What Happens to Your Smart Home When the Power Goes Out?

Imagine this:  You see a storm fast approaching, and the rain begins pouring down.  You hear thunder, see lightening and begin to wonder what will happen if the power goes out.  Will you be able to open your garage door when you get home from work?  Will you be locked out of your house?  Will your smart lights come on at 2:00 am when the power returns?  These are all good questions!  So what happens to your smart home when there’s a power outage?  The short answer is that smart devices simply become “dumb” in the event of a power outage in the sense that they simply stop working. The longer answer is a little more complicated and varies by device.  In this article you’ll learn more about what happens to five key smart home products when the power goes out:  locks, thermostats, garage doors, lights and security cameras.

Smart Locks -We’ll start with the #1 device you don’t want to stop working in the event of a power outage, smart locks!  Just because there’s a power outage, that doesn’t mean a smart lock will completely stop working.  Most smart locks, like the popular Schlage Z-Wave Connect, have a battery-powered backup.  But batteries dying won’t be a concern if your smart lock also includes a keyhole.  Just remember to keep your keys in a safe place, and you will have an additional layer of protection against any sort of outage.  That said, without power, limitations might come with certain smart locks.  Check the instructions and keep in mind that in a power outage, you may not be able to access your smart locks remotely.

Smart Thermostats – You may be wondering what happens to your smart thermostat when the power goes out.  Most smart thermostats, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, have a battery backup that will keep the memory saved during a power outage.  This means that all settings will be intact once the power is restored and you won’t have to set everything again.  However, unless your HVAC system has some sort of power backup that it can use, your thermostat will be useless during a power outage, whether it’s smart or not. 

Smart Garage Doors – You probably take your garage door opener for granted.  With most smart garage door openers, like the Refoss Smart WiFi Garage Door Opener, you can let family in through the garage door even when you are not at home.  But what happens when there’s no power to open it?  As of July 1, 2019, all newly sold or installed garage door openers in residential applications are required to have battery backup.  So if you have a recently-installed garage door opener, you are covered.  However, if there’s a blackout and you have an older model, you will have to locate and pull the manual release.  You should see a short rope hanging down which usually has a red, T-shaped handle.  If you don’t have a newer model, you may want to consider upgrading to a model with a battery backup.  Experts recommend that every home should have this important safety feature.

Smart Lights – As you might have guessed, without electricity, your smart lights aren’t that intelligent.  In fact, they won’t work at all.  However, if you have Philips Hue bulbs, you can at least change the setting of each individual bulb in advance of a power outage.  You will have a “Power-On Behavior” setting where you can choose from a default light, such as warm white.  You will also have a “Power Loss Recovery” mode, which allows the bulb to return to the last used color and brightness following a loss of power.  With this setting, if your bulbs were off while you were sleeping during a power outage, they’ll revert to that off state when the power returns, meaning that you won’t be disturbed during sleep with bright lights coming back on. 

Smart Security Cameras – In recent years, home security cameras have grown in popularity.  Unfortunately, these cameras aren’t all that smart when there’s no power.  Most home security cameras won’t work when the power is out; no recording, no remote access, no motion detection and no video saving.  And since many break-ins and burglaries occur during power outages, this is a time when you would definitely want battery backup in your alarm.  The Blink XT2 Outdoor/Indoor Smart Security Camera is a good choice and has an extended 2 year battery life on 2 AA lithium batteries.  Having a smart security camera with backup batteries will definitely add to your peace of mind.

WiFi and Power Outage Workarounds – All smart homes work based on a stable wifi connection, so it’s of utmost importance to keep routers working during a power outage.  Fortunately, there’s something called an uninterruptable power supply, or UPS.  A UPS is a battery pack that also serves as a surge protector.  Whenever a UPS detects a power drop or surge, it will protect your devices against any blowback and act as a battery to power the devices until normal power is restored.  Some routers offer the option to switch t cellular wifi, but be aware that you may have to pay expensive data charges.  Alternately, if you urgently need a wifi connection, you can always tether to the hotspot on your phone.  And if you live somewhere where power outages are frequent, we suggest you invest in a physical hotspot device.  These devices are used by global travelers and ensure 24/7 internet connection even if the power is down.

In summary, when it comes to smart homes, keeping your network online is a must.  So, it pays to be aware in advance of how smart devices behave when the power goes out.   And each type of device will act differently.  In general, it pays to choose devices that have a battery backup or even ones that are solar-powered.   That way, you can continue to enjoy your smart home even during a blackout.

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