Is Nest Protect defective?

A few minutes after midnight, our interconnected Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors began to scream. “Emergency,” said the voice between alarm tones, “there’s smoke in the hallway.” I exited the bedroom, iPhone in hand, ready to call 911. I found nothing. No smoke. No steam. No emergency. I pressed the button to silence the ear-splitting alarm above my head. “This alarm can’t be silenced,” it replied, “smoke levels are too high.”

I repeated the process, creating a short video. Sorry about the image orientation, but in my defense, it was late.

From my background with alarm systems, I know that dust can trigger some devices, so I grabbed a handheld vacuum and applied it to the screaming Nest Protect to no avail. After six minutes of alarms sounding throughout our home, I finally removed it from the ceiling and disconnected the AC power connector. The Nest Protect, now in my hands, reported that the power was out, and then that the non-existent “smoke” was clearing.

Alarms created by cooking, steam, aerosol sprays, and actual smoke are understandable. But ironically, the most expensive and sophisticated smoke detectors I have ever purchased may have a serious problem. I’m not alone. A US law firm is also looking into the issue.

According to Nest Support, there is no known problem. They are, however, sending me a new second-generation Nest Protect to replace the first-generation unit that alarmed. As far as the other first-generation Nest Protects I purchased at the same time are concerned, I apparently have to wait and see if they also produce false alarms.

The Nest problem puts consumers in a very uncomfortable situation. If Nest Protect owners receive an emergency notification while not at home, what should they do? Assume a false alarm and that property and pets will be ok? Call 911 and hope that the fire department doesn’t break down their front door in response to Nest Protect’s fantom smoke?

My confidence in Nest Protect has been shaken. Unexplained fantom false alarms are not acceptable. If this problem only occurs with first-generation units, Nest (now owned by Google) should see that in their data and replace them all, or at the very least advise owners. Are they hoping that consumers will upgrade to the second generation devices at their own expense? Or maybe they just don’t know why false alarms are occurring.

For now, the questions remain: Can I trust this product? Is Nest Protect defective?