My home's First Alert ONELINK system for smoke and carbon monoxide detection includes voiced warnings, with optional smartphone alerts
Back in April of 2010, the time had come for me to assess the value of crawling into my attic and basement to replace my home's 1994 vintage fire detectors. Yes, that's well beyond the recommended every 10 year replacement interval. Because the detectors were hardwired to one-another, the prospect of replacing them all meant it'd be far easier if they were all compatible with the existing wiring harness. I quickly realized that the proprietary connectors on each old Firex unit was no made. That meant I had a problem. While I had hoped to resolve this matter with a quick trip to Home Depot or Lowe's, I instead faced a long online search for a solution. I didn't really want to open up each junction box, rewiring for each new, also proprietary unit. Even worse, I didn't want to add new physical wiring to handle the rooms that never had detectors, but should have. So the hunt was on for a system that met my requirements, including:
- interlinked system, ie, one alarm triggers all the others to sound, to meet local code
- wireless, avoiding costly and time consuming fishing of wires
- easy to install
- long battery life (even hard wired units needed batteries to handle detection during power outages)
- reasonable cost
- combined functions, ideally, a 3-in-one carbon monoxide, smoke (photoelectric), and fire detector (ionization)
Turns out nobody made such a system that met all these wishes. The closest thing out there was the First Alert ONELINK series of products. While First Alert doesn't make any ONELINK ionization models, those can be more prone to false alarms, due to increased sensitivity. Not ideal, but not a deal-breaker for me.
I went with a combination of these two products, spread throughout the home:
First Alert ONELINK Battery Powered Combination Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm with Voice Location
SCO500 Instruction Manual
I put the smoke alarms in bedrooms, and at least one Smoke and Carbon Monoxide combo unit on each level of my home. Those combo units were in hallways, near the kitchen, and about 25 feet from my basement's gas furnace.
I'm glad to share that after 3+ years now, no false alarms. And the 3 AA batteries in each unit seem to last over 2 years, even with occasional system tests that I do. There was only one wireless system that fit my requirements in 2010, and even today in 2013, it still seems to be the only contender. While I wish there was more competition, I have no regrets with the decision I made.
It's very nice to be able to set each detector which area of the house it's going into. So when the alarm sounds for real, you'd get a logical alert throughout the home, such as "Carbon Monoxide Level was 30 ppm" or "Warning, smoke in the hallway, evacuate!" So be sure to get the units with voice, seen as you browse through the options below. Buying two-pack versions will certainly save you some money. And thinkingn back to the day I did the initial configuration and installation, I do wish had had put my home-brew ear protection on first!
Here's an article about how it works. And a video (below) that'll give you a very good look, with the straight-forward initial setup:
What are the drawbacks of the ONELINK system? Well, the voices can be a bit confusing, since they're not synchronized throughout the house. But that's not a big problem though, listen and watch First Alert's demonstration here (1m 50s):
I suppose it'd also be nice if the ONELINK system knew what time of day it is, using free atomic clock signals, helping to avoid sounding low battery warnings at 3am. But that family-unfriendly scenario can be entirely avoided by just remembering to replace the batteries regularly, AND replacing all the batteries in all units at that same time. I've now set a personal calendar entry to sound my smartphone every 2 years, on a reccuring basis.
Here's the cool part. As first discussed in this Smarthome forum Feb 2013 thread, there's a new device that'll bridge my ONELINK system with my existing Insteon Hub, the center of my growing home automation system. It's called the Insteon 2982-222 SmokeBridge, seen pictured at right. Why do I care? Whenever the ONELINK system is triggered, I'll be able to configure an alert to be sent my entire family's smartphones. Especially reassuring when none of us are home. Sure sounds appealing to me. I'll write up that experience in an upcoming article, watch for it at TinkerTry.com/category:HomeAutomation or better yet, subscribe to TinkerTry.
Your personal safety is your responsibility, this article is merely intended to share my own experiences with these products, in case you find it helpful. Following all of safety and usage advice by the manufacturer, First Alert, is highly recommended. See also the First Alert FAQ here.
When a battery does get low, the voice does alert you about which room that low battery is in, such as "the battery is low in child's bedroom." It also repeats this warning, multiple times.
Insteon Smoke Bridge 2982-222 works, and works well! Here's the video, including the unboxing, configuration, and testing, with real fire and smoke!
