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Imagine installing a battery-operated smoke detector that communicates with other detectors around the house so they all go off at the same time — just like hard-wired smoke alarms.  Now give them a voice telling you where the smoke is located and you’ve got First Alert’s ONELINK Talking Wireless Alarm.

The ONELINK alarms talk to each other over radio frequency 914 MHz and shouldn’t interfere with other wireless electronics.  They detect smoke via photoelectric sensing, which is more environmentally friendly and less likely to cause false alarms.

Best of all, the detectors actually use cheap AA batteries which are included with the alarm, instead of relatively expensive 9V batteries, so changing the batteries every six months when you’re supposed to won’t cost $20 a year.

You can get a pair of smoke alarms for about $90 or a combination CO and smoke alarm for a little over $70.

ONELINK [Fisrt Alert]
Street Pricing [Google]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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16 Responses to When Smoke Detectors Talk, People Listen

  1. Rick says:

    We have these in our house after watching a report on tv showing that kids are such deep sleepers, normal beeps do not wake them. Even though the voice alert is marginal to wake them, it helps me to know the location of the alert. On the major downside is that they eat batteries at the rate of about every month and a half. Small price to pay…but when the voice wakes me up to let me know batteries are low at 4am!!! Hmmmmmm, never lets me know during the day! But the voice does wake me…so I know it works.

  2. Old Coot says:

    They should have purchased the rights to my mother-in-laws voice; it’s been known to wake me out of a deep stupor more than once. And yes, I know I’ve used up my quota of MIL jokes for the year.

  3. bowdenski says:

    We have three of these and the batteries don’t need replacing within 12 month
    don’t know why mileage varies

  4. Zathrus says:

    Look, if you insist upon paying $10 for a single 9V battery, can I please sell you them? Buy 10 and I’ll even knock off 10%!

    Or go to HD, Costco, Sam’s, Fry’s, etc. and buy a 6 pack for $5.

    But I’d really rather sell you them. Look — one time deal. Buy 20 and I’ll knock 20% off. Call now! This special offer will expire soon!

  5. Zathrus:

    Ugh! Do I have to spell everything out?

    Of course I’m talking about having the requisite 5 or 6 smoke detectors (every bedroom, hallway, at least one for each level, etc…) and changing them twice a year.

    I’m figuring on about $1.50 a 9V, that’s even low for a Duracell or Energizer through normal retail avenues. Can’t use crappy off brands either. I’ve bought my share of them that don’t even register 8V right out of the package. It’s really fun to replace your smoke alarm batteries then have them go off a few days later at 4 in the morning.

    Even using Costco at 6 per $5 (I’ve seen $10 for $10 myself). I can get at least 24 AA cells for $10 at Costco. Which means I could replace the batteries in the ONELINK for under half the cost plus I don’t have to pick up special batteries that only my smoke detector uses, I can use AA cells of which I already have plenty because EVERYTHING ELSE takes them.

  6. Brooksy says:

    FirstAlert has a recall program in place to replace the units that burn through batteries: http://www.firstalert.com/news_onelink_recall.php

    The new units we received have been trouble free. However, they aren’t immune to the early morning low battery alerts that seem to plague all smoke detectors.

  7. ChrisW says:

    After being woken a couple of times, and trying to figure out which one was beeping,I started doing the battery change when the clocks change each six months. The old batteries still have enough juice to use in my digital multimeters.

  8. Zathrus says:

    @Benjamen Johnson:

    Oh, I know… I was just giving you some crap 🙂

    Yes, AA’s are waaaaay cheaper than 9V, so it’s cool that they’re able to run off the lower voltage now.

    That said, if you do have 9V smoke alarms, look into Lithium batteries. Spendy at the outset — about $10 ea, but they last 10 years as I recall.

  9. Firemarshal Bill says:

    Chris, and everyone else as well, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, always replace the batteries in your smoke detectors when you change your clocks. The chirping detector is letting you know the battery is low, once it’s dead it no longer chirps. If you go away for a few days and it starts chirping, it may stop before you come back and you will NEVER know you need new batteries. Also, if your detector is ten years old or older, replace them. After 10 years the detectors sensitivity to smoke starts to decline to dangerous levels and may not sound an alarm quickly eneough, if at all. Pushing the button just tests the electronics. It will NOT tell you if the smoke detector will still detect smoke.

  10. @Firemarshall Bill:

    I don’t want to sound like I’m disputing you, but can you site actual studies or sources that say that 6 months is a good interval or did fire safety people just pull that number out of their butt.

    I’m not one to regularly change my batteries, but about every 3rd daylight savings transition I’ll get a bug and change them all, but I have let them go for several years without changing the battery and occasionally had an alarm beep at me (after like 3 or 4 years). I’ve always thought that 6 months was awfully quick and that maybe the battery industry was giving kickbacks to fire safety promoters.

    I always thought testing the alarms was more busy work than anything. So what the point of testing the alarm every month like were supposed to if it doesn’t actually test if the alarm is working and you’re changing the batteries when their still at 75% of their capacity or more? Doesn’t it dilute the message?

