Halo Smoke Alarm vs Nest Protect vs Netatmo vs Other OptionsBy - 01/08/2017
Smoke alarms are a necessary savior. We plug them in and hope they are never used. For the most part, I don’t think about my smoke alarms, and I doubt I’m in the minority. In fact, during the five years my smoke alarms and I have lived together, we’ve only gotten in one 3 am fight – over a dead battery of course. When I do replace my smoke alarm system, I know I can run out and pick-up another Kidde for under $50. And I have good reason to stick with the same brand. The smoke alarms in my home are wirelessly linked so that if one sounds, they all sound. Within the same system, I have dual smoke alarms (ionization and photoelectric), a carbon monoxide sensor, and a voice warning system. So why would I change? The answer is: I love smart homes. But as a smart homeowner, replacing my smoke alarm system is the last frontier. I’m faced with a choice … should I upgrade to Halo, Nest, Netatmo, or keep things status quo?
Should You Upgrade to a Smart Smoke Alarm?
|Model||Halo+||2nd Generation||Worry-Free AC Combination Smoke & Carbon Monoxide||Wi-Fi Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm||Smart Smoke Alarm|
|Phone Alerts||Requires RemoteLync for $75.91|
|Cost for 10 units with mobile alerts.||$800 (Might Work With Existing Alarms)||$990||$515.71||$1099.90||Under $1000|
|Fire||Ionization and Photoelectric||Photoelectric||Photoelectric||Photoelectric||?|
|Battery Life||10 Years||Multi-Year||10 Years||10 Years||10 Years|
|Other||Embedded Weather Radio and Works with Lowe’s Iris, Amazon Echo, and other Alexa-enabled Devices||Works with Nest||Interconnects with Other Kidde Devices Including a Dual Ionization/Photoelectric Alarm||Homekit-enabled||Homekit-enabled, IFTTT|
|Learn More||halosmartlabs.com||Nest Protect v2||Kidde||Onelink||Netatmo|
The biggest advantage of moving to a smart smoke alarm is connectivity. Your smoke alarm can work with other connected devices and can also send alerts to your smartphone. There are other features that smart smoke detectors tout as being special, but these are often features found in everyday smoke alarms as well. With that said, is the ability to send notifications to your phone and integrate with other smart home devices enough to justify the higher price tag?
Nest Protect Summary
Nest Protect is attractive because it’s part of the Works with Nest program. Through Works with Nest, Nest Protect can connect with multiple smart home products and even home security products. For example, it can integrate with Wink, Philips Hue, Control4, Rachio, Scout, and more.
The downside to Nest Protect is that it’s a newer product. It was launched in 2013 before being upgraded to a second-generation version. While some might argue that a four-year-old product isn’t new, it is new in the smoke alarm world. The problem with newer devices is that they often come with quirks and with something as important as a smoke alarm, you can’t extend grace to allow for new device quirks. One of Nest Protect’s biggest quirks was identified and corrected three years ago. The device had a wave to hush feature, which was built-in for convenience. Unfortunately, they found that users could “unintentionally activate” this feature, causing delays in emergency situations. This feature has been yanked and replaced by App Silence. App Silence allows users to silence their alarm from the Nest app.
A second downside found in Nest’s device is more debatable. Where I see it as a weakness, others see it as a strength. ConsumersReports.org found that Nest was the slowest to detect fast-flaming fires during testing. As such, they did not add the device to their list of recommended smoke alarms.
Nest admits to not being the fastest. This is by design. Their focus was on creating a device that would quickly react without overreacting. For example, Nest Protect will glow yellow as an early warning that something might be wrong. And it includes Steam Check, a feature based upon the built-in humidity sensor that distinguishes between steam and smoke. While Steam Check doesn’t make the alert any faster, it does reduce false alarms.
According to a Nest representative,
Nest designed Nest Protect to quickly and effectively alert people to fire and CO hazards in the home, while also providing thoughtful, friendly information through spoken alerts, Heads-Up (before conditions reach a critical level), and mobile notifications.
Nest wanted to create a device that works without being annoying. Features like a human voice instead of a one-size-fits-all siren, app hushing, and a light warning system are all included to ensure that you don’t end up ripping the device off your ceiling at 3 am (not that I’ve ever done that…)
Halo is even newer than Nest. I was able to experience Halo at CES 2016, but that isn’t the same as having it in my home.
What I like about Halo is that it adds a whole new element, weather alerts. Through the app, you can decide what type of weather alerts you would like to receive. If you are in the Midwest, you might want to prioritize tornadoes, but if you are in Miami, you might want to make hurricanes a priority. If you want, you can hone into a deeper level of customization. For example, you might only want to know if there is a tornado warning while ignoring a watch.
Phil Smith, CMO of Halo, claims that their dual smoke alarm was able to beat Nest Protect by a minute and a half during a UL smoke test. He claims this is in part thanks to ionization, but also because the alarm can read temperature and humidity. When Halo is monitoring, it is using data from all sensors. The device profiles different types of smoke and uses an algorithm to decide if it is detecting burnt toast or a real emergency.
