Power outages aren’t always something you can avoid. A bad storm, a wreck that takes out a utility pole or even just rolling blackouts all happen when you least expect them to. But, what happens to your smart home during a power outage?
When the power goes out, your modem and router go down too. Your Wi-Fi goes out, which is necessary for many smart device features. However, the lights going out doesn’t mean your smart home is suddenly going to lock you in or be easily hackable.
Many smart home devices are equipped with a backup battery. Some already use AA and AAA batteries all the time. Others have rechargeable batteries built-in just in case the power does go out.
As long as the batteries are still active, you won’t lose any settings. Obviously, if your network is down, you won’t be able to control the devices via Wi-Fi. However, some devices work with Bluetooth as well. If you’re smartphone’s charged, you can still operate the device.
At the very least, you can override settings temporarily for your home to function more like it was before you installed smart devices.
Another thing to keep in mind is you may be able to use your phone or tablet as a backup Wi-Fi network. If your data plan includes mobile hotspot, you can set up another Wi-Fi network while the power is out. Using your phone as a mobile hotspot will drain the battery quickly, so use sparingly.
Some smart home devices actually function as their own separate Wi-Fi hotspot. As long as the batteries are charged, your home has a Wi-Fi network for any devices that are compatible with that particular device.
The good news is in most cases, power outages don’t last that long. This means backup battery power and temporary Wi-Fi networks will likely last you through most outages. In fact, in 2016, people in the US averaged 1.3 outages a year, totaling around four hours per year. This is outside of major incidents, which may last for several hours or days, but this is much rarer.
Smart Locks – Secure or Not?
Are smart locks useful at all during an outage? Most smart locks run on batteries and also allow you to lock and unlock them via Bluetooth connections.
Unless you’re trying to remotely unlock your doors, such as via a smartphone while you’re driving home from work, you won’t be able to while the power’s out since there isn’t a Wi-Fi connection. You’ll be able to unlock your doors when you arrive home, though. Use a code, Bluetooth or even a key to unlock them in person.
If you’re worried about this, only buy smart locks with Bluetooth capability, a battery backup and a keyhole for a manual override.
Dealing With Finnicky Lights
A smart home during a power outage is dark, just like any other home. Your smart bulbs don’t have a battery backup and require your lamp or fixture to have electricity to power it. Unless you have a generator on, you won’t be able to use your smart bulbs, such as the Philips Hue, until the power comes back on.
The biggest issue you’ll find is many of these bulbs come on as soon as the power turns on. Unless you want all your bulbs turning on when the power’s back, check your settings for a power loss setting. The bulbs remember the last settings and return to those instead of defaulting back to always on.
Smart Thermostats and Your Settings
Typically, your heating and air won’t work during a power outage. This means you might not even think about this part of your smart home during a power outage. However, your smart thermostats, like Nest and Ecobee, won’t just stop working.
While there isn’t anything to control at that moment, all your settings and preferences are still stored on the thermostat. These systems have backup batteries in place to help them retain settings.
Some thermostats, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat, will continue running your heating and air if you have a generator to power them. It will turn off its Wi-Fi connection to preserve power as the battery gets low.
The good news is your settings are still in place, even after a prolonged outage. It may take a few hours for your thermostat to function normally after your power comes back on, though.
Security Cameras Aren’t Smart
Smart security cameras are much like smart bulbs, they’re not useful during an outage. As far as securing your smart home during a power outage, you’ll only benefit if your camera uses a traditional phone line.
For those with a battery backup, they’ll only work as long as the battery lasts. If they don’t have built-in storage, any footage won’t be saved as you don’t have a Wi-Fi connection. However, if you’re using a smart home security system, most alarms do have a battery backup. They’ll still sound during an outage.
One of the mistakes that people make when setting up a smart home is to buy smart devices that are totally reliant on power and internet connection. If it can’t survive on its own without an Internet connection, then it is probably not a good buy. Generally, a power outage isn’t that bad for your smart home. Some select devices may lose some settings, but many devices backup your settings. You just might have to do without a few devices, such as Alexa or Google Assistant until your Wi-Fi is back.