Editor’s note: My husband Kellen wrote this post. I hope he’ll be writing more about the gadgets and gizmos around our house, so please make him feel welcome so I can convince him to do this again. 😉
When we moved into our new house, one of the big things missing was smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and we knew it was something we needed to do right away. I’d heard about the Nest Protect, but they were pricey, especially since we needed several of them, so I wanted to see if there were any cheaper products out there with comparable functionality. The First Alert Onelink was similar, so I had to do some research to decide which would be right for us. Keep reading to find out which one we chose.
- Both smoke and carbon monoxide sensors are in a single package.
- Alarms are spoken as well as siren, allowing the delivery of more information.
- Alarms can be programmed with their location in the house (e.g. kitchen, guest room, etc.)
- Alarms connect to each other wirelessly, so when one goes off anywhere in the house, they all go off and tell you which location initially triggered the alarm.
- Both are available in hard-wired or battery operated versions.
First Alert Onelink, $50*-$60 each
The First Alert Onelink is the most modern version of the smoke alarms you grew up with. It’s not particularly pretty, it doesn’t have an app, and it won’t cook you breakfast. What it does bring to the table is the ability to network with all the other Onelink devices in your home. When the alarm in your kid’s room is triggered, the one in your bedroom goes off as well.
You can also program locations into the alarms so when your kitchen unit detects smoke, the alarm in the living room will tell you “smoke detected in the kitchen”. This extra information can save you a lot of running around trying to determine where the blaring noise is coming from and lets you get right to the source of the problem.
The OneLink can also interface with an Insteon Hub, which allows it to send you an e-mail or text, as well as turn the lights on when a fire is detected. While it’s really nice to see them including a home automation option, it does mean that you’ll need to spend an extra $120+ dollars on an Insteon Hub and another $35 on the Insteon Smoke Bridge. That said, for folks who have already bought into or are considering the Insteon Hub, this could be a really big selling point.
* For the $50 price point, you can purchase the Onelink in bulk in a 2-pack, 4-pack, or 6-pack.
Nest Protect, $100 each
The Nest Protect does everything the Onelink above does (networking, speaking, location awareness), except the Insteon compatibility. In many ways though, it takes a very new approach to the Smoke and CO alarm by trying to make the device generally less annoying.
For example, it has an early warning system which tells you smoke or carbon monoxide may be gathering before it sets off the all too familiar deafening alarm. This is ideal in kitchen disaster scenarios as it gives you time to shoo the evidence of your culinary failure out a window before the whole house is woken up. It also does away with the dreaded low battery beep, replacing it with a colored glowing ring. When the lights go out it will momentarily glow green to let you know everything is ok or glow orange to let you know there’s a problem. Pushing the button on the device will then tell you what is wrong, e.g. ‘your battery is low.’
Another modern touch that comes with the Protect is its built-in compatibility with the Nest app. This app allows you to check the status of your alarms’ battery life, whether they are detecting any problems, and will also alert you if an alarm goes off. Unlike the Onelink, this doesn’t require any additional purchases or hardware.
The Protect also connects with Nest’s very popular smart thermostat, if you happen to have one installed. This allows it to shut off a furnace if it detects dangerous CO levels. It also enhances the thermostat’s ‘smart away’ functionality, as each Protect will let it know when movement is detected and thus you are still in the house. That said, it’s not currently possible to connect the Protect to any other home automation solutions, so it won’t be able to play nice with anything outside the Nest product line.
First Alert Onelink
|CO and Smoke||Yes||Yes|
|Early warning (before alarm)||No||Yes|
|Internet alerts/updates||No(Yes with additional hardware)||Yes|
|Networked with each other?||Yes||Yes|
|Network with other devices?||Yes (INSTEON Hub and accessories)||Yes (Nest Thermostat)|
|Low Battery Warning||Annoying (beeps)||Friendly (colored light)|
So, which should I buy?
I may be at odds with the internet on this, but overall I believe the First Alert Onelink is the better buy. While the Nest Protect offers more features and a more modern design, I simply can’t justify paying twice as much for a product when two products are fundamentally the same. From a safety perspective, the Onelink offers the same cool new tricks as the Protect, but at half the cost. You will also be buying anywhere from 3-10 of these, depending on how big your house is, which adds up in a hurry.
Another important factor to keep in mind: the CO sensing portion of both products has a shelf life of 5-7 years. This is because the sensor itself become unreliable and thus can’t be trusted beyond that limit. This made the higher price for the Protect even harder for me to swallow.
All that said, I’m a big tech nerd and think the Nest Protect is downright cool. If I’d already made the jump to a Nest Thermostat, it may have been worth the extra cost to have everything sync up together and for the ability to monitor it all from a single app on my phone. Some of the extra features are even worth paying more, like the early warning functionality. In the end, with all the other cool new toys out there, I can think of better ways to spend that extra $50.