It's a dark night. Lightning strikes brightening up the dark sky and rain pouring down. The power decides to go out. What about your precious smart home? What happens to it?
When you're building out a smart home, it's all too easy to get carried away and forget about practicalities.
What happens in a connected home if the power goes out?
Which of your smart devices will still function, and is this such a big deal?
Spoiler: The short answer is most of your tech will still keep chugging along without letting you down. However, there are some exceptions.
As you'd expect, smart speakers and smart displays won't work since you won't have a WiFi connection.
Devices with built-in battery back-up will keep going, and cameras can even continue running.
We'll touch on what to expect from the next smart tech in a little more detail now:
- Smart Locks and Power Outages
- Garage Doors and Power Outages
- Smart Thermostats and Power Outages
- Smart Security Cameras and Power Outages
- Smart Lighting and Power Outages
1) Smart Locks and Power Outages
We'll kick off with one of the devices you certainly don't want to stop working: a smart lock. While upgrading your entry system might give you a great deal of convenience, what happens to your smart lock when the power goes down?
Well, with regular batteries powering these locks and Bluetooth connectivity more commonplace than WiFi, you shouldn't experience that horrible feeling of being locked out. The classic August Smart Lock, for example, runs on 4 AA batteries with Bluetooth used for wireless communication.
Other smart door locks don't call for a data connection, so you're in safe hands there, too.
That said, without power, limitations might come with certain smart locks. While the August lock will function, you'll be let down by the Connect WiFi Bridge, allowing you to access your lock remotely.
Don't expect to be locked out of your home that won't happen.
2) Garage Doors and Power Outages
Like any smart home device, a smart garage door opener affords you an excellent extra layer of convenience. Kiss goodbye to stepping out into a rainy night and say hello to seamless automation.
How about when the power lets you down, though? Will the garage door opener do the same?
The integrated batteries in garage door openers pre-empt this issue. It will ensure you cab the car when you need it.
The weak link here is the WiFi connection. Many garage door openers rely on, but with basic functionality, you're good to go.
3) Smart Thermostats and Power Outages
Google Nest Learning Thermostat is now into its third iteration and remains one of the most popular smart thermostats on the market.
As you'd expect from climate control this intelligent, you won't end up with a disaster on your hands in the event of a power outage.
The rechargeable battery on-board gets its juice directly from your heating or cooling system wires. If the battery starts running low, the thermostat shuts down until sufficiently charged. During this charging phase, you'll see a flashing red light on the device.
Before this happens, though, it takes preventive measures to preserve the charge. It will go offline to eliminate the power draw from WiFi.
Once the battery is dead, the thermostat becomes unusable.
When you restore power, all settings will stay in place, saving you the tedium of manually resetting everything.
As a guideline, expect Nest Learning to keep running for up to 2 hours. Wait an hour or so for full functionality resumes.
While we've used Google Nest as an example here, the majority of other thermostats from ecobee and other major players have similar safeguards in place.
4) Smart Security Cameras and Power Outages
Be prepared for most smart security cameras to stop working when the power is down.
There are exceptions where battery back-up and local recording ties you over, but the bulk won't play nice.
If you express concern, perhaps consider a full-bore home security system. Since these use traditional phone lines and a monitoring center, you'll have your back covered if the power falls.
Where systems using cellular radio will manage to remain operational without power, those using VoIP (Voice-over-Internet-Protocol) need an online connection to run. When the power dies, so do these systems.
5) Smart Lighting and Power Outages
Unsurprisingly, without electricity, your smart lights won't so intelligent. They won't do anything at all.
What's of more concern here is what happens when the power comes back, and your lights go back on? We mention this because many power outages don't get fixed instantly. Imagine falling back to sleep then being rudely woken with all the lights blaring on full when the power comes back on.
If you're using Philips Hue bulbs, you can change the settings so that Power Loss Recovery is activated. The bulb will then revert to its last state of use when the power pops back on.
So far, so good. Which devices won't work in any fashion without power, then?
Which Smart Devices Need Power At All Times?
If you've got smart switches or smart outlets, it's obvious they won't work.
A smart air conditioning unit or a connected dehumidifier won't be of much use without electricity either.
Smart security cameras are the other notable devices that generally perform poorly or not at all without recourse to electricity.
How about the WiFi network, though? Is there anything you can do to fight back when you lose connectivity?
Fortunately, there certainly is!
WiFi and Power Outage Workarounds
Given that connected homes work based on a stable WiFi connection, this is the smart home's Achilles heel if the power disappears.
Routers plugged into standard power outlets will die when the power goes. Is there any way at all to get around this?
Fortunately, there is. A UPS (uninterrupted power supply) is a battery back-up that serves double duty as a surge protector. Whenever the UPS notices a power drop or a power surge, it will protect your device against any blowback with its battery serving to power the device until normal power is restored.
Increasingly, routers give you the option of switching to cellular WiFi. You should be clear here that you'll often be paying substantial data charges for this privilege, so decide whether being online is worth it.
If you absolutely and urgently require power, try tethering your laptop to the mobile broadband hotspot on your smartphone. Again, watch for data charges here and be prepared for the battery on your phone to plummet like a stone at the same time as the phone becomes white-hot to the touch!
If you live somewhere that power outages are a regular menace, it's worth looking into a physical hotspot device. More commonly used by global travelers, these nifty units ensure that you stay online 24/7 even if the power is down.
Well, hopefully, you can now rest safely knowing that a power outage won't bring your connected home to its knees.
It pays to be aware in advance of which devices might start playing up and which will keep on running like normal. We hope the tips on staying online in a power outage will also serve you well.
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