In my house, the prospect of the smoke alarm going off is almost as terrifying as the idea of an actual fire. It's the devastating scream of the contraption that I fear (along with my likely inability to silence it without grabbing the batteries). As for our carbon monoxide detector, it has yet to sound, but after a near-death experience during a weekend in an old house with a furnace that wasn't venting properly, I am ready to own the most state-of-the-art version. Enter the new Nest Protect, a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector that aims to right all of the wrongs of its competition—looks included. Its motto: "Safety shouldn't be annoying."
Above: Nest Protect is the latest product from Nest Labs, a company founded by former iPod chief Tony Fadell that's devoted to reinventing "unloved but important home products."
Above: The Nest Protect comes in black (available only from Nest) or white (available starting in November from Apple, Best Buy, Home Depot, and Amazon), and retails for $129—approximately four times the cost of most high-end smoke detector/carbon monoxide alarm combinations, but initial reviews say it's worth it. It's available in two versions, wired (120V) and battery powered.
Above: Before its alarm sounds, the Nest Protect placidly speaks (in a woman's voice), warning you that your house may be in danger and what the problem is. If you happen to have just blown out a bunch of birthday candles or torched a roast, you can silence the contraption with the wave of a hand.
Above: The Nest Protect can be connected to your phone or tablet. It will send notices if the alarm has gone off or the batteries are running low. And should you also own a Nest thermostat, the detector will communicate with it—alerting it, for instance, to turn off the gas furnace if the carbon monoxide alarm sounds.
Above: When the lights are switched off at night, the Nest Protect momentarily glows green (a sign that it's fully functioning). It also has "activity sensors" that act something like a motion-sensitive night light: in the dark, if you walk under the alarm, the light comes on to guide your way.
For more details, go to Nest.
To read about Nest's other invention, see Fixtures and Fittings: the Nest Learning Thermostat and Design Sleuth: the Nest Learning Thermostat.