Finally, several readers below have commented that Halo will integrate with existing hardwired systems. According to Halo, multi-brand interconnect is a difficult subject when it comes to smoke alarms.
Halo has been designed to work with as many other smoke alarms as possible, but because it is nearly impossible to test the interconnect with every make and model of competitors’ smoke alarms we are not publicizing this feature. Many users will find that their Halo will alert other smoke alarms in the home (and vice versa), but it will be a while before we are able to publish a list of confirmed models that support this feature.
Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm
Launched at CES 2017, Netatmo Smart Smoke Alarm is the newest of the bunch. It connects to WiFi, detects smoke, sends alerts to your smartphone, and can even tell you which room the threat is located in. Via the Netatmo Security app, you can call for help or even disable the alarm. As an added security feature, you must be home and connected to the smoke alarm over Bluetooth in order to disable it. It also includes a self-check feature that pings every few seconds to make sure your smoke detector is working properly.
Unfortunately, Netatmo is missing one major security feature, it doesn’t detect carbon monoxide.
Fortunately, it has plenty of friends to help provide other benefits. First of all, Netatmo Smart Smoke is HomeKit-enabled. Using the Home App or Siri, you can view your smoke alarm’s current status. You can also connect the smoke alarm to other HomeKit-enabled devices. For example, if smoke is detected, you can have all your smart lights turn on. Similarly, Smart Smoke is compatible with IFTTT, a free service that helps connect different smart devices and services. Just like with HomeKit, if Netatmo detects smoke, IFTTT can trigger smart home actions. The difference is, IFTTT connects with hundreds of brands and services, HomeKit is still rather limited.
Netatmo Smart Smoke Sensor is not available yet, and pricing is TBD. However, Netatmo is promising to sell the device for under $100.
If you are thinking of upgrading to a connected smoke alarm for smartphone notifications and smartphone notifications only, there are other options. For the most part, any device that monitors for sound will work. This includes home security cameras. However, two security cameras have taken this a step further: Spot and Netatmo Welcome.
Spot, by iSmartAlarm, is a security camera that is designed to specifically monitor for the sound made by a smoke alarm or a carbon monoxide detector. If a sound is detected, it sends a notification to your phone. What’s great about using a camera is that you can swipe the notification to check in on your home live. Streaming live footage from your camera, you can see and hear what’s going on before calling for help. However, I’ve tested Spot and did receive a false alarm. It read the sound of an indoor drone as a carbon monoxide detector.
The other camera option is Netatmo Welcome. They recently upgraded their camera with advanced sound detection. The feature works exactly like Spot, and though I own a Welcome, I have not tested this feature yet.
If security cameras make your skin crawl, Point was made for you. The Point device is an unobtrusive security device that monitors for sound and other things. It listens to your home and senses what’s in your air. While it can’t detect smoke like a smoke alarm, it can detect cigarette smoke and the sound made by smoke alarms, at least it should be able to do so soon. Though the device is currently shipping, we are still waiting on Point to launch noise recognition as a feature.
But what happens if you aren’t home? What happens if you miss the alert to your phone and your pet needs help? The answer is professional security monitoring. Another way to get alerts on your phone is through a home security system. Most people assume that home alarms are only for burglaries, but by adding a smoke detector, home alarms can also monitor for fires. If a fire is detected, the company will reach out to you and call the fire department.
Ionization, Photoelectric, Dual
Halo is the only device that can monitor for fast-flame and smoldering fires. It is a “dual” smoke alarms. Kidde can support both technologies within the same system, but not the same device. You can use the KN-COSM-IBA, which is carbon monoxide and ionization smoke detector, the kn-cope-ic, which is carbon monoxide and photoelectric smoke detector, or the PI2010, which is a dual smoke detector, all within the same interconnected, wired setup. Ionization detects fast-flame and photoelectric detects smoldering fires.
Nest has decided to forgo an ionization detector for photoelectric only. Ionization detectors do produce a small amount of radiation, which was concerning to them. Also, most fire chiefs agree that ionization detectors do not detect the type of fire most likely to kill. If you must pick between the two, photoelectric is the best choice. With that said, the National Fire Protection Association suggests that homeowners use a dual smoke alarm.
I do not see the value in ripping out a perfectly good smoke alarm system. After researching, I’ve decided to leave my current system in place. Smoke alarms need to be replaced every ten years, and my system still has a few years of useful life. On top of that, I own an iSmartAlarm Spot and Welcome, which both send a notification to my smartphone if they recognize the sound made by a smoke alarm. I also have a Point Device and a monitored home security through Frontpoint. I see no reason to rip and replace a system that works well. Do you?
Last Updated 01/07/2017
Added Netatmo Smart Smoke
Read Previous Updates
03/16/2016: Updated with Netatmo Welcome and new information on Nest Protect.
05/18/2016: Clarified Kidde product per reader’s comment below.