First Alert Battery Operated Combination Smoke Alarm

Last updated date: May 14, 2019

DWYM Score
9.1

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We looked at the top 1 Smoke Detectors and dug through the reviews from 7 of the most popular review sites including New York Times Wirecutter, Consumer Reports, Consumer Search, Tuck, The Spruce, RelevantRankings.com and more. Through this analysis, we've determined the best Smoke Detector you should buy.

Overall Take

The First Alert combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector lets you program up to 11 locations within your home. This allows the alarm to alert you to precisely where the danger is with a verbal announcement. You can also interconnect this detector with up to 18 other First Alert-enabled alarms to create a wireless in-home safety network. The CO sensor can detect low levels of carbon monoxide and alert you to any leaks. In our analysis of 66 expert reviews, the First Alert First Alert Battery Operated Combo Smoke Alarm placed 2nd when we looked at the top 10 products in the category. For the full ranking, see below.

Editor's Note June 3, 2019:
Checkout The Best Smoke Detector for a detailed review of all the top smoke detectors.

Expert Summarized Score
9.4
7 expert reviews
User Summarized Score
8.4
462 user reviews
Our Favorite Video Reviews
What experts liked
That CO detector adds a good bit to the price—currently a single SCO501CN-3ST unit is just barely cheaper than the two-pack of our top pick—so we made this a separate recommendation in case you’re already covered with a stand-alone CO detector.
- New York Times Wirecutter
December 17, 2018 | Full review
It provides protection from smoky fires as well as dangerous CO, but is not as effective detecting blazing fires.
- Consumer Search
March 21, 2018 | Full review
The Voice Alarm is its standout feature. You can program up to 11 locations within your home, and the alarm will verbally alert you precisely where the danger is.
- Tuck
August 30, 2018 | Full review
Consumer Reports recommends this model because it did an excellent job of detecting high and low CO levels in its tests, and the device clearly conveys unsafe environments.
- Business Insider
October 29, 2018 | Full review
Owners say these units are easy to set up without expert help, and they especially like them for protecting larger homes.
- The Spruce
March 1, 2019 | Full review
One unique feature of the SCO501CN-3ST is that in addition to a loud 85-decibel siren is a voice alarm with 11 programmable locations indicate where and what the threat is.
- RelevantRankings.com
February 18, 2019 | Full review
What experts didn't like
Not as effective detecting blazing fires.
- Consumer Search
March 21, 2018 | Full review
There are some complaints of false alarms, even when there are no clear causes.
- Business Insider
October 29, 2018 | Full review
Some reviewers say they have had issues with false alarms or the units not linking properly, however.
- The Spruce
March 1, 2019 | Full review

From The Manufacturer

The First Alert SCO501CN-3ST Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Voice Location detects both smoke and carbon monoxide in a single device. The alarm interconnects with up to 18 other First Alert enabled alarms in your home to create a wireless safety network. The photoelectric smoke sensor is designed to reduce false alarms from cooking smoke or shower steam while remaining sensitive to real danger. The advanced electrochemical CO sensor detects carbon monoxide leaks from multiple sources, including faulty fuel-burning appliances. A loud 85-decibel siren and a voice alarm with 11 programmable locations indicate where and what the threat is.

Overall Product Rankings

1. Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Overall Score: 9.4
Expert Reviews: 9
2. First Alert Battery Operated Combination Smoke Alarm
Overall Score: 9.1
Expert Reviews: 7
3. Kidde Hardwire Smoke Alarm
Overall Score: 9.0
Expert Reviews: 9
4. Alert Pro 10 Year Battery Smoke Detector Fire Alarm
Overall Score: 8.9
Expert Reviews: 1
5. First Alert Interconnected Wireless Smoke Alarm
Overall Score: 8.4
Expert Reviews: 7
6. First Alert Dual-Sensor Smoke and Fire Alarm
Overall Score: 8.3
Expert Reviews: 7
8. Leeo Smart Alert Smoke/CO Remote Alarm Monitor
Overall Score: 7.8
Expert Reviews: 8
9. First Alert Smoke Alarm With Photoelectric Sensor
Overall Score: 7.4
Expert Reviews: 4
10. First Alert P1000
Overall Score: 6.5
Expert Reviews: 1

An Overview On Smoke Detectors

A properly installed, well-maintained and good quality smoke detector can literally save your life and the lives of those you love the most. Deciding the best brand and size for your home can be difficult since so much is riding on the little, plastic devices working as they should.

