Late last September it was rumored that a smart smoke/carbon monoxide detector would join the now Google-owned Nest line of smart thermostats and was later announced in early October to a great response.

The Nest Protect, which retails for $129 in both a wired and battery powered variant, intelligently interacts with an iPhone app called Nest Home with warnings about low batteries (if applicable) and when alarms are active or about to be active. It also features a handy dismissal gesture for silencing a screaming alarm.

Some users, however, are reporting a number of unprompted false alarms unrelated to cooking or other reasonable instances. One user even reported the alarm stubbornly going off for 30 minutes in the middle of the night with no sign of smoke and ignoring prompts to dismiss the alarm after an apparent glitch in the device…

Several users have echoed a similar experience on a Nest Community support thread reporting cases where the Nest Protect hardware had to be replaced to resolve the issue with startling false alarms. Customers on Amazon have also reported false alarms with Nest Protect hardware.

Such an occurrence could be very inconvenient, especially if the Nest Protect were to warn you of smoke or carbon monoxide presence via its app while you’re away from the home.

After two weeks of using the Protect, just before bed when the system did its nightly self-check, I heard a voice that said something to the extent that the unit had failed and it needed to be replaced. Shortly after the warning, the device started to chirp and I received a notice on my iPhone about the unit failing. It’s pretty easy to silence a false alarm, but the chirp because of a failed device cannot be silenced and it happened right before bed.

For its part, Nest has been readily replacing reportedly defective units for customers after reports of such issues suggesting it could be a hardware related issue (as a software issue would surely exhibit the same behavior), and it’s often expected that first rounds of products offer bugs and kinks. What’s not expected for users is a product designed to remove friction from a classic appliance to add more frustration on its own.

1 of my 4 Nest protect units had a false alarm last night. A little before midnight, all 4 units beeped and loudly announced “There is smoke in the entryway”. The family got out of the house and I tried to find the source of the smoke. There was none. I brought everyone back in, scared, as the alarm continued and attempted to wave the alarm off. No response. I finally got a broom out, just like the commercial and pressed the button. “This alarm cannot be silenced”.

We’ve reached out to Nest for comment on the reports of false alarms experienced by customers and will update if we hear a response.

Could a firmware update resolve the issue for existing users? Have you experienced any false alarms yourself? Sound off in the comments below.

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62 Responses to “Is the Nest Protect fire alarm giving users false alarms?”

  1. Gregg Mojica says:

    Well, at least Nest is replacing those units that are defective.

  2. coolguyme says:

    Seems google is already working its magic

  3. standardpull says:

    One failure out of the millions sold doesn’t seem very interesting. Remember the videos of the iPhone flame-out, and the iPhone charger that killed a woman? Only later did it turn out that the circumstance was far different than reported (namely: very botched 3rd party repair; crappy 3rd party charger).

    I’m not saying that failures don’t happen in the field – they do. But any report from unknown sources has to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, most industries love to inject FUD against successful upstarts. Again, see Apple and the iPhone and the marketing reactions by BlackBerry, Samsung, Nokia, and Microsoft.

    All said, I’m not sure why someone would want an Internet-connected smoke and CO alarm. According to my interpretation of local fire code, the Nest devices don’t meet the regulations and are 10x more expensive than what I’ve installed in my home.

  4. now that nest is google propriety lets talk shit about it

  5. Phil Schiller is behind the false alarms

    • drgeert says:

      This article is way too obviously the result of a Schiller incited mud throwing campaign.

      Apple: shame on you.

      9to5Mac: be more selective.

      • Kroo Smith says:

        To quote Colonel Nathan R. Jessep, “You can’t handle the truth”!

      • davej40 says:

        Really? Do a Google search for “Nest false alarms” and the first hits will be the community forum on Nest’s own website. And yes, I’m not an Apple guy but I got a false alarm at 5:30 in the morning.

  6. Wade Strange says:

    Actually, I’m relieved to see that this issue is a bit more widespread than just us since I also had something similar happen with one of our Protects. It was actually completely terrifying if I’m honest.

    I was at work and received a notification on my iPhone that there was “smoke in the basement”. Our 5 Protects had been installed for 3 or 4 weeks at this point. Because I had a hunch this was a glitch with new technology I decided not to call the fire department and instead raced home (also not safe). We have two cats and an alert on your phone basically telling you your house is burning down is more disturbing than I anticipated it would be.

