First Alert Onelink Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Every home needs to have multiple smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed – that’s really simple common sense and in a lot of areas it’s required by law.
In my home I had five smoke detectors throughout and two carbon monoxide detectors of which two units were wired and the rest were battery based. All of these units were getting older and our regulations require them to be replaced every 10 years regardless of condition. In looking at options some of the latest generation of detectors now come with 10 year sealed batteries which is appealing to me having gone through the infamous 3AM chirping of a smoke detector that has a low battery. Another option I noticed on the wired detectors was a battery backup which seemed to make a lot of sense as well.
In the world of home automation though your choices are limited to only a handful of companies and if you include HomeKit as a requirement then your choices are further limited to one option only at this moment – First Alert Onelink. Thankfully Onelink system battery based units come with 10 year sealed battery and their wired systems have battery backup as well – this seemed like a good choice to check out. So I ordered two wired and three battery based units from my favourite online retailer and they arrived the next day.
Like a kid in a candy shop, I eagerly opened up the first wired unit and started to plan out my installation. The instructions are rather simple – unbox the unit, know where you want to physically install it, download the app and follow the instructions. Yes – the app has all the instructions on how to physically install the unit to the wall (or ceiling) including where the optimal location should be. I found this particularly interesting regarding ideal locations as there was recently a house fire in my area where a family had perished and the authorities stated that despite having working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, they were likely installed in the wrong locations – a truly tragic event.
In the box you will find the detector itself, a mounting bracket, some wall plugs and screws, and instructions should you need them. If the unit is wired then you will find some common wiring harnesses should your home come with a pre-terminated connector already in the wall – note that you need to use one of these harnesses depending on how it will be wired in. In my case, the old smoke detectors were simply connected via twist on connectors so I chose the harness that has bare wires.
Safety note: ALWAYS make sure that the circuit breaker is OFF before performing any electrical work and if needed or required, consult an electrician.
Upon removing the old smoke detector I aligned the new mounting bracket to the holes in my electrical box and screwed them in. The new Onelink unit simply inserts and twists into place on the mounting bracket which is very straight forward, however you will want to pay attention to how you align the mounting bracket in relation to how the detector unit will look once twisted into place. Once the new unit was mounted, the LED on the front of the unit started to flash and a friendly voice starting talking to me instructing me to use the app to finish the setup.
There are several stages the app performs to complete the setup as you will see by the screen shots below. The first step utilizes Bluetooth on your phone to pair up to the unit and communicate. The process takes about 2 minutes between pair up via Bluetooth, programming the unit to use your wifi network, and then finalize the HomeKit configuration.
Overall, with the five units I installed in my home this went pretty smoothly but was not perfect. On two occasions the setup between my iPhone and the Onelink unit seemed to time out and I had to start the configuration all over. On one occasion a Onelink unit stopped responding all together about 10 minutes after configuration has completed at which point I had to do a factory reset of the unit. Since then however the Onelink units have worked flawlessly and on three of the units there were firmware upgrades that I did, which is hopefully a sign of continued updates to the software on them.
I have a couple of minor complaints with these units so far and I do stress that these are minor issues but hope to see them fixed sometime.
One is the management of the Onelink units via their app. While the app works fine, you can only communicate with the Onelink units while in range of Bluetooth. This is the only product so far that I have run across this and it seems strange to me. If I use the Apple Home app to check the status of the smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector then that works fine locally and remotely.
The second issue is that when an alarm goes off (while I was testing) then all the units are supposed to alarm at the same time. While the units do all sound an alarm in that situation, they are quite staggered in delivery of the alarm up to 30 seconds in difference. I would have expected them to be very closely synchronized in that regard.
Paul Stewart lives near Peterborough, Ontario in Canada. This blog is about all things not work related including home automation, home renovations and anything else that comes along that I feel like writing about!