Despite smoke-alarm recall, you can probably keep your Nest Protect

Federal agency issues recall of high-tech smoke detector. But most users can address the issue simply by connecting to the Internet.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
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Nest Protect
The Nest Protect Lindsey Turrentine/CNET

Before you rip your Nest Protect from the wall and ship it back, take a deep breath.

Yes, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has announced an official recall of more than 440,000 Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. But users of the device can address the issue simply by connecting to the Internet.

The recall, issued Wednesday, comes because of a problematic feature in the Nest Protect called Wave. The function let owners wave their hand to silence the detector during a false alarm, but it could also accidentally silence the device in a real emergency.

Nest, which makes Internet-connected, smart-home products including the Nest Protect and the Nest Thermostat, publicized the problem itself in April and removed Protect from store shelves. It also instructed people who already owned the device to make sure it was connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi and a Nest Account so the Wave feature could be remotely disabled by the company. And it offered a complete refund to anyone who couldn't connect.

The CPSC confirmed Wednesday that Nest Protect owners who updated the device over their home Wi-Fi would not have to send it back. But the commission ordered the official recall because some people may not have gotten the news and may still be running their unconnected, and thus unsafe, detectors.

"This is a unique recall because it involves emergent technologies," said Carl Purvis, a CPSC spokesperson. "Typically, we try to get the message out to as many people as possible."

The CPSC also said, in its recall notice, that Nest Protect owners who update their device over Wi-Fi should double-check that the change has been registered:

"Consumers whose Nest Protect devices are connected to their wireless network and linked to a Nest account should immediately confirm the receipt of an automatic repair that disabled the Nest Wave feature by going to Nest Sense on their Nest account mobile or web application and ensuring that the button for Nest Wave is set to 'off' and grayed out."

You can read the entire notice here.

Nest did not reveal how many of the Nest Protect devices are not connected to Wi-Fi, or how many it expected to be sent back for a refund.

As for removing the Nest Protect from stores, Nest spokesperson Kate Brinks said, "The reason we pulled the product is that we didn't want to sell a product that required an update." She said the problem was being addressed and that Nest would be selling the detectors again "in a few weeks."

Update, 5:54 p.m. PT: Adds clarifications throughout.