Photoelectric smoke alarms detect slow, smoldering fires faster than alarms with ionization sensors. The First Alert SA710CN is praised for its simple mounting kit, battery-powered operation and general reliability. There are some complaints of false alarms, however. If you want a model with both ionization and photoelectric sensors, reviewers most frequently recommend the First Alert SA320CN (*Est. $25) .
Solid, sensitive performance. If your home contains only ionization alarms that detect fast, flaming fires, experts say you'll need to add a few photoelectric models that can sense the smoke. The First Alert SA710CN receives positive scores from both owners and professional reviewers, leading the pack among photoelectric smoke alarms for its 85-decibel alarm and blinking power light to let you know it's working.
We found less than 100 reviews overall for this First Alert model at retailers such as Amazon.com and Lowes.com, but the overall feedback is mostly positive. The main complaint is false alarms, although there are more users who say they've never experienced this problem. Still, the potential is there for this alarm to be tripped up by cooking or other non-threatening household events.
Most owners say this smoke detector works as expected, however. One owner posting feedback to Lowes.com says this unit is "even more reliable at detection than the ionization-type detectors. It is especially beneficial … that this is a photoelectric-type smoke detector -- which thankfully means no radioactive material exists in the detector."
Simple installation. Battery installation is easy with the slide-out battery drawer, which extends from the side of the unit. There's also a guard that ensures a battery is always installed. Finally, a silence and test button lets you confirm that the alarm is working and silence any non-threating alarms.
Owners posting reviews to Amazon.com and Lowes.com praise the easy installation of this unit, which comes with a mounting kit that works with most pre-existing screw arrangements. That means you won't have to put additional holes in your ceiling to mount this smoke alarm.
One Amazon reviewer explains, "I had two different types of mounting patterns across the four alarms I replaced and the bracket had holes to effectively fit both patterns. Installation was simple. The alarm twists onto the mounting bracket, making removal simple as well, but there will likely be little reason to remove it until it's time to replace them, as the battery is easily accessible from the slide-out tray while the unit is mounted."
Battery problems after a few months. The First Alert SA710CN is backed by a 10-year warranty, and most owners say it works well over the course of its life span. However, there are some complaints of a continuous low-battery indicator after a few months of ownership. One reviewer posting feedback to Amazon.com explains, "We did read a few isolated complaints that the First Alert SA710 was in service for less than six months and then failed. The detector chirped indicating that the battery needed replacement, I've tried four new nine volt batteries, the chirping continues and the test button now does nothing. The detector failed."
1. Choice magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent The Australian consumer-review magazine tests 15 smoke alarms. Each model is given a score between 0 and 100, based on how well it detects smoldering fires and active flaming fires. The First Alert SA710CN is included in this latest roundup.
Review: Smoke Alarms Reviews, Editors of Choice magazine, March 2, 2010
2. Consumer magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent This New Zealand consumer publication tests and ranks 18 smoke detectors, including the First Alert SA710CN. Testers evaluate each model based on ability to detect smoldering fires and active flames; other features, such as cost and ease of use are also addressed.
Review: Smoke Alarms, Editors of Consumer magazine, March 5, 2010
Review Credibility: Good About 50 owners have weighed in with feedback on the First Alert SA710CN, contributing to an overall average rating of 3.9 stars out of a possible 5. Opinions are split on the incidence of false alarms. Most owners say they haven't experienced this, while others report increasing false alarms after the first year or two of use.
Review: First Alert SA710CN Smoke Alarm with Photoelectric Sensor, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2013
Review Credibility: Fair A handful of owners have contributed reviews of the First Alert SA710CN, which earns an average rating of 4 stars out of 5. Owners praise this smoke alarm's easy installation and mounting features.
Review: First Alert Battery Powered 9-Volt Smoke Detector, Contributors to Lowes.com, As of March 2013