    I got to the house and all five alarms were blaring. There was no visible smoke so I ran around trying to see what was setting the alarms off. I waved the basement alarm finally silencing it and checked on the cats who were both shaking since they had been there for a half hour with the alarms going off and I’m sure they were completely disoriented. About 10 minutes after I silenced the alarm it started doing off again. Same message: “There is smoke in the basement”. I decided to be safe to call the fire department. I thought maybe there was something in the walls or maybe smoke in a neighbor’s unit (townhouses). Fire department shows up. Alarm goes off again with them all there but they can’t find anything. Finally the basement Protect says something like “smoke is clearing from the basement” and the alarms stopped. The firemen basically said the unit must be failing and told me to disconnect it.

    Of course I called Nest and they replaced it the next day via overnight shipping. And we haven’t had any other false alarms. But I was really struck at how just one false alarm like this with something as serious as a possible fire in your home (especially when you aren’t there) completely kills all trust of the system. What if we were on vacation? We could have been looking at a situation where the cats could have been conceivably in the house for days with the alarm going off for no reason. Not cool. Or even worse, the house is friggin’ burning down and we aren’t taking it seriously because we think it’s just another Protect failing.

    So yes, some will say this is what I get for being an early adopter. I know bugs are to be expected with new technology and I’m very used to this trade-off. But my view has really changed when it comes to a device that is meant to protect my family. Fire alarms are deadly serious and not something that I really want to tolerate bugs in.

    All that said, we haven’t gone so far as to remove the Protects yet. But if we have one more false alarm there is no question that these will all be coming down and I will look to Nest to do the right thing and refund us for our troubles. In the meantime I am looking for a connected camera system so we can check if we get a Nest alarm to see if we see smoke. Not fool proof but maybe it will help us not panic so much if there is another false alarm.

    • I was home when mine went off like that. The kids had a minor panic attack ;-) After checking for smoke smell I realized it was a false alarm. Trying to quiet the Protects was a chore. Called support and was told I had to take the offending unit off the ceiling and take the batteries out.

      Long story short after about 20 to 30 minutes all units were silent.

      Like you this event has broken my trust in those units. I am leaving them on hoping Nest will explain what they will do to prevent future events like this.

      If they setoff once more like that I will pack them back and ship them back to Nest ;-(

      Never had a false alarm with my 10 year old legacy units I had before.

    • Oflife says:

      Solution is simple: In house networked video cameras, which cost very little today. No smoke without fire! I hope this is what Nest do next, although I imagine people will find it creepy that a Google owned company has cameras in their homes.

      • Not a trying to slam you or anything like that… But the solution to a product that is far from inexpensive shouldn’t be to go out and buy more crap. Your failing to provide an honest assessment and solution of the real problem by ignoring it. The cameras won’t prevent false alarms or increase trust in the Nest devices, in fact it seems to be just the opposite. Just saying….

    • But wouldn’t the cats have been *more* freaked out had an old-fashioned smoke detector gone off while you were out…and *didnt* alert you to come home and check it out?

  7. irwinr says:

    I have four Protect units and I’m getting false alarms regularly. I’ve traded the “burnt toast” false alarm for steam false alarms (e.g., making pasta).

    One of the four units failed two nights ago at 2:30am, chirping away madly an waking up the whole house. It would not be shushed, removing it from my house with the app did nothing. It had to be removed from the ceiling, then I had to use a jeweler’s screwdriver to remove the screws on the back and remove the batteries.

    Better off with a cheap unit from your local hardware store. This product is a flop.

  8. I’ll follow up on the point raised by the fellow who raced home to see if there was actually smoke in the basement. A fire alarm is different than a word processing program or even your phone operating system. Malfunctions cause real physical or mental harm. Is there some different standard of care demanded of these types of devices as far as testing and transparency? Surely it’s not good enough to hugely promote a product and then say “well, v1 problems” when the fire alarm goes off when it shouldn’t. Or worse yet, visa vera.
    I consider myself an enthusiastic early adaptor, and have only just started to consider the implications of wiring myself into the net in this way. Leaving aside hacking, there’s all the challenges of software updates and eventual lack of support for legacy systems. My current smoke detector is 10 years old. My computer maker does not support hardware or software for a 10 year old machine.
    I’m coming to think that maybe a “dumb” car, “dumb” fridge and “dumb” smoke detector might be good enough for a smart human to use.

