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Last updated: 31 May 2017

Smoke alarms are an essential safety item for every home, but they aren't all equally good. We lab test and review the latest models to help you find the best smoke alarms for your home. Our buying guide will help you decide which type of smoke alarm you need and where to install them, and how we test explains our testing rigour.

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Our test covers photoelectric, ionisation and dual sensor smoke alarms. We include mains-powered and battery-powered models, including several with 10-year lithium batteries.

Our expert testers give every model a thorough workout to help find the ones that:

  • are best at detecting real fire situations
  • are not too sensitive to nuisance smoke and fumes (such when making toast)
  • are easy to use and have useful features such as a hush button.

Our interactive comparison tool helps you find out how each model performs in a range of fire situations and which ones are priced to suit your budget. Our Recommended models will help you see quickly which ones come out on top.

Note that a high overall score in this test is not always enough to earn a recommendation. We recommend models that score at least 70% overall, but we also set a minimum score for the smouldering foam test: photoelectric alarms must score at least 80% in this test, as this is exactly the sort of smoke they should be quick to detect. Ionisation and dual sensor models must score at least 70% in the smouldering foam test. Ionisation models are less effective at detecting this sort of smoke, and for dual sensor models, fitting both types of detector into one unit may involve a compromise in the internal space; but in either case they should still be good at detecting this common fire type.

This review includes some models now discontinued or superseded: to see those, use the "availability" filter under Related products at left.

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Brand

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List of brands we tested in this review.

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Recommended or typical retail price.

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Type

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Photoelectric, ionisation or dual sensor. See our buying guide for details about each type.

Battery type

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Regular 9V or AA batteries need to be replaced annually. 10-year lithium batteries last the life of the smoke alarm and don't need to be replaced. Mains-powered units have a battery back-up in case of power outages.

Test results

Performance score

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Based on comparative speed of response under similar smoke levels in a range of tests. Made up of 'real fire' scenarios 70% (made up of smouldering foam 40%, burning wood 20%, smouldering wood 20%, and burning oil 20%) and nuisance smoke scenarios 30%.

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Nuisance alarm score

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Based on the comparative speed of response to nuisance sources ('false alarms') from cooking toast, smouldering cooking oil and cooking a hamburger patty. The faster the alarm detects this type of fire, the lower the score. Models with high scores are less likely to go off due to nuisance smoke/fumes, such as from cooking.

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Smouldering wood score

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Based on the comparative speed of response to smouldering wood. The faster the alarm detects this type of fire, the higher the score.

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Burning wood score

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Based on the comparative speed of response to burning (flaming) wood. The faster the alarm detects this type of fire, the higher the score.

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Specifications

Warranty (years)

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The warranty period (in years). Alarms should last for 10 years so a 10-year warranty is best.

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Features

Hush button

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Silences the alarm temporarily. Useful in case of a nuisance alarm.

Interconnectable

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With an interconnectable model, you can connect multiple alarms (usually by wire) so that when one goes off, all go off. 

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  • Recommended
  • Overall score
  • Performance score
  • Ease of use score
  • Smouldering foam score
  • Smouldering wood score
  • Burning wood score
  • Burning oil score
  • Nuisance alarm score
  • Good points
  • Bad points
  • Brand
  • Model
  • Availability
  • Price
  • Type
  • Intended use
  • Battery type
  • Hush button
  • Interconnectable
  • Warranty (years)
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