  11. Firemarshal Bill says:

    Ok. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt here.

    Us fire safety people did not just pull the number out of our butts as you say, and no we don’t get kickbacks from battery manufacturers, whether you choose to believe it or not we tend to be motivated by a genuine desire to protect lives and property. I personally do not want to see any more charred bodies in homes without WORKING smoke detectors, it’s not pretty and it keeps me awake at night.

    The time frame was selected more as an easy way to remember to change the batteries, as the life span of a 9 volt battery varies greatly depending on manufacturer of the battery as well as the detector, and coming up with a specific recommendation was problematic. There are many reminders to the public every spring and fall to change your clocks and it was felt that linking battery changes to the change in time would help remind folks to do so.

    As to testing smoke alarms being busy work, if you’re too busy to keep yourself and your family safe by testing them, I can’t help you. I do see detectors that fail before their expected life span of 10 years, and there is no warning when they do, hence the need to test them.

    Testing them will tell you if the circuitry is still good but the only way to truly test them is with smoke, whether actual or simulated as in canned aerosol smoke. Testing with real smoke or canned smoke is generally out of the realm of possibility for most civilians, hence the test button and not the recommendation to walk around your house with a smoking smoldering stick from the barbecue pit in your hand.

    I will tell you that real fires aren’t like in the movies. On average, considering the layout of a typical 1 or 2 family home with typical furnishings, from the time of ignition to the time of full room involvement is about 4 minutes, that’s 4. Most detectors that are IN the room of fire origin will sound the alarm at about 30 seconds to 1 minute after the fire starts; we’re down to 3 minutes now. 3 minutes to become aware of the fire and get out. Not a lot.

    Now with only 3 minutes left in your life do you really want to take the chance that the battery in your detector is fresh and the detector is functioning properly? Me, I’ll pony up the couple of bucks twice a year for fresh batteries.

  12. @Firemarshall Bill:

    Thank you for answers to my question. I have no doubt that you have a genuine desire to protect lives and property, why else would you do what you do? The crack about the kickbacks from the battery industry was tongue in cheek and probably in bad taste.

    I guess my main two points are:
    1) Recommendations without justification are meaningless. If you don’t understand the reason why your doing something your not going to do it. It needs to be part of your message.

    2) If your not really testing whether the smoke alarm actually works, isn’t it just a false sense of security.

    Do you have recommendations on where to get some canned smoke?

  13. Zathrus says:

    Ben, I don’t know, but I can make some guesses…

    For the batteries, it’s very probably that some “heavy duty” (aka zinc oxide — not alkaline) batteries may have a life of around a year in “monitoring” mode. Now, if you’ve got one of these and it goes active toward the end of its lifetime, how long do you think the alarm will sound for before it goes dead? Maybe 30 seconds?

    Also consider that modern smoke alarms are probably a lot more efficient than the old ones — to the point where you can run an alarm with both voice and beeping off a pair of AAs rather than a 9V for the same duration (or longer).

    Again, all supposition…

    As for the testing — all you can do is test the electronics. The actual detection bit is chemical, and there’s simply no way to test that except for with smoke. And yeah, I agree — it’s pretty much a false sense of security (and the failure rate for the electronics should be pretty darn close to zero).

  14. Chris says:

    Incense sticks work great for testing smoke detectors. Of course, your house smells like a college dorm room afterwards…maybe if you found some un-scented ones (the kind you would then soak in essential oil to add scent to)?


  15. Firemarshal Bill says:

    Well my wife tests the smoke detector just outside the kitchen on a regular basis without ever touching a button. But let me address your points.

    1) As for recommendations without justification being meaningless, well that’s debatable. Maybe this doesn’t occur in your area, but in my district we are always getting the word out and explaining the why of fire prevention not just the how. But when it comes down to a public safety campaign you have to reduce the message to a sound-bite, because typically that’s all the media will give you. And can you imagine a billboard or banner advertisement that says “Change your smoke detector batteries” because alkaline batteries of brand XYZ may only last 5 months in detector brand ABC but 9 months in brand DEF but battery brand UVW in detector DEF but not ABC etc etc blah blah blah.” Then you need the disclaimer to protect you from lawsuits from the battery and or detector manufacturer not to mention the lawsuit against local fire officials “they told me this battery would last a whole year but it was only 9 months old when my fire occurred and my detector didn’t work. See where I’m going here? Doesn’t make for a good ad campaign.

    2) You are testing that part of the detector easy for the average homeowner to test, the electronics and the battery. Yes the failure of modern electronic is fairly low, if this was an electronic thermometer we’re talking about who cares, but it’s not, it’s a life safety device, not the kind of thing you want to take a chance on not working even considering the low failure rate.

  16. Doug says:

    After reading all this interesting stuff. I would not have a clue how old my alarms are and since when have the experts been aware these things are unreliable after ten years. No mention of this on a new alarm or even an expiry date,this is a SERIOUS omission

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