    • It certainly raise questions. My 1st reaction when I figured it was a false alarm was to think that Nest had been hacked and hackers had setoff all Nest Protect alarms. I taught that the support line was going to be through the roof. Luckily this was not the case… but can you imagine if hackers triggered a mass false alarm hack!

      Certainly make me think twice now that I have gone through the experience…

    • newmorning says:

      Legacy support is not a problem because you have to replace your Protect after 7yrs. Look at the back of the unit and it’s got a “replace by” date.

      Beyond the privacy concern that now your Protect will be notifying Google every time you turn over in bed at night, there is the broader concern of hackers. I think the “internet of things” is going to get a big reality check the first time you have the equivalent of the Target security breach on some home automation products, like your front door lock.

    • pecospeet says:

      @Submitetcetc. All smoke (and CO) alarms have expiry dates and should be replaced routinely – not just the Nest. Mine came with a sticker that says “Replace in 2016″ – that would be 7 years after manufacture. You might want to consider replacing your “dumb” smoke detector(s) soon.

      • Good point. Much like the cottage cheese in my fridge, I guess I take the “best by” date rather casually. I would say that even seven years in network time has the capacity for leapfrogged changes and obsolescence. As one example, just about 7 years ago the first iphone was introduced. I suspect that support for OS1 has not been high on the company’s list of priorities for several years, however much I might still want to use it.

        It goes to the question of what is a consumer durable good – you buy it, it does what it says, and you use it until it wears out. Or whether we will all be convinced that everything from our toasters to our…smoke detectors should be continuously improving. I’m personally somewhere in the middle (why are will still drying clothes by blasting them with hot air) but nowhere near being convinced that I need a fridge to tell me when to buy milk.

  9. It has happened to me too. My wife was cooking dinner and the alarm went off. I tried to silence it but it said “this alarm cannot be silenced”. I eventually jumped to hit the manual button and it fell onto my head creating a big bump. I had to stick it under a clay pot in the basement to stop the incessant beeping. It caused a lot of unneeded stress, especially for my wife that is 5 months pregnant.

  10. Oflife says:

    What will be worse if if they do NOT go off when there IS a fire. Anyone done a test? Set toaster to 11!

  11. Krister Holm says:

    I bought five. Two gave false alarms and I had to rip the batteries out. The cost of being an early adopter i guess.

  12. drgeert says:

    Does 9to5Mac seem biased against Google by coming with rumorous anti-Nest headings ending with question marks right at this moment?

    If not 9to5Mac, who can I trust anymore?

    • Kroo Smith says:

      For someone who has ventured to an Apple users forum, you seem somewhat over the top with you statements. Bias? How, they’ve just reported what has been reported elsewhere, and it is factual, so perhaps you should offer up an apology, then go back to your android forums, where you obviously feel at home. You know, if you don’t like the reporting here, you know where the door is.

    • davej40 says:

      Hey Dr. Geert, if you want to find a site that seems more “biased” against Google, just go to Nest’s own community forum and look up “false alarms” and you’ll see more anti-Nest posts there than anywhere else. Know how I ended up on that forum? Well, one of my Nests went off at 5:30am when there was no smoke whatsoever. Never had a false negative or positive reading with regular smoke alarms in decades.

  13. Alarm going off in kitchen due to cooking. Get out of here that never happens.

  14. Yes they do. Had to return one of the Nest smoke detectors for the reason stated in this article. Nest customer service however is useless and they don’t know what they are doing or talking about.

  15. yes, i received a false alarm at 4:30am about a week ago. it stated there was smoke in the dinning room. both my wife and i jumped out of bed, i waved off the alarm on the bedroom smoke alarm. this did work successfully, but when we went to the dining room, no smoke. nothing smelled like smoke and there was no smoke. we went back to bed and have not had another false alarm since.

  16. False alarm (excuse the pun). Sounds like angry Apple people making stories up to give Nest a bad name, now that Google acquired it. Dirty media tactics.

    • Kroo Smith says:

      Seeing as many posters here have testified the problem, why do you automatically think its false? Just because google bought a dud company? Surely not.

    • davej40 says:

      If you think these posts of false alarms are false just because they are on an Apple site, why don’t you take a look at Nest’s own community forum and search for “false alarms”. You’ll see lots more posts and complaints about false alarms there. And guess how I ended up on that forum? Yep, my Nest gave a false alarm at 5:30am which especially sucks since I work a swing shift. I have never had a false positive or negative alarm from a standard smoke detector (I want the alarm to go off when I’m burning toast) in decades until now. Makes me lose confidence in a device that’s supposed to save my life.

