The Best Smoke Detectors of 2020
If you are looking for a great battery-powered smoke detector, then the First Alert SC07CN is the perfect choice for you. This combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm is quick and easy to install, along with giving both a spoken call to evacuate and the traditional siren. It can also tell you the maximum amount of CO detected after an alarm has been triggered (in ppm), and it has an especially loud alarm.
The First Alert SC07CN, however, doesn't have too much in the way of advanced features. It can't be linked with other alarms to create an interconnected system and it doesn't have an escape light. It is also a little more effort during the initial setup, as the programming process to set the alarm's location is far from intuitive. Altogether, this is one of our favorite battery-powered alarms out there and is a great choice if you need a dual smoke/CO alarm that will let you know the location of the alarm immediately.
If you don't have a hardwired detector system and have always wanted to add a series of interconnected alarms, then the Kidde 21026044 Wireless is a great option. This battery-powered alarm is very easy to install, with a series of 8 switches on the back that let you select a unique wireless code for your alarm system. Any other alarm that is set with the same code will automatically go off when any alarm is activated. There is a limit of 24 Kidde devices total, however, with 18 being units that trigger an alarm (12 can be smoke alarms). Many building codes require an interconnected alarm system for new construction. The wireless interconnectivity of this model could be a much easier and less expensive option than running wires throughout your home.
One issue we discovered, however, is that the "Hush" button can be a little finicky. You should be able to hit this button on the initiating alarm and it should silence all of the others, but we found that it took a few tries before the other alarms would actually silence. There also isn't a clear way to know exactly which alarm triggered the others because there aren't voice announcements like some other systems have. Although these aren't trivial flaws, the Kidde 21026044 is one of our favorite battery-powered options for setting up an interlinked alarm system, especially when you're shopping on a budget.
If you are on the hunt for a bare-bones smoke alarm that isn't going to blow your budget, then the Kidde i9050 is a great option. This ionization smoke alarm is quick to install and has all the basic features you may want, allowing you to minimize the amount you need to spend if you are replacing all the alarms in your home. The locking pins are also a nice feature to minimize the chance of theft or someone tampering with the alarm.
The Kidde i9050, however, is quite limited when it comes to any bonus or more advanced features. You can't link it with other alarms so you will need to check local regulations to ensure that your overall system is in compliance and you may need to add additional photoelectric smoke alarms or carbon monoxide detectors to your home. If you are shopping on a limited budget for a new smoke alarm, then the Kidde i9050 is one of the top models that we would recommend.
If you are looking for a new smoke alarm that packs as many smart features as possible, then the First Alert Alexa Safe & Sound is a good option. This top-tier smoke alarm can act not only as a smoke and carbon monoxide sensor but also includes a built-in Alexa-enabled speaker. The Safe & Sound will send notifications to your phone if an alarm is triggered, allowing you to remotely monitor your home while you're away or hush false alarms right from your smartphone. You can play music through the Safe & Sound with streaming services like Spotify or iHeartRadio and the speaker actually sounds pretty good for being in a smoke detector. There is also a customizable night light that you can set to automatically turn on in the evenings.
Regrettably, all of these features make this product one of the more expensive options when it comes to smoke alarms. It also means that it's more difficult to install because you not only need to wire it in place but also pair it to the OneLink and Amazon Alexa apps. It's expensive enough that you probably aren't going to want to install one in every room of the house, but you can connect the Safe & Sound to other compatible non-smart smoke sensors or other Safe & Sound units to get an interconnected alarm system for quite a bit less. It's a great choice if you want to add more Alexa-enabled speakers to your home and want a smart smoke detector for your Alexa or Apple HomeKit system but otherwise it may have more smarts than most people want or need in a smoke alarm.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends having a mix of both photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms in your home for the best chance of an early alert to any problem. While most smoke alarms only having a single sensor, the First Alert BRK 3120B has both to cover all your bases. This can eliminate the need for an extra smoke alarm to be installed. The alarm includes a pre-stripped wiring adapter and provides the option to interlink with other compatible alarms so that any alarm will trigger all of them. It also has a battery backup in case your power goes out.
