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Compare the best smoke alarms

Choose a detector that fits your space and complies with building codes.

A house fire can irreparably damage your home and property, and endanger the lives of you and your loved ones. A working and up-to-date smoke alarm is just one way to significantly reduce the risk of a residential fire, providing the heads-up you need to take action early.

Top smoke alarms

NameAvg. price
(USD)
Sensor typeSupply voltageOperating temperatureHumidity rangePurchase
Ardwolf Photoelectric Smoke and Fire Alarm$22 (2-pack)Photoelectric9V battery40°F to 100°F10 – 95% relative humidity (RH)Shop now
Kidde i12040 120V AC Wire-in Smoke Alarm$11Photoelectric120V with 9V battery backup40°C to 100°F5 – 95%Shop now
First Alert Smoke & Monoxide Detector$35Photoelectric120V with 9V battery backup40°C to 100°C5 – 95%Shop now
Honeywell 5808W3 Wireless Photoelectric Smoke/Heat Detector$65PhotoelectricLithium battery40°F to 135°FUp to 95%Shop now
Alexa-Enabled Safe & Sound Onelink$220PhotoelectricLithium Battery40°F to 100°F10 – 95%Shop now
Nest Protect$120.00Split‑SpectrumLithium Batteries40°F to 100°F20% to 80% (non-condensing)Shop now
Data obtained March 2019. Prices are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

What types of alarms are available?

When shopping for a smoke alarm, you’ll find two main types: ionization models and photoelectric models.

  • Ionization. Ionization smoke alarms work by detecting small particles that enter an ionization chamber. When the number of particles in the chamber reaches a specified threshold, an alarm sounds. Unfortunately, the types of particles detected by ionization alarms are generally created only by flaming or very hot fires. These fires don’t produce much smoke, but they burn very quickly. An ionization alarm may not detect a slow-burning fire until it produces large flames or visible particles — which may be too late. Ionization alarms also frequently pick up flames and heat from cooking, which can be a problem if you plan to install one near a kitchen.
  • Photoelectric. Photoelectric alarms can detect fires more quickly than an ionization alarm can — especially a fire without large flames. These alarms use a beam of light to detect visible smoke that enters a chamber. When the amount of visible smoke reaches a specific threshold, the alarm is triggered. Photoelectric alarms are more sensitive to smoky, smoldering fires than ionization alarms are.
  • Battery-operated vs. hardwired. Some smoke alarms are powered by a battery, while others are hardwired to your home’s electrical circuit. Hardwired models are typically installed in a house during construction, connected directly into the household power line. Depending on where you live, you may be required to have a hardwired smoke alarm with a backup battery installed in your home.

No matter which type of alarm you have, you’ll need to replace the batteries regularly. For those of us who forget when it’s time to change the batteries, battery-powered models often signal an alert when the batteries are running low.

Otherwise, use the changing of the seasons as the marker to replace your batteries. When daylight savings begins in the spring and ends in the fall are both good times to get fresh batteries for your smoke alarm.

How do I install a smoke alarm?

Hardwired smoke alarms may require the help of an electrician. But battery-powered alarms are relatively easy to install yourself:

  1. Make sure you’re aware of current building codes.
  2. Mark your drill holes on the ceiling or wall. Wall-mounted smoke alarms should be no more than 12 inches away from the ceiling. Ceiling-mounted alarms should be no less than eight inches away from the wall.
  3. Drill the holes and mount the baseplate.
  4. Insert the correct batteries and mount the alarm to the baseplate.
  5. Test the alarm.

Bottom line

Smoke alarms are a vital part of keeping you and your family safe within your home or office. Know your area’s safety codes to make sure you’ve installed enough units for your space, and look for features that offer advanced protection and convenience to fit your budget.

How did we choose these products?

To compile our list of top smoke alarms, we conducted our own online research, considering the type of alarm, features, safety and prices.

Frequently asked questions

How far away from cooking appliances should my smoke detector be?
Experts advise placing smoke alarms at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances.

How frequently do I need to replace my smoke alarm?
Replace your smoke alarms at least every 10 years. Regularly test over that time to make sure they’re working.

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