Best Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Installing a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector is a safe and simple way to protect your family.

Additionally, many units offer other features including a battery powered nightlight in case of power loss and Wi-Fi capabilities so you can check on your home when you’re away.

In this guide you will learn the differences between the types of alarms and detectors available. You will also discover options for best smoke detector and best carbon monoxide detector in our reviews and comparison chart.

Best Smoke Detectors & Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Brand & Model

Protection

Power

Warranty

First Alert BRK SC-9120B

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide

Hard Wired

7 Year Limited

First Alert SCO5CN

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide

Battery Operated

7 Year Limited

Kidde Nighthawk

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide

Battery Operated

10 Year Limited

Kidde (Kitchen)

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide

Battery Operated

10 Year Limited

Kidde KN-COSM-IBA

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide

Hard Wired

10 Year Limited

First Alert PR710

Smoke & Fire

Battery Operated

10 Year Limited

First Alert SMOKE1000

Smoke

Battery Operated

10 Year

Nest Protect

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide

Hard Wired

2 Year Limited

Nest Protect

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide

Battery Operated

2 Year Limited

First Alert BRK 3120B

Smoke & Fire

Hard Wired

10 Year Limited

Note: Many units have “10 year” batteries, but warranties are typically “limited” and may not cover the life of the battery. Be sure to double-check before purchasing.

We don’t recommend trying to maximize the life out of a single unit. Replacing your units well before the recommended time might be a good idea and give you peace of mind to help keep your home and family protected.

Why Get A Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector?

Fire is a known hazard, but carbon monoxide poisoning can kill your family just as easily with no warning. A poorly monitored furnace can emit this deadly gas and cause brain damage and death before anyone in your home is even aware of the risk.

Many building codes require the builder to install hard wired smoke detectors, and every home should have at least a battery powered unit.

Nest S3000BWES Nest Protect 2nd Gen Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm, Battery (Wired)

By selecting the correct unit, you can protect your loved ones from fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Finally, if you have a security system, the monitoring agency will contact you if there is a break-in or a fire at your home.

With the Wi-Fi monitoring available on many smoke and CO detectors, you can also be notified of any carbon monoxide build-up in your home.

Types of Smoke Detectors

The best smoke detector for your home or business is the one that’s going to be monitored and will get your attention.

Most home security systems come standard with at least one smoke detector, and you may have more depending on your layout and the number of stories in your building.

Photoelectric Smoke Alarm

Photoelectric smoke alarms work in pairs. Light energy is sent from one unit to the sensor on the other unit.

These alarms are the first line of defense in stopping fire before its blazing.​

Generally, the light source and the receiving sensor do not connect, but if there is smoke in the area being monitored, the light beams are scattered and the receiving sensor is triggered.

A photoelectric smoke alarm may also be referred to as an optical smoke detector because these units are triggered by smoke the visual spectrum. They are true smoke alarms; the light bounces off the cloud of smoke to trigger the alarm in the sensor.

Ionization Smoke Detector

Ionization smoke detectors are triggered when a small amount of the mineral americium 241 is activated by exposure to smoke in the air.

Because of their sensitivity, they’re often disabled.

These units are usually used near kitchens and are quick to sound when oil gets too hot or toast is burned.

How Well Do They Work?

how to test a smoke alarm

Battery-powered smoke detectors need to be checked and have their batteries changed twice a year. If your region follows daylight savings time, change the batteries on those weekends.

If you don’t follow the changes of daylight savings time, try to get the batteries changed out on Easter and Halloween.

When you change the batteries, you’ll notice the “Test” button on your smoke alarm, and can double check to make sure the alarm sound is still working.

Generally, you’ll need 9 volt batteries for smoke detectors, but the easiest way to make sure you buy the right type is to open the case.

All smoke detectors need batteries if only for backup power.

If you have a hard-wired series of smoke detectors in your home, you’ll still need to check and change those back-up batteries.​

How Many Smoke Detectors Do I Need?

You’ll need a smoke detector near each sleeping area. If you have floors in your home that don’t have bedrooms, place smoke detectors near family rooms and kitchens.

If possible install interconnected smoke alarms; if one rings, they all ring.

When deciding where to place smoke alarms, be aware that optical or photoelectric smoke alarms need to work in pairs to function properly, so be sure to place them according to the guidelines provided by the manufacturer.

Features of Smoke Detectors

Power​

As previously mentioned, all smoke detectors need batteries, either as back up or primary power. As those batteries die, the smoke detector will begin to “chirp,” or emit a high, short burst of sound.

Heed this chirping; the machine is trying to tell you that it’s becoming useless as a tool for protecting your household.

Placement

Set your smoke alarms near sleeping areas and living areas.

First Alert Smoke Detector and Carbon Monoxide Detector Alarm | Battery Operated, SCO5CN

Take care in what sort of smoke alarm you use in the kitchen as it may be too easily tripped by cooking odors. An ionization smoke alarm is not a good choice in the kitchen.​

Connectivity

If you have a home security alarm system, you probably have a smoke detector built into the monitoring system.

This alarm will be extremely loud and should have no trouble rousing your entire household. The monitoring company is responsible for contacting you, and if necessary, emergency responders.

Use

How long do hard wired smoke detectors last? These units should be replaced every ten years, as should battery powered smoke detectors.

Sensor age over time, and lithium battery inserts found in many hard wired smoke detectors will fail after that time.​

Features of Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Power

Carbon monoxide alarms are available in hard-wired format and as battery powered units.

You can also purchase these units with Wi-Fi capabilities and in combination with battery powered or hard wired smoke alarms.

Nest S3000BWES Nest Protect 2nd Gen Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm, Battery (Wired)

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Placement

While smoke alarms should not be placed near drafts such as beside windows and doors, it’s important to place a CO alarm near a garage entrance and close to furnaces and gas stoves.

Carbon monoxide is undetectable and can seep into your home from any combustible engine or motor. The best carbon monoxide detector configuration will monitor any source of petrochemical combustion.​

Use

You can expect ten years life from your CO alarms. If you purchase CO and fire alarm combination monitoring, be prepared to update these units every ten years.​

Additional Points

If your smoke detector is part of your home security system, be aware that it’s power sensitive.

Should your neighborhood experience a power outage, or if you need to turn off the breaker to your security system, the alarm may trigger.

Finally, one of the very nice features of newer smoke detectors with Wi-Fi connectivity is a nightlight in the middle of the detector.

This portion of the unit is motion sensitive and can help to guide you out of the house in case of fire related to power loss.​

Leeo Smart Alert Smoke/CO Remote Alarm Monitor for iOS and Android

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Final Thoughts

Building codes exist for a purpose, and while some homeowners and builders may chafe at some regulations, the requirements about smoke detectors are not onerous.

Advancing technologies and useful combinations of features such as optical and air quality detection along with carbon monoxide monitoring are terrific ways to keep your family safe.

Regular maintenance of your smoke and CO detectors will keep you safer and protect your loved ones.​

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