For most people, a smoke alarm is just an annoying white box that makes a racket when they burn their toast, but you should be thankful if you fall into that category. It's a sobering fact that hundreds of people die in the UK each year due to house fires, and sadly, more than half of these could have been prevented if the residents were alerted by a smoke alarm and vacated from the house in time.
There is no excuse for not fitting your property with smoke alarms; they will provide the essential protection you need with minimal fuss. Our buying guide will help you work out what to look out for, including advice on battery and mains powered units, carbon monoxide detector combinations, and which devices are best for kitchens. Then, we'll go through our ten best smoke alarms available online from Kidde, FireAngel, and the linkable Google Nest.
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Table of Contents
Ionisation smoke alarms are probably what most of us picture of when we think of a smoke alarm. They are cheap, basic, and extremely sensitive to small smoke particles, meaning they're excellent at detecting fast flaming fires, but a pain in the neck if you're in the habit of overcooking things.
As such, this type of fire alarm is best placed well away from the kitchen or any other area where fumes or smoke accumulate. They are, however, ideal for bedrooms and living rooms, provided they are well away from the kitchen.
If you need to place a smoke alarm near, but not in, a kitchen, then an optical smoke alarm is a good option. They detect larger particles of smoke than ionisation types, so are less likely to be set off by accidental cooking disasters.
Optical smoke alarms are better at picking up on smouldering, slow-burning fires, and are a great choice for bedrooms and living rooms. For a full belt and braces approach, they could be alternated with ionisation alarms throughout the house.
Strictly speaking, heat alarms aren't actually smoke alarms. The sensors in heat alarms don't detect the fumes given off by a fire, but rather the sudden rise in temperature that would signal danger. This means that heat alarms are suitable for kitchens, and also garages, where car fumes might trigger a normal alarm.
However, heat alarms need to be relatively near the fire to pick up on this change in temperature, so for bigger kitchens, you might want to consider more than one alarm. But given that most house fires start in the kitchen, these are a type of smoke alarm you really can't do without.
The most basic and common type of battery used in cheaper alarms is a standard 9 volt or AA battery. These can be bought anywhere for very little money and can be replaced simply by opening a flap on the smoke alarm and swapping them over.
Smoke alarms with this type of battery should be tested regularly, and the batteries should be replaced every 12 months. This means you'll need to remember to regularly buy batteries, but the smoke alarm itself will not need to be replaced unless it is damaged.
Sealed batteries are fitted directly to the alarm and cannot be replaced, meaning that when the battery dies, the whole alarm needs to be changed. On the plus side, the maximum lifespan of these batteries is respectably long, as many are sold to last up to 10 years.
If the thought of a decade without hearing any annoying battery warning noises and worrying about when you last changed the batteries appeals to you, then these are the alarms for you. And while you may be reluctant to have to buy a new smoke alarm every 10 years, in models with carbon monoxide detection this will be necessary anyway, as this is the lifespan of their sensors.
While less of a killer than fire, carbon monoxide poisoning is still responsible for dozens of deaths every year. It's caused by inhaling odourless fumes that can accumulate in your home from a number of sources, such as faulty boilers or gas fires.
It's therefore highly recommended that you have at least one carbon monoxide detector in your home, ideally in or near the bedrooms where there is more risk from inhalation while sleeping.
Combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are perfect for obtaining both types of protection in one convenient unit. But their sensitivity to the gas does not last forever, so you should pay particular attention to the manufacturer's recommended life span for the device.
If there's a chance a smoke alarm going off downstairs won't wake you while you sleep, then you should really think about getting a series of alarms that can be linked up as a network. This means that if one device senses smoke, all the linked alarms in your home will go off.
Linkable alarms connect with each other either via radio signals or via your home wifi. Some more advanced models can even connect with other devices such as burglar alarms to create a full home security network, so may be worth considering if you have a large property.
Looking to create a home security network have a look at the 10 best outdoor home security cameras to find a device that will protect your home from external factors.
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Nest Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Hi-Tech Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm With Full Connectivity
Wireless Smoke Heat Alarm｜GS559A
An Optical Alarm With a Connectivity Option
Kupu Optical Smoke Alarm
Add a Pop of Colour to Your Home as Well as an Extra Level of Security
For Night-Time Alerts There's an Escape Light
Heat-Sensitive Alarm Great for Kitchens and Garages
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm｜10SCO
Built-in Voice Alerts For Extra Peace of Mind
Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm With Display
Extra Safety With a Built-in Carbon Monoxide Detector and Handy Display
Mini Smoke Alarm
Super-Compact, Barely Noticeable Optical Alarm
Lento Optical Smoke Alarm
An Eye-Catching Alternative to the White Box
3 Year Smoke Alarm Twin Pack
Twin Pack of Optical Alarms With Hush Button
£100 for a smoke alarm may seem like a big investment, but this alarm from Google lives up to its price tag. For one thing, it connects to your home's wifi, allowing you to control and monitor the alarm through the Google Nest app.