We do wish this model had an integrated CO sensor since that could have reduced the need for additional sensors even more. It's also worth noting that not all hardwired smoke alarms are compatible with each other when trying to create an interconnected system, so you are going to want to double-check if you are just trying to replace a single alarm. Regardless, the First Alert BRK 3120B is a great option for anyone looking for dual smoke sensors in a simple package.
If you liked the looks of the First Alert SC07CN but need a new ionization smoke alarm, then the Kidde 21026043 is a fantastic option for you. This unit is powered by three AA batteries and features an integrated carbon monoxide detector. It's a breeze to install and features not only the typical CO and smoke alarm patterns but also voice commands warning you to evacuate. This unit can also inform you of the peak concentration of CO measured once it hits a level of 100 ppm or higher. However, please don't worry about checking this until the danger has cleared and the source of CO has been mitigated.
Although the Kidde 21026043 is a solid standalone option, it cannot link to other smoke detectors. It also doesn't have the option to be programmed with a location so it won't immediately alert you to the location of the triggered alarm. The Kidde 21026043 is one of the better combo smoke/CO alarms if you need a battery-powered unit and are looking for another ionization sensor.
If you already have a Google-based smart home and are looking to add a smart smoke detector to the mix, then the Nest Protect is the clear choice. Available in both battery-powered and hardwired versions, this smoke alarm easily integrates with your existing Nest products. It lets you remotely keep an eye on things, alerting you with push notifications if an alarm sounds. Even better, it can automatically activate a Nest camera so you can see what's going on or turn off your heating system if it detects elevated levels of CO. The Nest Protect has smoke sensors for both flaming and smoldering fires, as well as a motion-activated light to help you during a power outage.
Unfortunately, the Nest Protect is one of the more expensive of the smoke alarms we have tried to date. It also isn't compatible to trigger with any other smoke detectors, so be prepared to spend a serious chunk of money if you're hoping to get an interconnected alarm system and a Protect in every room. There aren't a ton of options to use the Protect as a trigger for other smart devices, like having your lights turn on if an alarm is initiated, though this can change as smart systems get updated. The Nest Protect is one of our favorite options if you already have a Nest system and want a smart smoke alarm, but you need to be prepared to pay for it.
The Onelink Smart Smoke + Carbon Monoxide smoke alarm is a slightly more budget-friendly option than many of the other smart smoke detectors on the market. It has all the basic features you would want, like the ability to test/silence the siren right from your smartphone or alert you that an alarm has sounded if you aren't home. It's available in both battery and AC-powered versions and both can connect to other compatible alarms to create an interconnected system. This is especially handy with the hardwired version, as you can wire it into an existing First Alert or BRK hardwired alarm system, adding smart features at a much lower cost than buying a smart smoke alarm for each room in your home.
Although we found this product does well with the basic smart features, it seems a little limited when it comes to more advanced features. It is Alexa and Apple HomeKit compatible, but we found it difficult to set this product to trigger other actions, such as turning on the lights when an alarm sounds or turning off your heater if it detects increased levels of carbon monoxide. The remote monitoring will also only work if your home wireless network is powered up and functioning so you might want to consider higher-end professional monitoring services if you need a more reliable setup. It is a great option if you want to add some smarts to your smoke alarm system but you're trying to save some cash.
The First Alert SC9120B is the perfect option if you need a hardwired alarm that is not only a smoke detector but also a carbon monoxide sensor. This smoke detector has a 9-volt battery backup to provide alerts even when your electricity is out. It can connect to other hardwired alarms to maximize your early warning in the case of an emergency and it's not too much of a hassle to install with the included pre-stripped wiring adapter. It also has a latching alarm, so you can identify which unit initiated the alarm even after the siren has subsided.
This alarm is a fairly run-of-the-mill combo smoke/CO hardwired alarm. It has a little bit larger mounting/trim plate than some of the other models. This can be handy if you want to cover up any damage near your electrical box but it's more noticeable than we would prefer for most installations. The First Alert SC9120B is one of our favorites if you want a hardwired smoke alarm that also doubles as a carbon monoxide detector.
