Why I Returned My Nest Protects

[Ed. Note:  What follows is part of a letter I wrote to contacts at Nest explaining my dissatisfaction with the Nest Protect smoke+CO alarms I bought.  I thought it would be useful for other people considering buying them.  I will note that the people at Nest contacted me quickly & were helpful in processing the return and explaining why the product functioned as it does.  That being said, though helpful, they could not help me.]

I have been a big fan of what you guys are doing at Nest, but I wanted to tell you why I’m returning my five Nest Protects.  I’ve spoken to your customer support staff & while they’ve been helpful, they can’t actually help me.
Sad nest


First some background, so you can understand how I got to this point. 
When the Nest Protect smoke alarm was announced, I was instantly curious because I really like my Nest thermostat.  I watched the video and my curiosity turned quickly into excitement because the video showed the Protect fixing all the frustrations I had with my smoke alarms and all the annoyance & risk those problems caused!  
At that moment our smoke alarms were sitting in a heap off in a corner, because we had disabled them so many times.  When I looked at them, I’d think “Ugh, that’s really bad. You’re risking a fire because of that heap.”  Then I went on with my life, but slightly more disconcertedly…

Then the Nest video! Hand wave to shut off! Controllable from my iPhone!  Warns me when the battery was low!  I immediately bought 5.  One for each room.  Yes, they were much pricier than your average smoke alarm, and even more pricey than a smoke+CO alarm, but I really appreciate a well-made & well-designed and thought-out product over the cheapest one.  I trusted Nest to deliver after seeing the thermostat.  Since I ordered the first day, I waited a few months & was super excited when they finally shipped.  I went home and installed them as soon as I could! Yay!
That was before the first real use.  I’m sad to say the Nests made my life worse & are now sitting in a heap waiting to be returned. 


The problems really start in our kitchen. My wife cooks a lot & she’s both enthusiastic & experimental.  This sometimes means short lived billows of smoke fill the kitchen.  I had assumed I could always just wave at the Nest Protect & the alarm would stop, but contrary to what the video suggests – that’s not true.  As you know, if the Nest starts to detect smoke it may “warn” before it “alarms”.  The “warn” can be waved off, but not the “alarm” – the alarm is unstoppable.  I am unhappy with that fact, but can understand why you’re required to make the Protect that way*.  But things get even worse:
Here’s what actually happens in our house when some cooking experiment briefly burns:
– Instantly the Nest Protect in the kitchen goes off.
– Then the Nests in all the other rooms go off. 
– We rush around trying to shut them off, but this is impossible
– We spend the next 10 minutes hoping the horrible noise coming from all the rooms stops.  There is no recourse but to wait.
See these videos we took:

Nest Goes Bad

Same Nest a few minutes later


Five Nests all going off in the house. All at the same time.  This is worse than the simple dumb alarms I had, for the following reasons:
1) The fact that they are networked means a LOT more noise and annoyance.  In the past, the simple alarm in the kitchen would go off & usually that would be it.  At worst we’d have to deal with that single annoying problem.  But with the network Nests, all five start going off loudly when one goes off.
2) Worse still, with the simple alarm, temporarily dealing with an individual alarm you wanted to silence was straightforward if slightly annoying. With the Nest Protect it is next to impossible, incredibly time consuming & frustrating as hell.  In reality, you have no real options but to wait for them to shut up on their own.
With a simple alarm, dealing with it meant poking it with a broom once or twice & maybe you were OK. If not, you’d put up the ladder & pop open the battery compartment (easily done.)  
With the Nest, there is no way to disable it without a screwdriver and some time.  Pressing the button does nothing and there is no way to remove the batteries without putting up the ladder, twisting the Protect off the ceiling & then painstakingly unscrewing several screws to pull out the batteries.
3) Problems 1 and 2 would be bad enough, but the combination of the 2 is an order of magnitude worse.  Since the 5 networked alarms are all unstoppable & disabling each one takes so long the net effect is vastly worse than it would be if either 1 or 2 was not true.  This means that when a short, temporary, burst of cooking smoke sets the alarms off, we’re just in hell for 10 minutes.  No ands if or buts. Even if the smoke dissipates quickly, if the alarm has been tripped & you’re done.  


The idea of this product is so great, that I’m really sad to give up on it, but honestly I was so much happier with my dumb alarms.  That being said, I can imagine the Nest Protects being the product I wished they were.  Here are some suggestions on how to get there:
1) Make the alarm silence-able.  I realize that you had to disable silencing the alarm by waving for UL reasons.  But pressing the button should work.  Using my iPhone should work.  Something should silence these things.  If you can’t do this for UL licensing reasons or something, then at least make the batteries removable easily without unscrewing the whole unit.
2) If several alarms are networked & they are going off together, please make them go off round robin. That will make it MUCH less annoying.
3) Change your marketing materials to make it more clear that you can’t wave to silence an actual alarm.  I don’t remember what the actual status of this feature is, I recall you had problems with it, so maybe you no longer advertise this anyway…
To add insult to injury, I just realized I already donated the old dumb alarms I had.  Sigh.
Thanks for the consideration & good luck.



*My guess is that this is a UL listing / legal requirement?


7 thoughts on “Why I Returned My Nest Protects

  1. I have a wife who enjoys cooking as well. She would always set the “dumb” smoke alarms off to the point that I removed them. Prior to installing my Nests, I hired a contractor to put the proper exhaust fan over the cooktop. Not an ounce of smoke escapes the fan and the Nests have not alarmed at all,

  2. Well, once your house is brought up to code in a remodel, you’ll have this problem anyway. It’s not unique to Nest. You’ll need smoke detectors wired into AC and connected to each other to pass inspection with the current code.

  3. I think it’s just a fault in the system. And usually it would shut up when you pressed the button. Maybe it didn’t shut up because the smoke got to the other rooms and when more than one room has smoke it considers it a major emergency. But I don’t have a Nest Protect system so I’m not quite sure. It might also be a factory defect, where someone connected the wires wrong in one and it affected the whole system.

  4. You cannot silence the alarm when there’s a thick smoke. THAT’S INDUSTRY STANDARD!

  5. I’d really like to thank you for this post. I have a single nest protect and was considering getting a couple more. Tonight we had a fire in the oven and instead of helping my wife deal with it I was across the room repeatedly slamming the button only to have the Nest tell me “This alarm cannot be silenced” (with the silence alarm button–one of the biggest reasons I wanted the nest!).

    The idea of more than one of these pains in the ass going off at once is too much to consider ,I will NOT be buying another.

    The other reason I wanted it was so I could take a shower without the alarm going off. I think they just downright lied about having “steam detection”, mine goes off whenever I shower with the door open…

  6. Do yourself a huge favor — go get smoke detectors which use Photoelectric (rather than Ionization) detection. The price difference between the two is negligible, *BUT* the false alarm rates with the Photoelectric detectors is almost nil. There’s a reason most commercial smoke alarms are Photoelectric!

    I’m too leery of Nest products to trust them to do anything well. Look great, nice feature set…when they work. This goes for their thermostats as well. Once that internal battery starts to age, they become terribly unreliable.

  7. Me again. I’m a little older now and I’m aware of Nest Learning Thermostats being hacked into… I’ve always wondered if Nest Protect can somehow be hacked as well, since they are often connected to wi-fi. I’m not an expert on hacking or hackers but I know that these alarms shouldn’t be doing this.
    If you’ve already gotten rid of them, good. I recently heard from a college friend that hers had the same issue. I’m honestly hoping that, if Nest ever releases a Gen 3 Protect, it has some sort of fix to this issue. Good thing I did my research years before finally starting my fire alarm collection.

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