A Sense of Security: Your Guide to Smart Home Sensors
Smart home sensors give you peace of mind that when something goes wrong at home - whether that's a fire or a flood - you'll hear about it on your phone.
When you first think about a smoke detector, you probably imagine a powered box on your ceiling, just out of reach on your least safe chair, emitting an incessant beep, a little like a hospital monitor in the middle of the night.
Or a continuous tone every time you make toast.
They are definitely a technology that could stand to be smartened up, but they’re also an essential service.
The risk of dying in a structure fire is halved by working smoke alarms.
This makes choosing the right device all the more important.
The addition of smart technology brings with it a number of new possibilities.
By communicating with you using voice messages from their speakers and by phone notifications, alarms can now give you a gentle first warning which you can choose to disable on your phone (presumably before you have to deal with something you left too long on the hob).
The Nest Protect, for example, uses the phrase ‘Head’s up, there's smoke in…’ and then the name of the room you've assigned to the detector.
This is useful when you're at home, but a real bonus for both safety and your peace of mind when you're out.
Smart home smoke detection really comes into its own when you realize that fires that begin while no one is at home (perhaps caused by faulty appliances or something you've left on) can now be avoided.
A detector, which isn’t connected to the mains, still needs to alert you to upcoming battery replacement.
This, however, can also be done via your phone's app and, again in the case of the Nest Protect, by reassuring you with a flashing green light that there's enough energy to last until morning as you pass by on your way to bed.
Smart smoke detectors can be placed just as you would normal ones.
Building standards now call for wired smoke detectors to be fitted to new homes and when modernization takes place, so make sure you select either battery powered or wired to match your existing system
CARBON MONOXIDE (CO) ALARMS
Natural gas, petrol (gas), oil, kerosene, coal and wood may all produce CO when burned, and every year there are around 430 deaths in the USA and 60 in England and Wales from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.
The solution is to ensure that all your appliances are properly installed and vented according to building standards.
BELOW: Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector
NEST PROTECT SMOKE AND CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR
One of the best examples of a smart home smoke detector is the Nest Protect.
It combines the advantages of a smart system (alerts to your phone, naming individual detectors by room so those alerts make sense and so on) and smart engineering, including lights with sensors which (assuming you allow the feature) come on as you pass beneath them at night.
There is even a moisture sensor to avoid shower steam causing false positives.
As with all Nest products, this smoke detector integrates seamlessly into the Nest app ecosystem and can work with your thermostat and Nest cameras to cut the heating or cooling system if fire is detected.
Read my hands-on review of the Nest Protect.
Moisture detectors can protect the long term security of your home by warning about leaks that lead to potentially expensive repairs, and the short term is also a factor worth considering.
Imagine, if you will, water spreading over a tiled surface where the floor might quickly become slippery - it'd be worth knowing about that before someone slips and hurts themselves.
That said, given that prices vary from around $35 to over $70, you may want to give some thought as to how much that knowledge is worth.
SMARTTHINGS MOISTURE SENSOR
If you already have a SmartThings home automation kit, the moisture sensor can easily be added to the integrated hub.
Like other SmartThings devices, the sensor can tell your heating or air conditioning to shut off if moisture is detected near one of your pipes.
The sensor also has an integrated temperature sensor, so it can be used to monitor a remote boiler room or basement.
FIBARO FLOOD SENSOR
The Fibaro flood sensor is designed to be placed on the floor and detects water underneath it, good for slippery puddles spreading across a surface.
It even has a tamper alarm activated if picked up.