So you’ve made the jump and recently installed smart door locks, garage doors, and a security camera in your home. Then your neighbor comes over and asks whether these new devices will work when the power goes out. What do you say? Have you thought this through, or are you stuck standing there with a quizzical look on your face?
Don’t worry — you can tell your neighbour that the simple answer is Yes. Many types of smart home devices will work even when there’s no power. The longer answer is a little bit more complicated and varies by device.
In this article, you’ll learn more about what happens when the power goes out to four key smart home products: intelligent thermometers, door locks, garage doors, and home security cameras.
How Power Outages Affect Your Smart Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat is one of the most popular smart devices on the planet. Not surprisingly, it remains smart even when the power goes out.
Nest includes a rechargeable battery that gets its charge directly through your cooling or heating system wires. When the battery gets low, regardless of the reason, the Nest Thermostat will eventually shut down until the battery recharges. When charging, the device emits a flashing red light.
Before the Nest battery gets too low, however, it will take steps to preserve the charge as long as possible. First, it will turn off its Wi-Fi connection, taking it offline. During this time, you won’t be able to control the thermostat remotely. However, your heating/cooling system and schedule will remain operational.
When the battery completely drains, the thermostat isn’t usable. When power is restored, your settings will remain intact.
Typically, the Nest Learning Thermostat will remain operational for one to two hours during a blackout before it shuts off. When power returns, it could take another hour before power to the unit is operating properly.
Other smart thermostats offer similar safeguards when the power goes out. The smart Wi-Fi thermostats by ecobee, for example, operate as standalone units and the temporary loss of power or internet service should not affect your HVAC equipment. Honeywell’s family of Lyric thermostats work the same way.
How Power Outages Affect Your Smart Locks
Smart door locks allow you to lock/unlock your door, control keyless access, and keep track of who comes and goes, all from your mobile device. When the power goes out, you can still open the door, because everyday batteries power each lock. Plus, smart locks often connect to a mobile device through Bluetooth, not Wi-Fi.
The popular August Smart Lock, for example, runs on four AA batteries and uses Bluetooth for wireless communication. The Kwikset Keva Smart Lock has similar features and doesn’t require a data connection to lock or unlock a door.
Keep in mind, however, when there’s no power, certain functions will not work on smart locks.
When you use the August Connect Wi-Fi bridge with your August Smart Lock, for example, you can perform tasks on the device from anywhere in the world. However, when the power goes out, you cannot. Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri will also remain silent during this period.
How Power Outages Affect Your Smart Garage Door
Smart garage doors allow you to monitor and control your doors from anywhere using your mobile device. During normal operation, most connect to your network through Wi-Fi, although some on the market use Bluetooth instead.
Regardless, when the power goes out, you can still open your smart garage door, so you’re never locked out. The reason: the doors all have built-in batteries.
How Power Outages Affect Your Smart Security Camera
In recent years, home security cameras have grown in popularity. Unfortunately, these cameras aren’t all that smart when there’s no power.
Home security systems (as opposed to smart home cameras) use traditional phone lines to connect with a monitoring center. In the event of a power outage, the connection remains. Systems that use cellular radio also stay online during power outages, as cellular radio is a communication standard based on a network of transmitters that each serve a small area known as a cell.
Systems that use Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) and the internet, as the names suggest, need an online connection to operate. When the power dies, so does the internet connection and the systems will stop communicating until the power returns, and the internet connection is up and running.
Home security cameras can provide a lot of peace of mind. Unfortunately, without power, they can’t do much. Because of this, you might want to consider some alternatives.
First, take another look at home security systems, which typically provide an alarm in times of emergency. Both wired and wireless home security systems now come with rechargeable batteries so the control panel can function in the event of a power failure.
Another solution: attach your home security cameras and routers to backup battery packs or a battery bank. Under this scenario, your products will remain online at least temporarily during a power outage.
Smart Home Products That Require Constant Power
Unfortunately, not all smart home products can operate in any capacity without power. None of these should come as much of a surprise, as they tend to be smart solutions for home products that are also useless in a power outage.
Smart switches and outlets offer zero benefits when the power goes out. Neither do smart lighting products, unfortunately. Smart air conditioners and dehumidifiers also aren’t all that smart during blackouts.
Don’t Let Power Outages Get You Down
Home automation products can make your life easier and more secure. Unfortunately, the occasional power outage can take many of these devices offline. Door locks, garage doors, and smart thermostats will typically work, at least for a limited amount of time, when the power goes out. Smart security cameras, not so much. Regardless, there are steps you can take to keep these devices online during an emergency.
And take a look at our tips on staying safe and private when using your smart home gadgets and for creative ways you can use smart plugs in your home.