Alert! Alert!
February 10, 2019 8:34 PM   Subscribe

I need a visual alert system for smoke, carbon monoxide...and maybe other things? There are options - many options. They all look expensive and crappy. Perhaps someone here has experience with this?

So, there are several Deaf and Hard of Hearing folks who will be traveling through my house, staying here and so on over well...the rest of my life. So we need a visual smoke and carbon monoxide detector that is not hugely expensive, not wired (battery preferred), and very obviously visual.

We made a mistake of getting a really lame visual doorbell that lights up, but only slightly and honestly it gets no ones attention. So we want something that if the house was on fire, it would flash obviously and wildly. Same for CO2. Honestly, if there was a good one for the doorbell too, we'd switch our current one out.

Last, we have an alarm system that the alarm company tells us can absolutely not be set up with a visual light system. To get the version with a visual light system we would have to rewire our whole house. If there is a conceivable workaround for adding a light - or maybe having something that responds to loud blasting alarms (it is very loud!) by lighting up, that would be appreciated too.
posted by Toddles to Technology (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you are in a metro area, call a local Deaf school or hearing society (wherever they teach ASL or the local equivalent), they will be able to recommend (and probably sell you) the alarms you need that work best with your space.
posted by Jairus at 11:26 PM on February 10, 2019

Nest smoke/CO detectors will send alerts to your mobile phone when set off, and can also be hooked up to IFTTT to, for example, make all your smart bulbs turn red and flash. These systems rely on internet connectivity though so are not fool-proof.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:13 AM on February 11, 2019

For the doorbell, I used to have a device with a button that was connected wirelessly (think garage door opener) to a plugged-in strobe light. The strobe was a little weak, not strobey enough to always get my attention if I was facing away from it, but I expect there are other more powerful strobe/lights on the market in similar devices. Or just attach it to the end of an extension cord and put it right next to you.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:09 AM on February 11, 2019

Note that IFTTT has an average 15 minute delay in reaction. You don't want your smoke detector to IFTTT-based.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:09 AM on February 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

That is a very good point about the IFTTT lag, disregard that suggestion.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:11 AM on February 11, 2019

I realize that you've indicated a preference for "not wired," but that is probably a significant liability in the set of possible solutions here.

Unless there's something actually made for this specific application, you may have some difficulty finding a combination device that checks all your boxes.

Wired strobe lights are easily sourced and can trivially be linked to most decent alarm systems. Hooking up fire and CO2 to an alarm panel should straightforward work for an alarm company. Running a second pair of copper for a different colored strobe light to indicate doorbell, telephone, or other alerts should be pretty easy if done at the same time as the alarm. Multiple lights can be placed strategically for maximum impact.

If your alarm company claims that this cannot be done, ask why, and get a second opinion from a different local alarm installer. Do not expect meaningful answers if you ask ADT, AT&T Digital Life, or any other "national" company - most of these companies specialize in coming in and sticking on adhesive wireless sensors on your doors because they don't want to spend the time to do it right, they just want the monthly fees at the lowest possible investment in your property. They have a one-size-fits-all strategy. If you have already bought gear from one of those kinds of companies, it is in fact very possible that it is not really expandable in any useful direction, but getting a second opinion from someone who isn't a "fries with that" installer is the best way to know for sure.

The downside is that a good solution is likely to be at least somewhat expensive. Professional installers have access to a large variety of options designed for a bunch of needs, though, and will have access to options that you do not have easy access to as an end user. If this is really something that you need for the rest of your life, some investment may be worth it.
posted by jgreco at 8:39 AM on February 11, 2019

Is there any reason something like this wouldn't work? Here's an example of one for CO as well.

Yes, they are expensive.You'll probably be $1000 into a visual alert system - but life safety equipment is cheap, compared to the alternative.

You don't need a CO2 monitor. You don't really need anything else - CO and Fire covers all the big problems. (CO2 is carbon dioxide: a byproduct of breathing, and CO is carbon monoxide: a toxic odorless gas caused by improper venting of a furnace, water heater, etc)
posted by weed donkey at 9:56 AM on February 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Is there any reason something like this wouldn't work?
It’s hardwired.
posted by artdrectr at 9:53 PM on February 11, 2019

What about something like this lifetone. I have no idea how well it works, but in theory this would be a great add on to a standard system.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 5:13 AM on February 12, 2019

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