Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nest Protect Smoke Alarms Are Available Again

Two months after Nest took the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm off the market, it is available again. The problem was the "wave-to-silence" feature - during laboratory testing they found an edge case where the wave-to-silence feature could be accidentally activated, delaying (not stopping) an alarm in the case of a real fire. Sales were halted, and an update was pushed out via the internet that disabled the wave-to-silence feature.

Since it is on my mind, I thought I would throw up a post about why I wanted (and like) the Nest Protect.

I'll start out by admitting, straight up, that it is a glossy piece of plastic with a WiFi connection that can talk to me. No bones about it, this product was target-locked on my wallet from the moment I heard about it.

For context, we have three Nest Protects in the house - one on each floor, as required by code for carbon monoxide detectors. These are supplemented by cheap smoke (not carbon monoxide) detectors in each bedroom (and one for the garage, which I still haven't gotten around to installing) - technically this isn't to code, as the cheap detectors and the Nest Protects are not networked with each other. The plan is to gradually replace the cheap stand-alone smoke detectors with networked Nest Protects as budgets allow and occupancy demands. Here's why I like the Nest Protect:

First, before we bought the house, I did a little reading about carbon monoxide. The idea of a deadly gas that can make me too stupid to realize I'm being gassed scared the heck out of me. Even if it wasn't a legal requirement to have a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of the house, I would have installed them.

Second, the most common source of carbon monoxide in homes is from burning fuel - usually the stove and the furnace. Our stove is electric, but our furnace burns natural gas and is 23 years old - at the end of its expected life cycle (my wallet is really looking forward to replacing the furnace, let me tell you). We had already purchased a Nest Thermostat at our previous apartment, and had moved it over to the house when we moved in. When a Nest Protect senses carbon monoxide, it tells the thermostat to shut off the furnace, cutting off the likely source of the carbon monoxide.

Third, all the Nest products are redundantly networked through both WiFi and a variant of the Zigbee protocol. If there is an alert on one of them, ALL of them will tell you about it.

Fourth, the Nest Protects can be named and will talk to you. If there is smoke in the basement, the Nest Protect there (which I imaginatively named "The Basement") will send out an alert, and all the Protects in the house will say (literally): "Warning. Smoke detected in "The Basement". It doesn't get much clearer than that. (If the smoke gets worse, an 85 decibel siren goes off in addition to the verbal warning).

Fifth, and this one turned out to be way more important than I ever expected, the Protects have a motion-activated night-light feature. Pretty much every review I read about the Protect slammed this feature, and I can understand why: if you are doing a product review during business hours and just flick off the light for a few minutes to test this feature, it is not going to do anything for you - the night light is way too dim and your eyes haven't adjusted yet. But I can tell you from experience - the Nest team nailed the correct light level for waking up in the middle of the night and stumbling to the bathroom. As petty a detail as this sounds, this is the primary reason I am in a hurry to add a Nest Protect in the master bedroom.

Sixth (and last in the list because this feature is not yet available), Nest is working on publishing an open API for their devices. This would allow me to tie the Protects in to the rest of the smart house network, and instantly give me motion- and presence-sensors, temperature and humidity sensors, and speakers throughout the house. The API was supposed to be published in "early 2014", but Nest was bought by Google between that announcement and now. However, Google's big I/O event is next week, and is technically in the first half of 2014. Maybe the API will be released then? *shrug* I still don't have my Z-wave network up and running properly, so it's not like I'm ready for it anyway.

So, that's my take on the Nest Protect. I am a very satisfied customer, and I am looking for space in the budget to get more.

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