Sometimes the simplest questions can open up really interesting lines of inquiry. Perhaps you were explaining with pride to your neighbour that you now have installed some devices that make your home Smart. Back comes the question, “Is your Smart Home dumb when you lose power?” Clearly it must be less Smart. But if a power failure occurs, will you be better or worse off than in a regular non-smart home? Some of the answers on that may surprise you.
Your Powerless Smart Home Is Not Just a Regular Home
The reason why a Smart Home is not just a regular home during a power failure is because it contains Smart Devices. Each Smart Device undergoes the power failure and its Smartness may be shown at three particular times:
- As the power failure begins
- As the power failure continues
- As the power returns
Losing power is always a troubling time. With a little preplanning, you may be able, with the help of your Smart Devices, to ensure you handle the interruption in the best way.
Some Smart Home Products Require Constant Power
The most important question to ask is which of your Smart Devices must have constant power in order to give satisfactory performance after the power failure. Minimal power is also needed to record the history of any changes in the device occurring during the power failure. For some devices, this requires backup batteries, which can be rechargeable. In the following sections, we will look at some of the most important Smart Device categories to see how they are affected by power failures.
How Power Failures Affect Your Smart Locks
There are two aspects to consider for your Smart Locks. Smart Door Locks allow you to lock or unlock your door with a command from your Mobile Device or from your Smart Home Controller. The actual locking mechanism usually works on backup batteries. If the command to your Smart Lock is transmitted over Bluetooth then it can keep working on the batteries. If however the command to the Smart Lock is transmitted over Wi-Fi or another wireless protocol like Z-Wave or Zigbee, then the absence of power will not allow that communication. Having a physical key to the lock obviates all such problems.
What About Your Smart Garage Door When You Lose Power
Opening or closing your Smart Garage Door presents similar issues to those already discussed on Smart locks. It is most unlikely that you will have a sufficiently powerful power source to raise or lower the garage door anyways. Before you are ever affected by a power failure, you should check out exactly how you disengage any locking mechanism. You should make sure that you are physically capable of raising or lowering the garage door.How A Power Outage Affects Your Smart Lights
All smart lights operate exactly like regular lights. When there is no power, there is no light. However some like the Philips Hue bulbs allow you to set what should happen when power is restored. Setting the bulb to “Power Loss Recovery” will set the bulb to the last used stage before it lost power. This avoids the situation where a short power loss occurring during the night triggers the light to come on and upset your sleep. The same applies to Smart Switches and Dimmers that are controlling lights.
How Will Your Smart Security Cameras Operate When Power Is Lost
Provided you have battery backup for their functioning, then your Smart Security Cameras will continue to film what is occurring. What may be a problem is transmitting that information to the central command. If traditional phone lines are connecting with a monitoring centre, then no problem should occur. If cellular radio is used this again will provide sustained communication. Problems occur if information is transmitted via Wi-Fi and that service is not maintained during the power outage.
How A Power Loss Will Affect Your Smart Thermostat
Your Smart Thermostat will almost certainly have sufficient battery backup to record exactly what is happening. However since the HVAC system may well have lost its own power, there is no opportunity for the thermostat to control the temperature. If the heating or cooling system still operates during the power failure (for example if you have a generator backup), then the only factor to consider is whether the communication system between the Smart Thermostat and the heating/cooling system can operate.
How Your Smart Home Controller Operates When Power Goes Out
Your Smart Home Controller (AKA Hub) might be keeping State or Mode of the house. For example, it might keep a mode of Day or Night where in every mode different occupancy logic is applied. In that case, power failure might reset the mode to its default unless the controller has a backup battery or another way to retain the state of the software under a power outage. If the mode has been reset, you might need to restore it manually once the power is back. If however your Smart Home Controller is stateless, then this is not an issue.
Don’t Let Power Failures Get You Down
The important thing to remember as you sit in your Smart Home during a power failure is that provided it was well designed, you are certainly no worse off than if you are in a regular home. Provided the power loss is not too long, why not take the opportunity to have a candlelit supper and think of the good old times.
Further reading on this topic
A great deal is being written on this topic and the following articles are just a selection of what you will find.