We think the X-Sense Escape Light SD01 is a decent all-around smoke alarm. It is one of the fastest of the entire group to install since it comes with a preinstalled 10-year battery. You only need to mount the bracket to the wall, attach the alarm, and you're all done. It automatically activates once installed in the mounting bracket and has an LED indicator to alert you that the unit is functioning normally. Additionally, this alarm has a bright LED escape light that will illuminate whenever an alarm is triggered to help guide your evacuation.
Unfortunately, while the X-Sense SD01 handles the basic functions of a smoke alarm well, it is a little limited when it comes to additional features. It isn't a combination smoke/CO alarm, so you will need to get a separate alarm to meet your carbon monoxide sensing needs. You also can't directly connect this with other alarms to make an interconnected system and it has to be disposed of properly once the battery is depleted. The batteries aren't replaceable, so we are a little concerned about the escape light prematurely draining them if you are prone to accidentally setting off the smoke alarm from things like burning popcorn or toast — something many of us are all too familiar with.
If you are searching for a hardwired smoke alarm on a tight budget, then the Kidde 21026063 is a great option. This bare-bones hardwired alarm is quick and easy to install, and it offers the added benefit of being able to connect to compatible Kidde alarms so that all of them trigger if any detects smoke. You can hit the "Hush" button to stop the alarm and desensitize it for around 8 minutes. This should also silence any connected alarm — provided you are able to locate the unit that initiated the alarm. The Kidde 21026063 also has a battery backup, keeping it in operation even if your power goes out.
However, you are going to need to get a separate photoelectric and carbon monoxide sensor if you don't already have one, so factor that into account if you are looking at this alarm for its budget-friendly nature. It's a great basic hardwired smoke alarm, as long as you don't expect too much in the way of bonus features.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert smoke detector reviewer, David Wise, has made a career of professionally reviewing and evaluating consumer products and electronics. He has a formal education as a mechanical engineer and is a DIY enthusiast, utilizing this experience in the creation and execution of our rigorous side-by-side testing and evaluation process for smoke alarms.
We rated and compared performance by installing them in a variety of locations, looking at the amount of effort it took to install them, all the different features these products have, and how well they can integrate into an existing alarm system. Throughout our testing we triggered alarm after alarm, while listening to siren after siren after siren — and then even more sirens, to assess performance.
Analysis and Test Results
We broke down our testing and evaluation process into a series of different rating metrics. The standout products in each metric are highlighted in the sections that follow.
Ease of Installation
As it's one of the first things you will have to tackle when getting a new smoke detector, we started by rating and scoring the amount of hassle it took to get each smoke alarm installed and configured. Generally, we have found that the battery-powered models are a bit easier to install, as you just need to attach the mounting bracket to the wall, insert batteries, and clip on the alarm. This is true for the First Alert SC07CN, the Kidde i9050, the Kidde 21026043, or the X-Sense Escape Light. The X-Sense Escape Light is particularly easy to install, as you don't need to even install batteries — a 10-year lithium one is built right in, which will activate the first time the sensor is attached to the mounting plate.
There are a few other battery-operated models, but they each offer wireless connectivity so they take a little more time and effort to configure. The Kidde 21026044 Wireless is the easiest of these since you just need to pick a code with the eight switches on the back and any alarm that shares the same code should automatically connect (up to a limit of 24 interconnected devices with 12 being smoke alarms).
The battery-operated Nest Protect and the OneLink Smart Smoke + Carbon Monoxide are easy enough to install but it takes a little bit more time to get their smart features up and running because you usually need to download an app, make an account, and pair it to your mobile device. You need to do the same thing with the First Alert Alexa Safe & Sound but it takes some extra time to wire it up to power, so it has one of the most involved installations of the group. The wired versions of the Nest Protect and the OneLink Smart Smoke + Carbon Monoxide are about the same level of difficulty to install as the First Alert Alexa Safe & Sound.
