The best smart smoke detector
The Nest Protect features both a carbon monoxide and split-spectrum smoke detector that detects both fast and slow-burning fires, and delivers clear verbal instructions to explain why its sensor was triggered and what you should do next.
Pros: Spoken instructions, phone notifications
Cons: May not be ideal for those not technically savvy, requires three AA backup batteries
The color-changing LED, along with the verbal commands and smartphone notifications, made the Nest Protect fun to test out and operate. My first aerosol test activated its “heads-up” function, which issued a verbal warning that it detected a small amount of smoke. This would be a convenient feature if the smoke was due to burning toast, or another non-emergency — especially for anyone who might get overwhelmed by loud noises. By giving you the chance to resolve the problem before the smoke levels rise, you can prevent the unit from going into full-blown alarm mode. My second aerosol spray was enough for the Nest Protect to assume there was an actual fire, and it sounded its 85-db alarm immediately.
The Nest Protect allows you to silence the unit in the event of a nuisance alarm easily with the large and easy to press test/silence button. You can even silence the alarm from your smartphone, although it doesn’t allow for this if the smoke is too heavy.
The Nest Protect technically only uses a photoelectric sensor, but one that has an additional blue LED light component. Nest claims that this “split sensor” design allows the Nest Protect to be more effective at detecting fast fires, by allowing it to detect a wider range of smoke particle sizes. My testing wasn’t comprehensive enough to safely back this up, but according to a Nest Protect study, on average, its Heads-Up alert sounded earlier than the other types of alarms tested during smoldering and flaming fires. I should also note that in 2014, Nest recalled the Protect due to a feature that potentially delayed the alarm from going off though there were no reports of homeowners experiencing this issue; it has since been resolved.
The Nest Protect is a hard-wired unit, so installation was a bit more elaborate than the other smoke detectors I tested. This will involve working with and reconnecting electrical wiring, so if you’re uncomfortable around that type of thing, you may want to hire a professional. However, if you’ve got even a small amount of electrical experience under your belt, you should be alright. It took me about 15 minutes to remove the previous unit and connect this one. The instructions walked me through every step of the process, and the included hardware was effective and easy to use.
Setting up the Nest Protect required me to connect to my home’s Wi-Fi network and download the Nest app. This took about 15 minutes because the Nest Protect was having a difficult time recognizing and connecting my Wi-Fi. My research didn’t turn up much evidence that this connection issue is common for other users, so this could have been entirely the fault of my own Wi-Fi setup.
If your home Wi-Fi goes down like in the event of a power outage, the Nest Protect will continue to work just fine — you just won’t get any notifications on your phone. The three AA batteries will ensure the Nest Protect continues to work during a power outage, although the fact that they’re replaceable raises the chances of someone removing them and not replacing them.
I really liked the visual design of the square-shaped Nest Protect, which has a clean look with a single large button on the front. This button is surrounded by a ring of light that changes colors depending on the status of the unit. Its 1.5-inch thickness is less than most other models on the market, making it a bit less obtrusive. The 1-pound weight was easy to handle and didn’t cause any issues during installation.
Andler described the Nest Protect as “an expensive, but durable model,” so if you have the budget, this model could be worth the investment.
$119.00 from The Home Depot
$119.99 from Best Buy