Battery-operated smoke detectors, such as the Alert Pro 10 Year Battery Smoke Detector, run solely on batteries, which are easy and affordable to install and replace. You can use a battery-operated detector in virtually any location. Provided the batteries are changed as needed, they will work during power outages as well.

Hardwired smoke detectors, like the Kidde i4618AC Hardwire Smoke Alarm, are connected directly into your home’s wiring. While they must be professionally installed, many have backup batteries that will last the lifetime of the alarm. So you can feel safe and not worry about remembering to change the batteries.

Many smoke detectors produce a loud, beeping or bleating alarm sound when triggered. This could certainly be ideal to alert you to fire or smoke danger. However, if you have heavy sleepers or young children in your home, they could be confused by or even sleep through the noisy alarm. Devices such as the Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm use voice alerts to explain what is happening. They can awaken you or notify you with spoken, easy to understand warnings.

According to the CDC, at least 430 people die from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning each year in the United States. Considering a combination of smoke and carbon monoxide detector, such as the First Alert SCO501CN-3ST Battery Operated Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm, could result in double protection for your home and family. Carbon monoxide can come from leaky furnaces, poorly ventilated wood burning stoves and many other sources commonly found in homes.

If you have a home security system, you might wish to consider purchasing a smoke detector that will integrate with your current configuration. This could give you increased protection, as many security providers monitor alarms like smoke detectors and can send emergency assistance even if you are away from home or unable to call for help.

Some smoke detectors are compatible with other smart home devices. For instance, devices such as the Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm can be integrated with smart hubs, mobile apps and virtual assistants, like Google Home and Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.

Of course, when shopping for new smoke detectors for your home, office or other location, you must consider how much you want to spend. Fortunately, there are devices that will fit any budget, ranging from just a few dollars to more than $100 apiece, depending on features, projected lifespan and other attributes.

DYWM Fun Fact

The smoke detector was invented on accident. A Swiss physicist named Walter Jaeger attempted to create a sensor for detecting poison gas in the 1930s. When the device didn’t work as Jaeger intended it to, the frustrated scientist lit a cigarette. He noticed that the smoke moved the sensor’s meter, paving the way for modern smoke detectors.

About three decades later, the Atomic Energy Commission granted the first license to distribute smoke detectors, which were primarily used in industrial settings. These detectors used radioactive materials. By 1969, the AEC allowed homeowners to use smoke detectors. Although modern smoke detectors contain minute amounts of a radioactive material called americium-241, studies have shown them to be safe. In fact, a 2001 study showed that two of these smoke detectors in a home emit the same amount of radiation that people encounter daily from space and the earth.

Between 2005 and 2009, nearly two-thirds of all deaths resulting from
home fires occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or with smoke
alarms that were not working.

The Smoke Detector Buying Guide

  • Ionization smoke detectors are ideal for detecting small particles associated with quick-burning flames. However, things like steam or burnt food can cause them to go off, so you might not want to use these in or near your bathroom or your kitchen.
  • Photoelectric smoke detectors are highly rated for early detection of smoldering fires that emit lots of smoke and large particles. While they have fewer false alarms, making them a good choice for kitchens and steamy areas, they might not detect fast-burning flames as quickly.
  • Dual-sensor smoke detectors provide the benefits of ionization and photoelectric smoke detectors. Alternatively, you could install different types of devices in different areas of your home.
  • Look for a UL stamp on a smoke detector before you buy it. Underwriters Laboratories (UL LLC) is a global safety company that certifies, validates, tests, verifies, inspects and audits a wide range of products including smoke detectors. The UL certification mark is the single most accepted one in the United States.
  • Be sure to check the date on a smoke detector as well. Although recommendations can vary between makes and models, Consumer Reports recommends replacing smoke detectors every 10 years. Note that this should be 10 years after the date the device was manufactured, not the date it was installed. Fortunately, the manufacture date is printed on the underside of smoke detectors.
  • The National Fire Protection Association recommends installing smoke alarms inside every bedroom as well as outside each sleeping area. On floors without bedrooms, smoke detectors should be installed in living areas, such as the living room or den, and near stairways to upper levels as well.
  • While homes built to earlier standards might be exempt, every state has regulations and standards regarding where and how smoke detectors are installed in residential buildings. Check the regulations or recommendations for your state, as some states require that you make necessary upgrades before renting or selling your home.
  • The U. S. Fire Administration recommends testing your smoke detectors monthly. Put a monthly reminder on your phone or calendar to push the button on every detector in your home to make sure the alarm works properly.
  • USFA also recommends changing the batteries in battery-operated smoke detectors one to two times per year. An effective way to remember this is to replace them every time you change your clocks for Daylight Savings.