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Roost Smart Smoke Alarm RSA-400 review: It’s all about that battery

Michael Brown | Oct. 27, 2016
This 4-in-1 smoke detector comes with a smart back-up battery, but that’s as high as it raises the bar.

Roost Smart Battery (Wi-Fi module) 
When the Roost Smart Battery wears out, you can detach the Wi-Fi module and connect it to a fresh battery.

My installation experience

You will need to handle exposed electrical wires while installing the alarm, which is why the company recommends hiring an electrician, but this is just a matter of removing some wire nuts and pulling the wires free when you take out the old alarm, and then reconnecting the wires by matching the colors, placing the exposed ends next to each other, and reattaching the wire nuts. You should be fine as long as you don’t touch the bare ends of the wires or mix up the colors. I didn’t even turn the power off (yes, that is a bad practice when handling live electrical wires. Don’t follow my example.)

There will be three wires in the box if you have multiple smoke alarms that are interconnected, as I do. When one alarm in an interconnected system goes off, all the alarms on that circuit will sound off. If, as you should, you put one smoke alarm in each bedroom and one in a common area, there’s a good chance you’ll be alerted to danger no matter which room you’re in or which room the trouble starts in.

Roost, however, recommends against interconnecting its Smart Smoke Alarms with smoke detectors from other manufacturers. I initially interconnected Roost’s alarm with my five existing Firex smoke detectors. As expected, testing the Roost caused the five other smoke detectors in the system to also fire off. Two of these are installed in bedrooms close to and on either side of my kitchen, which confused the battery’s algorithm because they sound slightly different, and that’s why the app reported different causes for the alarms.

Roost Smart Smoke Alarm RSA-400 wiring 
Three wires plug into the back of the smoke alarm. You’ll need to hardwire the other ends of the wires to AC power (the third wire isn’t used if you don’t have interconnected smoke alarms).

If you don’t have interconnected alarms, or you don’t want to interconnect the Roost with alarms from different manufacturers, just wrap some electrical tape around or put a wire nut on the Roost’s unused yellow wire before you stuff the wires back into the junction box. Once I did that, the alarm tests consistently reported the presence of smoke and fire when I pushed the test button.

This, of course, is thoroughly discussed in Roost’s comprehensive, 35-page, printed user manual (bravo, Roost!). But I didn’t make it beyond page 5, so that’s on me. I did, however, encounter one snafu in Roost’s installation instructions, which have you install the smoke detector and then install the Roost app on your phone and pair it with the back-up battery. The app asks for the make and model of the smoke detector you’re putting the battery in. Fine, that’s readily available on the box. But the app also asks for the smoke detector’s date of manufacture, which is printed on the smoke detector itself and isn’t exposed unless you take the detector off its ceiling bracket. Lucky for me, I was curious about the date and looked at it before I installed the detector. That saved me spending 10 minutes trying to line up the tab on the smoke detector with the slot on the mounting bracket. If you buy one of these, make a note of the manufacture before you mount it to the ceiling.


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