Making the journey from the predominantly-analog house to a digitized house can be accomplished through a series of baby steps. In fact, given the diversity of competing smart-home technology platforms and protocols, it may not make sense today to digitize your house in one fell swoop. But it does make sense to start taking advantage of the benefits this technology can bring in safe, measured doses. And that’s where the Roost Smart Battery shines.
As a simple, smart, cloud-enabled replacement for the 9V battery in your existing smoke detector or combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector, the Roost Smart Battery instantly elevates these safety devices to a high level of smartphone-enabled app wizardry. By integrating an onboard microchip, noise sensor, Wi-Fi radio, and a long-life lithium battery in the same 9V battery form factor, Roost has fashioned a stealth on-ramp to the smart-home for homeowners wanting to get started with making their homes smarter and safer.
Yes, there is an incremental cost to the Roost retrofit over a simple battery replacement regmien, and that begins at a cost of $35 for a single-pack battery, though that initial cost buys you a battery-replacement interval of 5 years or more versus the recommended annual interval for the typical 9V battery. And as most dwellings will have multiple smoke detectors, you will want to install a Roost battery in each of them to gain maximum benefits from the upgrade—and Roost offers discounts for 2-pack and 4-pack versions to bring the costs down somewhat. We purchased our battery off the shelf at green home improvement retailer TreeHouse in Austin for $35.
On the benefits, there are many, and chief among them: Avoidance of the dreaded middle-of-the-night chirping smoke detector as its battery nears death. With Roost, its smartphone app routinely checks battery health, and will display a visual alert as the battery begins approaching its end-of-life event—giving you ample time to acquire and replace it in the bright light of day. Owing to the smart, modular two-piece design of the device, the replaceable lithium battery component can be purchased separately at a cost of $15. The app itself, by the way, is available in both Apple iOS and Android versions.
Of course, the primary benefit of a smoke detector is immediately alerting home occupants to the presence of smoke, and the Roost retrofit enhances that experience in a number of ways. As smoke is detected, the smoke detector will deliver the customary audio alarm through its built-in speaker, while concurrently the Roost noise sensor detects the alarm and delivers a visual and audible alert to the registered smartphone owner, even if the Roost app is not running. That audio alert—akin to the dive horn sound found on a submarine—is loud and will be hard to ignore (though one can adjust the volume level of alerts in the smartphone settings). And as the alert messaging flows from your home Wi-Fi router to the Roost cloud, you can receive the alarm anytime, anywhere—assuming your smartphone has appropriate network connectivity. In our testing, we found the alarm displayed on the smartphone less than 5 seconds after the smoke alarm activated.
For more holistic alert broadcasting, the Roost app supports the Monitors feature, where additional friends, family, or neighbors can be invited to receive alert events on their smartphones. To enable the Monitors feature, these individuals receive a text message with a link to download the Roost app, and they can then accept or reject the request. We would suggest limiting the exposure here, of course, to a right-sized set of Monitors.
Roost stresses the simplicity of their platform, and the installation and battery activation process reflects that. After installing the Roost app and creating the required account, a well-done tutorial in the app walks the homeowner through the process of connecting the battery to Wi-Fi and connecting with the Roost cloud servers. In our case, the battery automatically upgraded itself to version 2 of the Roost firmware shortly after it was activated.
The Roost Smart Battery can also be integrated with the popular If This Then That (IFTTT) automation environment through the official Roost channel. For example, we were able to very simply connect our Roost setup with IFTTT using the available predefined recipes, including one designed to send an email following an alarm event occurrence.
There are other higher-cost alternatives, of course, to making your smoke detection setup smarter, but these will entail wholesale replacement of the devices. Options here include installing the forthcoming Roost Smart Smoke Alarm (available in June, beginning at a cost of $59), Nest Protect ($99), Leeo Smart Alert ($49), and others.
But there is much to love inside the small Roost Smart Battery package. It is a safe, low-cost-of-entry vehicle for beginning or continuing your journey to a safer, more-digitized house.
Tom Kolnowski is the Chief Content Officer & Founder of Digitized House Media, LLC, the publisher of Digitized House | Guide to the Connected Home. When he isn’t writing about smart home technology, sustainability, and high-performance architecture, you’ll find him exploring faraway destinations with his family.