  17. hwkremer says:

    I purchased one, and got a “bad sensor” alarm second night I had it. Called tech support, and they replaced it. Said it’s “rare.” We have three more in the box ready to install – having second thoughts on whether to keep them or not.

  18. John Still says:

    Yesterday while at work I received a message on my iPhone, timed at 12:22, “Emergency, Hallway, There is smoke. The alarm is sounding.” Then at 12:28 a further message “Smoke clearing, Hallway, The smoke level is decreasing.”

    I did not think it likely that my house was on fire. My nest thermostat app was reporting that the hall temperature was 13 degrees centigrade.

    I immediately took a taxi to my house.

    I was monitoring the temperature on route and saw it rise to 14 degrees after which there was no further increase.

    Arrived home about 20 minutes after the alarm was raised. No smoke, no fumes, no smell of burning, no evidence of anything wrong.

    My actions could be considered stupid as I did not instantly phone for the fire brigade
    a) the temperature was not raised
    b) no one and no pets were in the house
    c) I live in a detached house

    Overall result wasted £10 on a taxi and have lost faith in the product and therefore less likely to believe any future alarm if I away from my house. This can’t be a good situation to be in.

  19. Hi… guess what time it is? 12h52 AM… right in the middle of the night. Our nest protect unit in the basement decided it was time for a test fire alarm right in the middle of the night!

    Again, no warning, all units in the home went crazy alarming that there was smoke in the basement. The only positive thing is that I could husher the friking unit in the basement and all the other went silent… but I still had to take it off the ceiling, take the batteries out and reset the thing.

    Sorry Nest but your Protect is not ready for safeguarding my house. Once I can tolerate, but now twice and I no longer trust that I won’t be waken in the middle of the night a random time. Worst, I could be warned now that there is a fire, it will be real and I will not believe it. Imagine I am away from home and I get an alarm that there is smoke. What will I think? It is the darn buggy nest unit again telling me there is smoke. No worries, it is another one of the false alarm. I will then come home hours later to find that the house burned down, that the alarm was real this time?

    Nest, DO SOMETHING! You are turning your product owners into desensibilized fire alarm owners. We are talking about life and death situations and smoke/co2 detectors need to be trusted!

    I know it is 3 months in but I hope you will offer me a full refund for all 3 units. I will go and buy 3 new legacy detectors on monday and put those back up instead unless you can tell me you have improved hardware ready to ship so I can replace a 1st batch of defective hardware.

    This i very frustrating. The whole family is not trusting the product now. The kids already looked at the units and asked me “Dad, will the start screaming again” after the 1st incident. I am sure they will ask over and over now about that and “Why did they go off?”. The worst is that they may not run our for good if there is a real fire someday and I am not home to check on things and take them off the ceiling. Can you imagine if I had not been home knowing what to do?

    I bet the fire department would have been called in and they would have come bursting through the front door. Some day one of your customer will have an incident involving property damage or false alarm bill from the police or fire department.

    Nest, it is time to do something! Tell us what you are doing to resolve this issue!

  20. hwkremer says:

    We bought one, then three more. Had false alarm on the first one. Started reading threads like this one, and the ones on the Nest site, about false alarms. The additional three are unopened, shipping back to amazon tomorrow. Designing the “original iPod” is one thing (it was nice), but peoples lives – not something you mess with.

  21. Lee Jones says:

    I have three installed at home which have all worked perfectly for the last 3 months or so until I was kept awake last night by false alarms about ‘smoke in the dining room’


  23. Problem does not appear to have been resolved as yet. My unit worked fine for weeks and then went off for no reason in the middle of the night. Twice. The inconvenience factor is one thing; but do I want to trust this gadget when it emails me while I am on vacation? I hope that the source of this problem is identified and resolved soon.

  24. We had a false alarm with our nest smoke detector last night at 10pm. It could not be silenced with waving. I can’t even find a decent troubleshooting response about this! The advice on Nest is to dust it. I’m annoyed with this device for not being reliable after a short time of installation. When will it wake up our family next?

