6 Best Smoke Detectors to Keep Your Family Safe
There are some household investments you shouldn’t take a chance on. Protect your family with our roundup of top-rated smoke detectors.
Smoke detectors protect your family, home, and possessions, but with so many options, picking the right one can be confusing. We've rounded up the best options for hardwired, dual-sensor, smart detectors, and more, so you can select the best model for your home. When looking for the best smoke detector for your home, first check local regulations, as some states or towns have specific requirements for smoke detectors. Once you have that settled, learn a few smoke detector basics to help you find the proper one for your home to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Where to Put a Smoke Detector in Your Home
Having enough smoke detectors in the right places in your home is essential, especially because modern furnishings and fabrics are more flammable than they used to be. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that smoke alarms be installed on every level of the home, including the basement and inside each bedroom at minimum.
If possible, smoke detectors should be placed at least 10 feet away from a stovetop or oven to minimize the risk of false alarms. Detectors should also be placed high on walls or on ceilings since smoke rises. If placing high on a wall, the smoke detector should be at least 12 inches from the ceiling.
How Often to Change Your Smoke Detector Battery
According to the U.S Fire Administration (USFA), you should test your smoke detector battery every month, and replace the batteries at least once a year. However, some models come with long-lasting batteries. If you have a smoke detector with a 10-year battery, simply replace the entire unit after a decade.
How to Know If a Smoke Detector is Out of Battery
Most alarms will chirp when the smoke detector battery is almost dead. To be safe, set a reminder in your calendar to change your smoke detector battery every six months. Most 10-year battery detectors have an end-of-life warning to let you know that it’s time to replace the unit. Smart detectors (like the Google Nest smoke detector) or detectors with smart batteries are advanced in that you can monitor battery life on the device’s corresponding app.
Types of Smoke Detector Sensors
There are two types of smoke sensors, and smoke detectors can have one or both types. Ionization sensors are designed to detect invisible smoke particles and are associated with flaming fires (most common in house fires), while photoelectric smoke detectors can quickly detect smoke tied to smoldering fires. The USFA states that one is not better than the other and that every bedroom should have either both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms or a dual-sensor smoke alarm.
Safety.com ranks this Honeywell detector as the best smoke alarm for residential and commercial use. Its photoelectric sensor alerts you when the unit needs cleaning of dust and buildup, which can trigger the alarm. The Honeywell detector’s no-drill mounting base means you don't have to put holes in the wall; plus it holds on uneven surfaces like stucco.
Buy It: Honeywell Wireless Photoelectric Smoke/Heat Detector, ($67, Walmart)
Increase safety by using a dual-sensor smoke alarm, which detects smoldering and flaming fires by using both a photoelectric and an ionization sensor in one unit. This First Alert smoke detector has technology designed to distinguish the difference between actual fires and nuisances (like smoke from cooking on your stovetop).
The Google Nest smoke detector sends fire-related alerts to your phone and lets you turn off the alarm through the app. This 10-year-battery smart smoke detector also speaks to you directly from the device and tells you where the possible danger in your home is before sounding an alarm.
Because Consumer Reports has yet to find a smart detector that effectively identifies carbon monoxide and flaming or smoldering fires all at once, they recommend pairing a smart smoke detector (like Nest) with a dual-sensor smoke detector, such as the Roost Wi-Fi 9V Battery, ($35, Roost). Another option is to put smart batteries into a regular smoke detector and monitor the battery life using your phone.
Buy It: Nest Protect Smart Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarm (2 pack), ($240, Best Buy)
A device that combines smoke and carbon monoxide detection targets two dangerous threats in a single device. Even if your home appliances (like furnaces, water heaters, and stovetops) are electric, carbon monoxide can still seep into a house through an attached garage or a backup generator. The Night Hawk Kidde smoke detector includes a voice warning system that announces the specific issue at hand, whether it be a fire or low battery warning.
Avoid low-battery chirps every six months by installing a 10-year-battery smoke detector, which utilizes a long-lasting lithium battery. This Kidde smoke detector with an ionization sensor has an internal timer to alert you when the unit’s life is at its end.
Instead of operating with a battery, hardwired smoke detectors connect directly to your home’s internal wiring. Installation of a hardwired smoke detector can be done yourself or by a professional. Keep in mind that hardwired smoke detectors will not operate if your home has a power outage, but many models (like this one) provide a battery backup.
Buy It: First Alert Hardwired Smoke Detector with Battery Backup, ($15, Target)