The remaining hardwired alarms aren't too hard to install, provided your home is already set up for a hardwired system. Most of them, like the Kidde 21026063, the First Alert BRK 3120B and the First Alert BRK SC9120B, come with a pre-stripped wiring harness, so it should be quick and easy to remove your old alarm and attach the new ones with a pair of wire nuts. You will need to strip the other wire and do a little more work if you have an interconnected system but isn't a huge hassle.
Next, we compared all the different detection abilities of these products. Smoke alarms come in two types: ionization and photoelectric. Ionization sensors use a tiny amount of radioactive material to detect smoke — nothing to be concerned about — and are generally more sensitive to flaming fires. Photoelectric sensors rely on a light source and sensor and are generally triggered faster by smoldering fires. To give you the best chance of early detection, the National Fire Protection Association recommends having both types in your home.
Luckily, some smoke detectors, like the Nest Protect and the First Alert BRK 3120B include both types of sensors in a single unit, giving you the best shot of catching both flaming and smoldering fires early. The Nest Protect also has a carbon monoxide sensor integrated as well.
A handful of other smoke detectors also have integrated carbon monoxide sensors, even though they only have a single type of smoke-sensing technology. The First Alert BRK SC9120B and the Kidde 21026043 have ionization smoke sensors, as well as CO detectors. The First Alert SC07CN, the First Alert Alexa Safe & Sound, and the OneLink Smart Smoke + Carbon Monoxide all have photoelectric smoke sensors, in addition to a CO sensor.
Many new building codes are mandating the presence of an interconnected smoke alarm system, so that any alarm detecting smoke will trigger all of the others to sound. Luckily, many of the alarms we tested have this ability. This is usually the most common with hardwired alarms, like the Kidde 21026063, the First Alert BRK 3120B, and the First Alert BRK SC9120B. These units all have a dedicated wire just for linking to other units. However, you do need to check that the wiring in your house and your other alarms are compatible. Usually, they will only work with other alarms from the same manufacturer.
The hardwired version of the OneLink Smart Smoke + Carbon Monoxide and the First Alert Alexa Safe & Sound can also do this, with the bonus of being able to link with non-smart compatible alarms. This lets you save some money by allowing you to add only a single smart alarm to achieve a smart system. The wired and wireless Nest Protects can link to each other but no other alarms.
The Kidde 21026044 Wireless can also be linked and is one of the simplest and least expensive ways to set up a connected system, even if you don't have hardwired alarms. You just pick your code and each alarm should automatically link. You do need to locate the initiating alarm for the "Hush" feature to automatically link to the other blaring alarms.
Finally, we compared any additional features these products have. A group of these products will give you verbal warnings in addition to the typical sirens. All of the smart smoke alarms — the Nest Protect, the First Alert Alexa Safe & Sound, and the OneLink Smart Smoke + Carbon Monoxide — all will inform you of the type of alarm triggered and the location of the initiating alarm.
The First Alert SC07CN and the Kidde 21026043 also have voice alerts, and the First Alert SC07CN has the bonus of having a programmable location that it will announce when an alarm is triggered so you know precisely which one went off.
A few other models also have integrated lights, though for different purposes. The X-Sense Escape Light SD01 has an — you guessed it — evacuation light that will illuminate when an alarm is triggered to help guide your way out. The Nest Protect and the First Alert Alexa Safe & Sound both have LED ring lights, with the Nest Protect's lighting up automatically as a nightlight based on motion. The First Alert Alexa Safe & Sound will light up based on ambient light and gives you the option to customize the color.
Hopefully, you have found this review helpful and informative for picking the next smoke detector for your home, regardless of if you are looking for a bare-bones budget option or a deluxe model with smart features. Whether you have a hardwired system or need a battery-powered model, we sincerely hope that one of these products is the perfect match for your needs and budget. Additionally, you should check any local regulations, as well as the guidance by the NFPA, to ensure that whatever system you choose is in full compliance for maximum safety and peace of mind.
— David Wise