  25. Joel Mack says:

    I have the same issue; installed 2 Nests 4 weeks ago – one middle of the night false alarm, which I was able to shush by waving. Another one just now. Same unit near bedroom. Fortunately, I’m headed home from work shortly … but this is annoying definitely. Loved these initially (and the thermostat is fabulous) but they definitely have an issue. And there’s nothing going on in the house at all…

  26. I just had a faulty unit go off last night in my basement. Said “there is smoke in the basement” and was screeching. There was no smoke in the basement, no cooking smoke, no shower steam, no reason at all for the unit to go off. I have 2 of nest protect units that are being returned for a refund today!! I just don’t trust them. If they go off for no reason after owning them for 5 weeks, are they really going to go off incase of a real emergency (fire or co)? That’s not a chance that I am willing to take. For $129 for each unit you would think that all of the flaws would have been hammered out before putting these things out for the public to play Russian roulette with!! With all of the complaints that I can find online about these units falsely going off, I am appalled that Nest is not recalling all of these units until they can get it figured out. Im going back to the old reliable smoke detector and separate co detector so I can sleep soundly at night, knowing that my family is safe!

  27. mseall says:

    Two false alarms in the past week from two separate units. Woke the whole house up at 4 am today. There are hundreds of reports of this problem and sadly Nest is doing nothing to acknowledge it. It needs to be fixed because right now this product does not live up to its promise and Nest is badly damaging its reputation.

  28. it certainly is, mine went off twice this past week when i was out of town. I had to call neighbours and the police at 5am when i thought my house was on fire. Anyone got suggestions for an alternative wireless detector?

  29. I too have had a total 4 nest protect products all of which have experienced random fire alarm activations. I returned the first 2 to home depot for news ones. After installation, months later, we are now having the same random alerts. This product is going back for good.

  30. 6/4/14 – after 6 uneventful months I received an alert yesterday while at work stating that there was smoke upstairs! I chose to race home and make sure the dog was ok instead of calling fire department, not a trace of smoke in the house… wow. Smoke alarm also started counting down later that day again… Called NEST and they were more than happy to send me a replacement. I’ll give them one more try, after that I’ll be asking for a refund.. shame because I am a HUGE fan of the thermostat..

  31. I have had two Nest Protects fail in the same week.
    1st floor Nest Protect failed on Tuesday June 17th giving false smoke warnings.
    Today June 13th the 2nd floor nest Protect chirps and says the smoke sensor
    has failed and needs replacement.
    These Nest Protect units and I have three are only four months old.
    I’m Not Happy.

  32. Brad Battey says:

    My first smoke false-alarm scramble occurred tonight, 06/24/2014, followed by 5 or 6 repeats on unit in room above detached garage. Unit is battery-powered and 6 months old (1 of 3 battery + 1 wired in use). First was heads-up with one incident elevating to emergency, but after several minutes with & without my assistance all subsided to “smoke clearing”. The chimes… here we go again (after an hour’s respite).

  33. golfenigma says:

    I have 3 Nest Protect units and have had two separate incidents of false alarms for the alleged presence of smoke. Twice on different units and for a low battery on one unit. I called Nest about the most recent false alarm and they said that humidity, dust and possibly even pollen could have set them off. They wondered if anyone was doing laundry(steam) or vacuuming(dust) before the alarm went off. I had to explain that no one was awake on that Saturday morning at 6 am. I also wondered why a battery needed to be replaced only 7 months after I bought one of the units. They have promised to send two new units to replace the two with problems, but not the third one because it hasn’t done anything wrong yet.(yet) I am not sure I want the new ones either and may go back to my old low tech ones. The third time will be the charm.

  34. Scott Lewis says:

    I have now had 3 instances of my app telling me “smoke in the kitchen” while I am at work. Within 5 min i get the “smoke clearing” prompt. It’s making me not trust the unit. Anyone else have similar events?

  35. I am getting a false “smoke detected” alarm right now, been going on for 2 1/2 hours already

  36. I have 5 Nest detectors for 8 months now and have had 3 replaced so far for the exact same issue everyone is describing. No smoke, no fire, just crying, upset kids. This is getting really frustrating and nobody at Nest seems to have an answer besides replacing the unit. One of my detectors has been replaced twice, so they are sending the 3rd one to me today (happened Sunday) Today, the Nest detector in the master bedroom went off stating there was a fire. Again no smoke, no fire, just faulty equipment. So in 3 days this has happened twice. Nice, Nest…please come out with a solution…

    • gbreynol says:

      I gave up and finally returned mine. I used the refund form on the Contact section of the Nest website and got a check in a couple of weeks. Very happy with my dumb smoke detectors.