The promise of the smart home is usually about what you can do while you’re there. You can set the lights to turn on as you walk in the door, or program the thermostat to begin to cool things down when it knows you’re leaving work. But you might not think about how all your smart devices can be configured to work for you while you’re away. Taking a vacation for a week or two doesn’t mean you need to leave your smart home as is. Here are some things you should do to adjust it before you leave.
Disable smart alarm clocks
I am guilty of this one. Many of us use our smartphones for our daily wake up calls, and they travel with us on our trips and vacations. However, smart speakers and smart alarm clocks, including ones with special features like artificial light to trick your sleeping brain into thinking it’s a bright sunny day, are becoming more common.
It’s too easy to forget to disable these alarms when you leave your house, especially if you’re new to the whole “dedicated alarm clock” thing. I used an iPhone as my alarm for more than a decade, and less than two months after getting a Hatch smart alarm clock, I forgot to turn it off before vacation. Luckily, it’s wifi-enabled, which meant I could disable it from my phone one I remembered (more on that later), but save yourself the trouble ahead of time and turn off the alarm from the app.
Keep thermostats set to appropriate temperatures
If you’re traveling during periods of extreme temperatures, like hot summers or cold winters, make sure you keep your thermostat turned on (smart or not). Of course, there’s no need to keep things at the temps you would if you were home—that’s a waste of money and resources. Instead, worry only about keeping your home from getting too cold or too hot.
You’ll find a variety of recommendations for target temperatures online, but the general advice is that you don’t want your home dipping below 60 degrees or baking above the 80s for too long.
Set some smart lights to turn on at night
You probably don’t want to keep your lights on around the clock while you’re on vacation. However, it can be a useful security measure to keep a light or two on at night when you’re gone—no one wants to hit the house where “someone” is still awake at 1 a.m.
Different smart lights use different smart home apps, but most let you create automations that turn lights on and off at specific intervals. You can set your lights to turn on and off in various rooms between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., for example, if you’d like to make sure nobody notices a lack of lighting for the duration of your vacation.
Smart lights aren’t the only effective tool here, either. You can set timers on your smart TVs to make it look like you’re watching some late-night programming.
Set your smart locks and share keys with house sitters
While you can usually lock things up with your voice or the app, many smart locks can automatically lock themselves when you shut the door. Check if your smart lock has that feature, and enable it before closing up your house.
If you have trusted family or friends stopping by your house to water plants, walk pets, or to watch it overnight, consider sharing your smart keys with them to make unlocking your house simpl.
Forget something? Just fix it on your phone
The best thing about having a smart home while on vacation is you don’t need to worry about forgetting any of the above. In the past, you’d ask yourself “Did I remember to turn off the lights?” or “Is the stove really off?” or “Did I close the garage door?” or “No, seriously, is the stove off? I’ve never left it on before, but maybe this time it’s really on.”
There aren’t many smart stoves on the market yet, but plenty of other tech is entirely controllable from your phone, no matter where you are. If turning off your smart A/C slipped your mind, you can flip the switch remotely; if you aren’t sure whether you locked up, a tap of a button bolts your doors shut. Any smart device that connects to your phone with an app can be controlled wherever you are, so you don’t need to worry so much about prepping your home before you leave.
Of course, those devices need to remain connected to the internet to work, which means you’ll need to:
Keep your wifi on
Depending on how long you’ll be traveling, it can be tempting to shut down your router and modem, since these things will suck down seemingly unnecessary electricity while you’re away. However, that electricity isn’t unnecessary when you have a smart home, since wifi enables those devices to remain within reach, wherever you are.
If you turn off your wifi while away, like I used to do, you’ll be disconnected from your smart home and all its devices. That’s not so bad if you’re 100% sure you did everything you needed to with them beforehand, but if you forgot something, you’ll have no way to communicate with those devices while you’re away. That smart alarm will continue to go off, those security lights will never turn on, and those locks will never, well, lock.