Insteon Water Leak Sensor 2852-222 testing coming up soon as well.
I've created a short and simple video that demonstrates a battery change and the recommended test that follows. It'll give you some idea of how noisy your house will be, when you go to change the batteries, ideally on all units, all at once, wearing hearing protection like my geeky setup. I also includes some tips about how to make it a bit easier, by using a screw driver to make popping the AA batteries out quite easy.
Interesting to note that I discover that the ONELINK system will warn you of any other low batteries in the house, before they even sound a warning.
See also Insteon Smoke Hub and Leak Detector by pcdoc on Jul 09 2013
A smart smoke detector dubbed Protect. Nest is jumping into the same market, with release of this subscription free add-on expected by year end. Likely to be more costly.
Report: Smart Thermostat Maker Nest Building Smoke Detector by Stephanie Mlot Sep 25 2013
Nest also opening up their API to developers.
Nest Labs To Open Up Its Learning Thermostat To Developers
Insteon Announces Connectivity to Nest Learning Thermostat on March 13 2014
Nest owners who purchase and install the Insteon Hub for their homes, as well as download the free Insteon app for both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, can simply add an installed Nest product to their list of remote-controlled devices in the Insteon app.
Oops, it'd seem I forgot to regularly replace all my sensors batteries often enough. Today, at 4:12am this lovely Sunday, a warning about battery low in basement went off, sound something like this. Not an ideal time, but given the follow-up recurring chirps, rolling over and trying to fall asleep again was not an option. I'm glad it told me the location, but I wasn't 100% sure what it said. So I pressed the test button on one unit, and at the end of the sequence, I then heard "basement," and noticed this reassuring email in my inbox:
From: Insteon [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Sunday, November 23, 2014 4:25 AM
To:[my email address]
Subject: Smoke Sensor - Test Alert
Smoke Sensor - Test Alert Message sent by INSTEON
Date: 01:25:06 AM GMT-08:00 11/23/2014
Unfortunately, it just so happens I ran out of fresh AA batteries last week. This is exactly the sort of reason you'll want to set off an annual calendar reminder to yourself, to replace them all when nobody is home, before something like this happens to your domestic bliss.
I found newer batteries around that I could install in the basement detector, so I could go back to bed. Guess where I found them? In a less than idea. place, another detector. That now-empty detector is prominent in my house, and I left it with it's battery drawer sticking out.
Looks like it's time for a run to the local Sam's Club for a fresh crop of AA batteries. And I realize the First Alert system has no clue what time of day it is, an unfortunate shortcoming that couldn't be more apparent to me today. Not a big deal, and easily avoided, through a regular annual battery replacement regimen, assisted with an annual recurring calendar reminder I just configured, see screenshot of my iCloud calendar entry...
End of service life
Three nights ago, around 5am, one of my 2 alarms labeled hallway sounded throughout the house:
“Detector error in Hallway, please see manual.”
So I groggily pulled the battery out of that one unit, and went back to bed.
Last night, again around 5am, my basement alarm sounded throughout the house:
“Detector error in Basement, please see manual.”
Determined to see what is going on here, I dug up this article to bring up the manual for my Model SCO500 (SKU SCO501CN-3ST). Sure enough, here's what it says:
Alarm has reached its End of Life
Voice: “Detector error in [Location, example “Basement”], please
see manual.” Repeated every 5 hours
Horn: 5 chirps every minute
Power/Smoke LED: 5 Flashes approximately once a minute
CO LED: Off
I decided to give First Link my first call to their technical support line. To my surprise, received immediate helpful service.
Turns out 5 years is the expected lifespan (and warranty) of the Model SCO500 units manufactured before 2011, and 7 years lifespan (and warranty) on those made since 2011. This is where my super handy Amazon Order history revealed that I had purchases these units in April of 2010, with a date of manufacture listed on the back, 2010 Feb 04. Yep, warranty is up.
This 7 year warranty period is confirmed right on the current detailed specifications page.
Placed my order
So today I placed my order for qty 3:
- First Alert SCO500B OLCOMBOV Wireless Interconnect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Combo Alarm with Voice & Location, Frust Free
to replace my two complaining SCO500 units quickly, and the 3rd SCO500 that is likely to complain soon:
Seems I can just leave my existing smoke detector only model SA511 units:
- First Alert SA511CN2-3ST Interconnected Wireless Battery Operated Smoke Alarm with Voice Location, 2-Pack
in place for another 4 years or so, until April 2020, when they've reached the end of their intended 10 year life (and warranty). If any die before the 10 years is up, I know who to call to ask for free replacement.
