they go a step further than your traditional smoke alarm. This is the main appeal of smart smoke detectors, but some high-end models include additional “smart” features like voice controls via Alexa, weather updates, voice alerts, customizable night lights, and more.
What is a Monitor?
Monitors essentially “listen” for your smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, and if they hear it going off, they send a smartphone notification to let you know. They're typically installed in proximity to your existing smoke detectors—some plug into an electrical outlet while others are battery operated—and they’re connected to your home Wi-Fi network. However, they don’t allow you to silence your smoke alarms and they won’t save you from 2 a.m. low-battery chirps.
Why Does it Make Sense for Smoke Alarms Be "Smart"?
Smoke detectors are a perfect example of a device that benefits from smart functionality. Why? Standard detectors have a few major shortcomings, mainly that they’re not all that useful when you’re not home. If your detectors aren’t connected to the local fire department (which most are not) and a fire starts when no one is home, the alarms simply beep away to no avail. Plus, that’s not to mention the dreaded 3 a.m. low-battery chirps—we could all live without those.
Smart smoke detectors solve both these issues, as they send you smartphone notifications when the alarm goes off and give you a heads up when the battery is low. The "smart" functionality can not only give you peace of mind while you're away from home, but it can also save you time and energy when it comes to replacing those pesky smoke alarm batteries. Plus, if you ever burn popcorn and accidentally set off your smart alarm, you can quickly silence the detector from its app, saving you from having to grab a chair and climb up there to manually silence it.
Photoelectric vs. Ionization Smoke Detectors
There are three types of smoke detectors you can buy: photoelectric, ionization, and dual-sensor. These terms refer to the technology used to sense smoke.
Photoelectric smoke detectors have a light source that’s pointed into a sensing chamber, and when smoke particles enter the chamber, they reflect light onto the sensor, triggering the alarm. This type of smoke detector is more efficient at sensing fires that begin with a long period of smoldering, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.
On the other hand, ionization smoke detectors have a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates. This ionizes the air (hence their name) and creates a current that flows between the plates. If smoke particles enter the chamber, it will disrupt the current and activate the alarm. This style of smoke detector will typically sense flaming fires more quickly.
There are also dual-sensor smoke detectors, which use both photoelectric and ionization technology. For comprehensive protection in your home, the U.S. Fire Administration actually recommends dual-sensor detectors, which efficiently sense both types of fires.
There’s always a potential privacy risk involved when you use internet-connected devices at home. To help safeguard your smart home, there are some steps you can take. First, look for devices that offer two-factor authentication, which sends a code to your mobile device to verify it’s really you. That way, if someone tries to hack into your account, you will receive an alert and can quickly take care of the problem. Many devices also allow you to activate email or other push notifications in the settings to alert you if someone has logged on.
Additionally, make sure to use a unique, strong password composed of multiple characters, numbers, and letters for each of your smart home accounts. Data breaches feel like the norm as of late, making it all the more important to use different passwords across multiple websites and apps.
Other Smart Smoke Carbon Monoxide Detectors And Monitors We Tested
Abode Smoke Alarm Monitor
The Abode Smoke Alarm Monitor gets top marks in terms of performance—it sends push notifications to your phone within seconds of hearing a smoke alarm go off and, unlike other monitors we tested, it also gives off a high-pitched siren of its own.
This battery-powered smoke alarm monitor is easy to install—you can either use screws or double-sided tape to mount the small unit on the ceiling near your existing smoke detectors. It’s also straightforward to pair with the associated app, which is intuitive and easy to use. You can quickly silence the monitor from the app, and we liked that this system sends out push notifications if it ever loses a Wi-Fi connection.
The major downside of this particular monitor is that it must be paired with the Abode Gateway, and the brand’s basic “Starter Kit” costs $199. However, if you already have the gateway or are interested in a DIY security system, this monitor would be a great choice.
If you’re looking for a smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector that has tons of functionality, your best option may be the new Onelink Safe & Sound. Out of all the detectors we tested, this one has the most features, including push notifications, a built-in Bluetooth speaker, customizable night light, and Amazon Alexa functionality—yes, that’s right, it lets you give voice commands directly to your smoke detector.
During our testing, the Onelink Safe & Sound pushed out smartphone notifications as soon as the detector went off, and it was easy to silence alarms via the app. Both the voice announcements and speaker quality were impressive, but the Onelink app itself isn’t the best, crashing fairly frequently. Additionally, this smart smoke alarm was a challenge to install—it was nearly impossible to clip into the mount, and once you do get it in, it probably won’t come off.
Overall, this smart smoke and carbon monoxide detector is packed with smart features and does its main job well, alerting you immediately with push notifications if it ever goes off. However, it’s quite expensive, and a lot of the features that command its higher price seem kind of unnecessary. If you like the idea of using your smoke detector to play music or as an Alexa device, you can feel secure that this device will protect your home and family, but if the extraneous features don’t appeal to you, there are cheaper, equally reliable options, such as the Nest Protect.
First Alert Onelink Smart Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm (Battery-Powered)
We had high hopes for the second generation Onelink Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector, but this model had many of the same problems as the original version. This updated alarm is now compatible with Android phones (the first generation wasn’t), but the app still crashes and the pairing process is still clunky and glitchy.
Further, we found this smoke and carbon monoxide detector had connectivity issues. Several times when we tested it via the app or set it off with artificial smoke, the app never even registered the action. We spoke with Onelink support to resolve these issues, and they noted the detector can have problems if it’s too far from the Wi-Fi router or if there’s interference from other appliances. Overall, we just don’t feel confident recommending this product, as its smart features don’t seem to perform reliably and may not let you know if there's an emergency when you're not home.
First Alert 2-in-1 Z-Wave Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm
The First Alert 2-in-1 Z-Wave Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm is a good, no-frills option if you already have a Z-wave-compatible smart home hub, such as the SmartThings Hub. The setup for this battery-only smoke detector is straightforward—just mount it and put the batteries in—and once we synced it with a SmartThings Hub and set up a SmartApp for it, we received notifications within a few seconds of the detector going off. This is really the detector’s only feature, though, as there’s no in-app testing or alarm silencing.
The First Alert 2-in-1 Z-Wave Smoke Detector & Carbon Monoxide Alarm performed well, making it a solid, decently priced option if you already have a Z-wave hub. However, there are better options available if you don’t feel the need to connect it to a smart home hub.
The other plug-in, smart monitor available is the Kidde RemoteLync Monitor, which is frankly a bit glitchy and unreliable. The RemoteLync app for Android crashed several times during testing, and more importantly, the app’s notifications were inconsistent at best.
When notifications did come, they were simply app badges that appeared after more than a minute. However, during a few tests, the monitor did not send notifications or register that an alarm was sounding at all. Overall, this device didn’t inspire confidence that it would alert us of a fire, and there are definitely more affordable, reliable choices available.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.