Many people think that “smart home” automation is only for geeks who have installed a pile of gadgets around their home, but the truth is there are some automation tricks that let you do some amazing things, even without loads of gadgetry. Using weather is one of those tricks.
If you stop and consider all of the ways the weather influences your life, it’s easy to see how you can harness it to improve your life through smart gadgets. This article will cover ways you can control your lights, your home temperature, and even personal reminders, based on current and predicted weather forecasts.
Turn On Porch Light When It’s Cloudy
One of the most annoying things about external lights on any home is getting them to light the outdoors only when you need them, but not when you don’t — leaving the outside light on is a huge waste of energy, and it can be annoying for the neighbors.
If you order one of the smart external lights out there on the market, I highly recommend buying one that offers integration with a cloud service like IFTTT, which has weather integrations. Otherwise, you’re stuck using whatever built-in features are included with the product. When I reviewed the Kuna home security light, I was pleased to see that I could turn the light off automatically when dusk arrived.
However, it would still be nice to turn the light on when it’s extra cloudy out. One way to do this without even buying a smart external light is to “smartify” your outside light with a smart switch, like the WeMo light switch.
By connecting your outside light to a WeMo switch, you can use the IFTTT weather trigger to turn the light on whenever it’s cloudy outside. Here’s how that works.
First, go into your IFTTT account and click “Trigger”, and type “weather” into the search bar. There, you’ll see the weather channel available.
Choose that and then choose the trigger “Current condition changes to”.
Then, in the next step just select “Cloudy” from the dropdown list.
Finally, just select the “Then” IFTTT link and in the search bar type “Wemo Light”. You’ll see the link for the WeMo light switch show up.
If you have your WeMo light switch connected to IFTTT, you can then configure it to turn on whenever the IFTTT trigger is set off. That’s all there is to it!
Now, whenever it’s cloudy outside, your outdoor light will automatically turn on. Your friends and family will all be amazed at how smart your regular outside light is.
Turn on the AC During the Hottest Time of Day
Most people don’t even consider the idea of “controlling” their AC unit; they just turn it on in the morning and forget about it. This is convenient, but it’s also a massive waste of electricity, considering that the AC is only needed when outdoor temperatures reach a certain level.
By waiting until outside temps reach a certain point, and then turning on the A/C unit, you’re preventing the indoor temperature from rising as well, but you’re also saving at least two to three hours in the morning when you don’t really need the A/C to be on.
The first step is to decide whether you want to use a regular A/C unit for this, or invest in a “smart” air conditioner. IFTTT provides integration with Samsung air conditioners – both the AF9000 floor and the AR5000 wall models.
If you have one of these units, you’re all set to integrate it with the weather using IFTTT. If you don’t, then you’ll need to get creative by purchasing a WeMo wall outlet switch. I highly recommend getting the Insight switch so that you can see what kind of energy your A/C unit is using.
Once you have your A/C plugged into the WeMo switch, you’re good to go.
First, choose the Weather channel trigger on IFTTT named “Current temperature rises above”.
On the next screen, set the temperature to a high outdoor temperature that will eventually cause the inside of your home to get quite hot within an hour or two.
Now you can set the IFTTT action to your WeMo switch.
Or, if you have one of those Samsung air conditioning units, just set the action to turn on your A/C when the weather trigger is activated. That’s all there is to it.
To finish off this automation, you’ll want to do the same setup as above, but do the opposite. Set the IFTTT trigger to be when the temperature outside falls below a cooler temperature (maybe 75 degrees F), and then set the action to be to turn off your air conditioner.
Now you can forget all about turning your A/C on and off during the day, just let the weather dictate when it turns on — which will be only when it actually has to be on. The cost savings of this one automation will be astronomical — well worth the cost of an inexpensive smart outlet!
Send Yourself an Umbrella Reminder
You get out of bed in the morning, go through your usual ritual, drive to work, and by the time you arrive the skies have opened up to a torrential downpour. Had you taken the time to check the weather forecast, you would have grabbed the umbrella on the way out!
Why not remove the need to check the weather at all, by automating an email and a text message reminder whenever the forecast calls for rain?
There is a bit of a trick to making sure you actually remember to grab that umbrella. It’s a two-prong reminder approach. First, you’ll create an email reminder the evening before, based on the next day’s forecast. Finally, you’ll give yourself a text message reminder just before you’re about to walk out the door — just in case.
For the first email reminder, you’ll want to choose the “Tomorrow’s forecast calls for” trigger from the IFTTT Weather channel.