First Alert ONELINK Wi-Fi Hardwired Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm
I also noticed that First Alert now offers a pricey and better-looking detector, looking vaguely like a Nest Protect competitor, but at an even higher price:
Onelink Wi-Fi Smoke + Carbon Monoxide Alarm, Hardwired, Apple HomeKit-enabled by First Alert
(see also the Apple Accessories Product Page)
Wow, given I have 11 detectors in my 2 story + basement home, imagine what it would cost to equip my home with those? I'll stick with my First Alert ONELINK + Insteon Smoke Bridge combo for my smart phone alerts, thank you.
Insteon Smoke Bridge
I just noticed my Smoke Bridge did not alert my smart phone today during my tests. Turns out the darn Insteon iOS app had somehow logged off, likely after the last upgrade. Oops! At least it was easy to fix, but it highlights the importance of regular testing.
Once logged in again, I see this on the Insteon iOS app:
Fixing this was easy. The Smoke Bridge unit's LED was solid green, but I went ahead and unplugged it anyway, for 15 seconds. Plugged it back in, tada, running the Insteon iOS app again gives me green happiness.
For some reason, it stays on Testing forever, despite taps on the refresh at top-right. But it does seem to be working.
Next up, testing whether my phone now gives me a message as soon as an alarm is triggered. I simply followed along with this Insteon documentation:
and made sure my email was configured correctly, and alerts seem to be fine again. Turns out they were there under my main Insteon login's email account, but I wanted to push them other accounts that are more in my face on my phone.
Hopefully I don't have to think about these detectors again for another few years.
- First Alert Addresses Threats of Low-Level CO with a First-of-Its-Kind Innovation:
Jun 22 2016 Newell Brands Press Release
Apple® HomeKit-enabled Onelink Environment Monitor
Provides Instant Updates on Changing Home Conditions
(Aurora, Ill.) June 22, 2016 – With its latest connected home introduction, First Alert, the most trusted brand in home safety*, is shedding light on – and providing protection against – the threats of exposure to low-level carbon monoxide (CO). The new Onelink by First Alert® Environment Monitor features advanced sensing technologies to monitor for both high and low levels of CO, both of which can be hazardous to human health. This first-of-its-kind innovation uses Apple’s revolutionary HomeKit technology to quickly notify users of any environmental changes or dangers via their connected iOS devices (iPhone, iPad and iPod touch).
“Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless – but toxic and potentially deadly – gas emitted by common household appliances,” said Tom Russo, president of First Alert. “Standard CO alarms are designed to sense high levels of CO but will not detect low-level CO, which has been proven to be harmful to infants, the elderly and others with weak or compromised immune systems, with effects ranging from headaches and nausea to confusion and heart problems**. By monitoring for the presence of CO at all levels, the Onelink Environment Monitor provides protection for those most vulnerable and peace of mind for those who care for them.”
Part of the new Onelink by First Alert collection of connected smart home devices, the intuitive and compact Onelink Environment Monitor is a free-standing carbon monoxide monitor and alarm equipped with a 10-year internal electrochemical CO sensor. Through the free Onelink Home App, the micro-designed device delivers convenient access to information related to indoor atmospheric conditions and notifies users in the event of emerging CO levels or emergency conditions.
The powerful monitor detects and notifies the app user whenever CO readings register at or above nine parts per million over time (compared with 30–70 parts per million for a standard CO alarm). This low-level sensing ability is particularly important in homes with newborns, pregnant women or senior citizens, who can be especially susceptible to the effects of carbon monoxide**. When emergency levels of CO are detected, you are notified via the app’s push notification, the light flashes bright red and the device emits a loud, 85 decibel alarm, alerting that the area should be evacuated.
The Onelink by First Alert Environment Monitor also features built-in temperature sensors. A multi-colored LED ring on the monitor informs users at a glance regarding the status of their home’s temperature. The ring changes colors as temperatures shift. A white light glows if the room is at the programmed temperature, blue indicates the room is too cool and amber signifies it is too warm. The ring is dimmable and the brightness can be adjusted based on preference, serving as a night light.