Plus, you can silence the alarm from your phone, and it will notify you if the alarm is activated when you're not home. There's also a light to guide your way at night, and it connects with all other devices in the Google Nest range. The sensors are truly top of the range, and will only need replacing every 10 years.
In case of excessive smoke and unusually high room temperature this photoelectronic wireless smoke detector will activate and sound an alarm. The thing that sets it apart, however, is the option to connect up to multiple units of the same alarm using radio frequency.
Create a wireless network of 15 smoke detectors all within 35m of each other; as soon as one alarm activates they all go. Easy and quick to install with a magnetic fixing included, the alarm is neat and unobtrusive.
If you hate the thought of a clunky white plastic box ruining your carefully curated domestic aesthetic, then this colourful alternative might be just what you're after. The minimalist design comes in six colours, including a metallic chrome finish.
At almost £30 for a simple optical smoke alarm, you really are paying predominantly for the design. But if it's all your home requires, and it means you have a smoke alarm set up when you otherwise wouldn't, then it's worth every penny.
When detecting smoke in the air, this device not only sets off an alarm but also turns on a bright escape light, illuminating your route out of the building, making it ideal for hallways and landings.
The light also serves another useful function – it provides a visual notification that the alarm is going off. This could be useful for people who are hard of hearing or for environments where a normal alarm might not always be audible.
This smoke alarm from FireAngel uses a heat sensor to detect rapid changes in temperature. This sensitivity to heat, rather than smoke, means it won't be set off by cooking or vehicle fumes.
As such, it's ideal for use in a kitchen or garage, where burning toast or your car's exhaust set off other types of alarm. The company's patented Thermistek sensor responds up to twice as fast as other heat-sensitive alarms, giving you invaluable extra time to react.
This combination smoke and carbon monoxide alarm comes from Kidde, one of the leading names in fire safety products, so you can trust it will work well when it's important.
The unique selling point of this alarm is that upon detecting smoke or carbon monoxide, a voice alert rather than an alarm sound goes off. This voice alert tells you which of the two dangers has been detected, allowing you to act accordingly.
For people who are particularly concerned about levels of carbon monoxide in the home, the practical LCD display on this alarm will bring peace of mind. The display shows the concentration of the dangerous gas in real-time, so you'll know if something's amiss before it becomes too serious.
As well as the LCD display, there's also three coloured LEDs to give information on the safe functioning of the alarm, and a silence button to cancel false alarms.
The smallest smoke alarm on our list, this is a great pick if the size is an issue and you require something that takes up as little space as possible. This award-winning alarm has an advanced chipset that can detect dangerous smoke concentrations in seconds.
As well as it's neat proportions, another nice feature is the long-lasting battery. It's built into the alarm and can also be replaced, offering the best of both worlds in terms of a good battery life and not needing to buy new alarms.
With a real 'love it or hate it', design, this one definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea! This is a smoke alarm for people who really want to make a statement with their home decor, or perhaps a bit of fun for a kids bedroom.
As with the other Jalo alarm on our list, it's got a hefty price tag given how simple the technology is. But if you're after something interesting to put on your wall, do consider this, or the Jalo Kupu alarm below.
This twin pack of smoke alarms from Kidde enables you to provide a wide range of coverage throughout your home; place one downstairs and the other upstairs to ensure your family's safety.
One added feature that makes it stand out from other cheaper alarms is the hush button. This means that in the case of a false alarm (such as the standard burning toast), the alarm can be temporarily silenced at the touch of a button, avoiding the need for flapping around it with tea towels.
Now you've chosen your alarm, you may be wondering how many you'll need, and where to put them. For maximum peace of mind and protection, you should ensure you have an adequate amount of alarms, and that they are placed in the best possible location.
As an absolute minimum, there should be one smoke alarm for each floor of your home, but seeing as fires can start anywhere, it's strongly recommended that you have an alarm in every room and every passageway. Smoke alarms should not be placed in the bathroom, however, as the steam created by hot water can too easily set them off.
In terms of placement, you want to try and make sure that your smoke alarms are as close as possible to the centre of the room, and at least 30 cm from walls and light fittings. Wherever they are placed, you must be able to hear the alarm from all parts of your home.
No. 1: Google｜Nest Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
No. 2: Sebson｜Wireless Smoke Heat Alarm｜GS559A
No. 3: Jalo｜Kupu Optical Smoke Alarm
No. 4: HEYI｜Smoke Alarm｜HY-620
No. 5: FireAngel｜Heat Alarm｜HT-630R
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