Introducing a Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Alarm to your Z-Wave Network

Introducing a Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Alarm to your Z-Wave Network

What’s hip about home automation?  Lights? Locks? Smoke Alarms?

What? Smoke Alarm? I can bet that a smoke/carbon monoxide alarm isn't your first choice for a device to pair with your shiny new gateway.

Smoke alarms are very important to the safety of our loved ones, and we often overlook them. When seconds count, an alarm can give you and your family time to escape danger. And although they are often neglected, few people will admit that smoke alarms are unnecessary. The value of any working smoke alarm is in the lives it may save.

Why consider a Z-Wave smoke alarm?

It comes down to three things: batteries, batteries, batteries. 

batteries for smoke detectors

Yes, like any other Z-Wave sensor, Z-Wave enabled smoke alarms can be used to trigger alerts and alarms in your home. But just about any screaming alarm will get you out of bed; Z-Wave or not. But non Z-Wave detectors won’t give you alerts to your home automation system when your batteries are low, like a Z-Wave enabled device will. And, your gateway or hub can tell you what Z-Wave devices (like smoke alarms) aren’t working, allowing you to take immediate action. Because who checks smoke alarms anyway? You should. Look at these statistics**

Smoke alarms provide an early warning of a fire, giving people additional escape time. Here are some facts according to the NFPA:

  • In 2009-2013, smoke alarms sounded in more than half (53%) of the home fires reported to U.S. fire departments.
  • Three of every five home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms (38%) or no working smoke alarms (21%).
  • The death rate per 100 reported home fires was more than twice as high in homes that did not have any working smoke alarms compared to the rate in homes with working smoke alarms (1.18 deaths vs. 0.53 deaths  per 100 fires).
  • In fires in which the smoke alarms were present but did not operate, almost half (46%) of the smoke alarms had missing or disconnected batteries.
  • Dead batteries caused one-quarter (24%) of the smoke alarm failures.

On top of alerting you to battery status, a Z-Wave smoke or CO alarm paired with smart device, via your gateway or controller, can alert you of a danger in your home when you aren’t even present. (A child cooking without permission; an elderly family member left the stove on; a furnace on the fritz causes an unsafe condition for your family still at home, etc). While this should never replace a monitored alarm system, it is another layer of protection and peace of mind.

So while smoke alarms may be among the last things people add to their home automation systems, they should deserve more credit. Door locks and security sensors keep out the bad guys. Lighting controls are flashy (pun intended). There aren’t as many ads that address the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning, but for peace of mind a system of Z-Wave smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be on everyone’s list.

First Alert ZCOMBO

I just added this Z-Wave enabled 2 in 1 First Alert Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Alarm to my existing Z-Wave network. Pairing was very easy; I held down the test button while inserting the battery tray. It was that simple.

Installation was really easy too. Since I replaced an existing ‘dumb’ smoke alarm, I just needed to add the base to the existing screws. The base has the most interesting combination screw hole system I have every seen, adapting virtually any combination of existing screws/anchors. There are also anchors included for new installations.

This alarm only has 2 batteries, and the one I replaced had three AA. A quick search of the internet shows that people were getting between 1 and 2 years out of those 2 AA batteries, which is very acceptable to me.

When enrolling this device into my Vera Edge network, it quickly configured and showed up as a Smoke/CO Detector with the correct parameters. I have seen mixed evidence that this works well with Smart Things, but will it work with your gateway? The instructions claim that "the alarm will operate with 3rd party, certified Z-Wave devices. Basic command class required by all Z-Wave devices. By the requirements of the Device Class spec, this command class does not have to be mapped to any particular functionality for this device”

The instructions also state, “The alarm supports one association group with up to 1 node, and sends the alarms to that group.” So that means that if this alarm trips, it will not be able to be associated with other smoke alarms in your network.

Some advice from the First Alert instruction sheet:
•   Install this alarm on every level of your home, including finished attics and basements.
•   Install this alarm inside every bedroom, especially if people sleep with the door partly or completely closed.
•   Install this alarm in the hall near every sleeping area.

Check local rules, as well as NFPA 72 for Smoke Alarms, and NFPA 720 for Carbon Monoxide Alarms.

Click here to see First Alert ZCOMBO.

The First Alert ZCOMBO was the easiest device I have ever ‘tested.’  I hope I never need it, but I feel a little bit better having another Z-Wave device to protect me and my family. Please submit your questions to We would like to hear from you. 

Additional Resources:

First Alert ZCOMBO Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector installation manual

Frequently Ask Questions about Z-Wave Products

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