“Sudden shifts in temperature can trigger allergies and other health hazards***,” explained Russo. “Having the ability to monitor and control these environmental elements can make a tremendous difference in the comfort and confidence of families impacted by these issues.”
The Environment Monitor plugs into a standard electrical outlet and contains a back-up lithium battery to sound in the event of emergency CO levels in case of power outages and connects via Wi-Fi to alert users on their iOS devices. Using the Onelink Home App, users can monitor a room’s environment, as well as test and silence the monitor. In addition, Siri voice commands allow users to check on their home’s temperature and inquire as to whether any changes have been detected. The unique monitor is compatible with a growing number of HomeKit-enabled devices, making things easy for consumers. Since the monitor is Apple HomeKit-enabled, data is always encrypted and privacy is built-in, allowing users to feel secure while benefiting from the convenience of a connected home.
“As our homes continue to get smarter, we want to ensure that simplicity, convenience and security are part of the equation,” said Russo. “The Onelink Environment Monitor keeps users informed about what’s happening inside their homes and allows them to be in control of their family’s living environment with today’s most user-friendly and data-secure technologies.”
Coming soon to retailers nationwide, the Onelink Environment Monitor is part of a complete line of HomeKit-enabled connected home products from First Alert. Other Onelink products include a Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm and Safe – all designed to work with the Onelink Home app and Apple HomeKit-enabled products, providing a simple, safe and efficient smart home solution. The Onelink Safe will be available soon.
For more information, visit www.firstalert.com/onelink.
- First Alert Brand Trust Survey, January 2016 – Results are based on the responses of 1,004 adults, ages 18 and older, living in the United States who completed a telephone survey, January 28-31,2016. Results are accurate to +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent confidence level and can be generalized to the entire adult population in the United States within those statistical parameters. For more information or a copy of the complete survey and results, contact Tim Young at LCWA: 312/565-4628 or email@example.com
** “Effects on health of prolonged exposure to low concentrations of carbon monoxide,” CL Townsend, RL Maynard; Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 10 April 2002
*** “Indoor Air Pollution Issues,” Jerrold B. Leikin, MD, Director of Medical Toxicology, NorthShore University HealthSystem-OMEGA
About BRK Brands, Inc.
BRK Brands, Inc. (Aurora, IL), is a fully owned subsidiary of Newell Brands. For 50 years, BRK Brands, Inc. has been the manufacturer of First Alert®-branded home-safety products, the most trusted and recognized safety brand in America. BRK® Brands designs and develops innovative safety solutions including Tundra™ Fire Extinguishing Spray, ONELINK® wireless alarms and a comprehensive line of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, fire extinguishers and escape ladders to protect what matters most. Such products are also marketed under the BRK Electronics® brand, The Professional Standard for the builder and contractor audiences. BRK Brands, Inc. products are found in more than 30 countries worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.firstalert.com, http://www.brkelectronics.com or http://www.newellbrands.com.
About Newell Brands
Newell Brands (NYSE: NWL) is a leading global consumer goods company with a strong portfolio of well-known brands, including Paper Mate®, Sharpie®, Dymo®, EXPO®, Parker®, Elmer’s®, Coleman®, Jostens®, Marmot®, Rawlings®, Irwin®, Lenox®, Oster®, Sunbeam®, FoodSaver®, Mr. Coffee®, Rubbermaid Commercial Products®, Graco®, Baby Jogger®, NUK®, Calphalon®, Rubbermaid®, Contigo®, First Alert®, Waddington and Yankee Candle®. Driven by a sharp focus on the consumer, leading investment in innovation and brands, and a performance-driven culture, Newell Brands helps consumers achieve more where they live, learn, work and play.
This press release and additional information about Newell Brands are available on the company’s website, http://www.newellbrands.com.
©2016 BRK Brands, Inc., Aurora, IL 60504. All rights reserved.
First Alert® is a registered trademark of The First Alert Trust, Aurora, IL 60504.
BRK Electronics® is a registered trademark of BRK Brands, Inc., Aurora, IL 60504.
NYSE is a registered service mark of NYSE Group, Inc.
Rebecca Raudabaugh or Lindsey Lucenta
L.C. Williams & Associates
P: 312-565-3900 or 800-837-7123
E: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com