The First Alert SA320CN (*Est. $25) earns positive feedback from both professionals and owners. This dual-sensor smoke detector provides broad coverage of fire hazards by detecting both fast-burning and slow, smoldering fires -- offering families more time to get out of the dwelling safely. While false alarms are a common complaint among all smoke detectors, we found fewer of these gripes compared to feedback for other models.
The First Alert SA320CN formerly had a convenience feature, which allowed a false alarm to be silenced by a TV remote control. However, the feature had a tendency to be activated by other nearby remotes, leading to frequent false alarms. This model no longer has that feature, and recent reviews reflect a significant decrease in false-alarm complaints. A single button located on the unit now serves as both a testing function and a silence function in the event of a false alarm.
The most common complaint about the First Alert SA320CN is the low-battery indicator. While this is a convenient safety feature, we read a number of Amazon reviews explaining that over time, the low-battery indicator tends to turn on frequently, even with fresh batteries. This leads to expensive battery changes, as well as a general lack of confidence about the unit's reliability. Most reviews, however, are highly positive. This smoke detector earns recommendations from two professional testing organizations and receives good feedback from owners thanks to its ease of installation and use.
Ionization sensors are ideal for detecting fast, active fires and flame particles. The Kidde RF-SM-DC (*Est. $30) earns the best feedback in this category. While this model hasn't been included in any professional smoke detector comparison tests, it gets good overall scores from owners posting to sites such as Amazon.com, Lowes.com and HomeDepot.com. It's also listed fourth in a roundup of the top 10 smoke detectors at Pikimal.com, where it earns high scores for reliability and middling scores for convenience.
Despite being an ionization-sensor smoke detector, the Kidde RF-SM-DC is among the top-rated smoke detectors across consumer-review sites. This battery-powered alarm can connect wirelessly to any number of other smoke alarms in the same home. Owners praise this feature, which alerts you to danger in other areas of the home.
Because it only has an ionization sensor, this alarm won't detect slow, smoldering fires as quickly as photoelectric smoke detectors -- a considerable downside. However, owners say this smoke detector communicates flawlessly with other connected alarms.
Photoelectric sensors respond best to smoky, smoldering fires, which develop slowly and often start in bedding, clothing or upholstery. The First Alert SA710CN (*Est. $15) receives praise in both owner-written and professional reviews for its reliability and easy installation.
The First Alert SA710CN is recommended by two leading consumer testing organizations, both of which evaluate numerous smoke detectors for their ability to detect both smoldering fires and active flames. This smoke detector also earns high marks for convenience and ease of use, with a slide-out battery drawer, meaning the unit doesn't need to be disassembled to replace the batteries.
The most common complaint about the First Alert SA710CN is the low-battery indicator. Several owners say that after a few months, the low-battery indicator seems to be on constantly, even after multiple battery changes. Overall, however, most owners are pleased with the reliability of this unit.
The dual-sensor Kidde i9010 (*Est. $25) offers the best of both worlds. This smoke detector contains both an ionization sensor and a photoelectric sensor, meaning it can detect all types of fires. This model replaces an older, similar model: the Kidde Pi9000.
Reviewers say this Kidde unit is easy to install and to test, with a single button that activates a test and silences the alarm if it goes off unnecessarily. This smoke detector is very sensitive, which is both a pro and a con, according to reviews. Some owners say that it tends to go off for non-emergencies, such as showers or cooking, while others see this as a solid indication that this smoke detector will readily sound in the event of an actual fire.