Choose to trigger when the forecast calls for rain.
Next, make the IFTTT action your email. In my case, this would be my Gmail address, set up under the Email channel. The email will default to send the weather condition (rain) in the subject line, and then details about the forecast in the body.
You might instead choose to trigger the weather forecast email on any condition at all — it’s pretty useful to get tomorrow’s forecast delivered to your inbox every day, but for our purposes here we’re sticking to a rain notification.
The next part of this automation is to trigger a text message in the morning as well. To do this you’ll create another weather trigger but this time choose “Today’s weather report”.
Next choose a time in the morning that’s just before you head out the door.
And finally, choose to send an SMS to your device, and select the “Send me an SMS” action. This will deliver today’s weather conditions to your phone via SMS at the time that you’ve specified.
Now you’ll get an email at night, reminding you of the weather, and another SMS in the morning with a final reminder that it’s going to rain. If you still forget your umbrella, you’re a lost cause!
Control Your Nest Thermostat More Intelligently
One of the most intelligent ways to make use of that smart thermostat is to use the weather outside your home to better guide the temperature inside of it.
One example of how you can do this is by using the IFTTT weather channel to drive where you set your Nest thermostat. This way, you’re only putting the minimum demand on your home’s heating system that you need to, and only consuming as much heating fuel as you need as well – which can turn into a massive cost savings.
Here’s how the automation will work:
- If the temperature for your area gets very cold, you’ll want to set the Nest at just below room temperature (70 degrees F).
- If the temperature is moderate, you’ll set the Nest at room temperature.
- If the temperature is warm, you’ll set the Nest far below room temperature.
The first rule will save the most money, because when it’s very cold outside (under 32 degrees F), the last thing you want to do is push your heating system as hard as it can go — it’s already going to work hard enough just to keep the room temperature slightly below normal room temperature. Setting it slightly below normal will probably result in a slightly chilly house, but it’ll also result in less fuel consumption and it’ll dramatically drop your heating budget.
The second rule is a way to set the Nest back to a comfortable room temperature when the weather outside doesn’t put such a high demand on your heating system — anywhere between 30 to 60 degrees F.
The final rule is a way for you to automate the setting of the thermostat to a very cool setpoint once Spring comes around and you really don’t need to use your heating system at all. Why turn on the heat in your house when the temperature outside is already as warm as 60 degrees? Don’t waste that fuel — save it for next Winter instead.
Here’s how to set up those rules.
First, create a new recipe and select the Weather channel action “Current temperature drops below”.
Next, put the temperature setpoint at freezing, 32 degrees F.
Finally, click on the “That” link in IFTTT and find the Nest channel. Choose the “Set temperature” action, and set it to 65 degrees F — or whatever coolest temperature you and your family are willing to tolerate in order to save money in the family budget.
Next, you’ll want to set the thermostat back to normal room temperature when the weather outside has warmed up a bit. To do this, create a new recipe, follow the same procedure as above, but for the weather trigger select “Current temperature rises above”.
Make that setpoint 32 degrees F again, and then for the Nest setpoint, make it closer to room temperature. If you’re looking to save a few extra bucks every day, you could also make this setpoint slightly below room temperature, but not quite as chilly.
Finally, you’ll want to switch over to “summer mode” when the temperatures outside are high enough to keep the house warm without any effort on the part of your heating system.
Do this by creating yet another recipe, setting the Weather “Current temperature rises above” setpoint anywhere from 60 to 65 degrees F, and then setting the Nest thermostat to a temperature so cold that it’ll essentially avoid using your home heating system at all.
Now your three Nest automations are done, and you will now start seeing tremendous savings in home heating costs.
One consideration to keep in mind is that if you’ve hooked up your Nest to your home Air Conditioning or HVAC system, you absolutely do not want to do the last automation. That may avoid turning on your home heating unit, but it’ll crank up your A/C and cool the house down to 50 degrees.
Instead, you should avoid the last recipe entirely because once the outdoor temps warm up, your A/C unit will take over, and you don’t have to worry about your heating system wasting any fuel at all.
Driving Home Automation With Weather
As you can see, you don’t have to be a Smart Home aficionado to take advantage of what the IFTTT Weather channel can offer you. In one example above, all you need is a smartphone, and in another all you need is an inexpensive WeMo switch to control your A/C. There’s really no reason you shouldn’t get started using automation to increase your quality of life right now.
Have you ever used the weather to automate anything in your life? Share your own ideas and thoughts with us in the comments section below!