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Due to the amount of synthetic material in modern furniture and buildings, home fires can spread fast. Thirty years ago, you had about 17 minutes to escape a home fire; today, it’s about 2 minutes, according to Underwriters Laboratories, which conducts some of the leading fire safety tests in the US.
A reliable and effective smoke detector should be part of your home’s emergency preparedness plan. Having smoke alarms can lower the risk of death in a house fire by 55%, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
I have years of experience relocating and installing hardwired smoke detectors as a residential carpenter and leaned on that expertise when testing six units for this guide. (I go through my full testing methodology here.) I also consulted Patrick Andler, a fire investigator with 38 years of experience and a board member of the Arizona Burn Foundation, and Nick Yahoodain, a home remodeler with over 10 years of experience at Advanced Builders & Contractors, on how to install smoke detectors, how to use them effectively, and more.
Top picks for smoke detectors
Best smoke detector overall: X-Sense SC01 – See at Amazon
The X-Sense SC01 features a 10-year lithium battery, carbon monoxide detector, and a color-changing LED to let you know its current status.
Best smart smoke detector: Nest Protect – See at The Home Depot
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.
Best smoke detector for smoke only: X-Sense XS03-WX Wi-Fi Smoke Alarm – See at Amazon
If you already have a standalone carbon monoxide detector, we recommend the X-Sense XS03-WX Wi-Fi Smoke Alarm for a dependable smoke detector that can be controlled with a convenient mobile app.
Best dual-sensor smoke detector: First Alert SA320 – See at Amazon
The First Alert SA320 is an affordable and effective smoke alarm with both photosensitive and ionization sensors, which can cause it to be too sensitive at times.
Best interconnected smoke detector: X-Sense Wireless Interconnected – See at Amazon
The X-Sense Wireless Interconnected comes as a set of three, six, or 12 separate smoke detectors with a range of more than 820 feet each, so they can cover small and large spaces safely.
Best ionization smoke detector: Kidde RF-SM-DC – See at Amazon
Wire-free (radio) interconnectivity, AA battery power, and a hush button make this ionization detector an easy and trusty addition to your fire detection network.
Best smoke detector-carbon monoxide detector combo: First Alert PRC710 Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector – See at Lowe’s
The multifunctional First Alert PRC710 alerts you to the presence of both smoke and carbon monoxide and boasts an ultra-thin profile that will blend into your ceiling.