Nest Protect and the nuclear option

I’ve written about Google Nest Protect smoke and CO detectors several times before. The purpose of these posts is to add some helpful tips to the internet, serving as a reference for me and others.

After a year with the devices, I can draw the following conclusions.

  • They false alarm vastly less frequently than the First Alert system I had owned previously.
  • With rare exception, when there is an issue, they don’t freak out (false alarm) or produce inscrutable beeping sounds or blinking lights. They communicate reasonably well through the app or by voice.
  • But, the devices can become faulty to the point of needing replacement. My 4th (or 5th?) replacement is on the way after a bad experience last night (more below). I own nine devices. This is a high fault rate. Fortunately, Google has replaced them all for free, so far.
  • When things go wrong, boy do they go wrong! Here’s last night’s story:

Last night around 10PM, the devices were signaling smoke. There was none and the alarm could not be cleared. They also started beep complaining about low batteries. They weren’t low. The batteries last five years and mine were one year old. Moreover, you’re not going to get instantly simultaneous low battery alerts on several devices. That’s a signal of a deeper problem, especially when it’s coincident with a nonexistent smoke detection that can’t be cleared. Lastly, they’re not supposed to jump to beeping when they have a low battery. They’re supposed to let you know through the app that you are going to have a low battery issue soon. Quietly!!!.

None of this behavior made sense, and I could not override any of it. After two hours with tech support, during at least an hour of which they kept offering nonsense solutions like battery replacements, we found the problem: a faulty device that set off a cascade of other oddities. (By the way, here is how to reach Nest Support. I’ve been able to get someone on online chat in seconds at any time of day/night. It seems phone support has more limited hours, but would be much faster once you get someone, as the typing response delays and (deliberate?) misunderstandings and nonsense steps through online chat are S L O W.)

To cut to the chase, here’s how we found the device and here’s how to solve an insane problem like this. I call it the nuclear option and next time I’ll just implement it myself. It’s a bit of a pain, but way faster than waiting for tech support to reach the same conclusion.

Google Nest Protect Nuclear Option

  1. Remove all Nest Protects from your system (a.k.a., your “Home” in the Nest app).
  2. Delete your “Home” in the Google Home app.
  3. Create a new Home in your Nest app. (I can’t find a link for this, but it’s pretty easy. There’s a “+” in the Nest app and you click on that.)
  4. Factory reset every Nest Protect. (Any device that won’t factory reset is faulty. Contact Google Nest for replacement.*)
  5. Add the Nest Protects to your new Home. Here it is super handy to have pics of the QR codes. (Remember when I told you to do this?!?!) With those, you don’t have to remove them from ceilings.

I would guess I could accomplish all that in about 10 minutes. Instead, I spent over 2 hours with tech support.

Pro tip to Google Nest tech support: You could be a lot better. When the data from the customer makes no sense (smoke detection signals that don’t exist, simultaneous low battery warnings that make no sense), just jump to the nuclear option. Chasing each individual problem doesn’t work. It’s a systemic corruption only a full recreation of the Home and factory reset will solve.

Thank goodness I was home when all this happened. I shudder to think how much difficulty my family would have troubleshooting this without me (I’m the tech guy). And, had we all been out, would the neighbors have eventually called the fire department and have our door beaten in … for nothing?

*UPDATE: I received a replacement device from Google. But, guess what! It also was faulty. Doesn’t work at all. Won’t turn on. This is a disaster for Google Nest, and you should know about it before considering the product for your home.


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