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

Last Updated Mar 15, 2022
Man staring at light bulbs in black and white picture.
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Power outages are a pain for all of us. Our smart homes – with staples like the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home – are a regular part of our lives, but like just about everything else, they are dependent upon electrical power.

So what happens to your smart home when the power goes out? Depending on the smart devices you employ in your home, some may still function during a power outage while others may not function at all. For example:

  • Voice Assistants (like Google Home or Amazon Echo) would not function during a power outage.
  • Smoke Alarms or Smart Locks will continue to function due to a built-in battery backup.
  • Cameras may remain online if they have a battery backup as well as local recording capabilities.

In most cases, though, nothing will happen aside from the device not working. Smart devices simply become “dumb” in the event of a power outage in the sense that they simply stop working. When the power returns, these devices are able to be powered up and functional once again.

What Devices Will Still Work in a Power Outage?

Light bulb in dark room

As we mentioned earlier, some smart devices will work whilst others will not.

Smart Cameras

While most smart cameras will act like their counterparts and become non-functional in a power outage, there are some smart cameras – like The Sense 8 Camera – that have a two-hour battery backup and local recording capabilities.

This is perfect to ensure usage in the event of a short-term power outage. The ability to access those local recordings when power is restored ensures no down time or lost coverage due to the outage.

If you have an existing camera, check the user manual or specifications to see if it has a battery backup!

Smart Locks

Schlage Z-wave Connect

Schlage Z-wave Connect. Click on image for Amazon price

Most smart locks like the Schlage Z-wave Connect come with a battery-powered backup. If your smart lock includes a keyhole, that is an additional layer of protection against any sort of outage.

Making sure your batteries are changed out to keep the keypad and/or Bluetooth function available via the battery backup.

There are even some locks, like the Kwikset Satin SmartCode Deadbolt that can be found at local retailers like Walmart and Target.

A standard smart lock with keypad and deadbolt will run you anywhere from $80-$250 depending on which brand and style you go with, making it affordable to equip your home with the latest and greatest in security technology.

Smart Lights.

In the past, the restoration of power could happen at any time, meaning that lights that were previously on could snap on the moment power comes back. No one wants to have the lights flash on at 3AM and, with smart lights, you can combat that.

Some lights can be set to “Power Loss Recovery”, returning them to the on/off state they were in before power loss.

This allows you to check to see if power has returned instead of lights flashing on annoyingly.

With your smart lights, there are myriad options to choose from. There are specific bulbs – like the Phillips Hue – that offer a litany of colors and options (like the aforementioned “power loss recovery” feature) to choose from.

There are also adapters for your outlet so that you can simply plug your lamps into them, plug the adapter into the wall, and control your lights that way.

There are also devices that will retain functionality even if they’re not working the way they were intended. For instance, most garage doors can be operated manually when their power source is cut off.

Does Wi-Fi work during a power outage?

If your router is simply plugged into a power outlet, it will respond the same way most other smart devices will in the event of a power outage: by shutting off.

Uninterrupted Power Supply

Uninterrupted Power Supply. Click on Image for Amazon Price

There is a way to combat going offline in the event of a blackout, however: an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). A UPS is essentially a battery backup that can also act as a surge protector.

What does that mean? It means that when the UPS detects a surge or power drop, it protects your device from the repercussions and uses its own battery to keep the device(s) functioning until power can be restored.

As mentioned above, some devices come with their own battery backups, but using a UPS is a much safer and more reliable way to keep your devices functioning.

Some routers will also offer the option to switch to cellular wi-fi, but be aware that this function will likely require that you pay data charges, which can be expensive should blackouts of more than a few hours occur.

If You Still Need Internet During a Power Outage

So there are a few options you have in case your internet goes down and you still need access.

  • Tether Hotspot On Your Smartphone
  • Use a Mobile Broadband Hotspot

Tether Hotspot On Your Smartphone

Many of us already have smartphones so they already have a built-in function where you can make your phone a hotspot. Then you can connect devices to it and use your phones data service for internet.

Mobile WiFi Hotspot Device

The 2nd option is to purchase a Physical hotspot like the Netgear Mobile WiFi device. You will need to pay for the internet service separately ahead of time and need a sim card. Check out the link for more details and requirements. Turn it on whenever you need internet and you’re good to go!

Netgear Mobile WiFi Device

Click on the Image of the Netgear Mobile WiFi Device for Amazon Price

This is a popular solution for folks who travel abroad and need reliable internet access too.

Do Security Systems Work When Power is Out?

Generally speaking, no, they won’t continue to work. As mentioned above, smart locks will continue to operate for a short time due to built-in battery backups but they are not meant for heavy or long-term use.

Some smart cameras will continue to run on the same battery backups as well, even offering local recording functionality so that recording doesn’t drop off during outages.

The only downside to that is that recordings are localized, so they won’t be accessible remotely (through smartphones or similar devices).

Most security systems will come back up fairly quickly when power is restored, but they act like most other smart devices do when power is lost: they become “dumb”.

Which isn’t to say that they “won’t work” – nearly every smart lock still comes with a standard deadbolt, so your doors won’t magically unlock in the event of an outage, leaving you unprotected.

What happens to Nest thermostat when power goes out?

As one of the most popular smart devices on the market, the Nest thermostat brings reliability even in the event of a power outage, allowing for functionality even when the rest of your electronic devices are rendered ineffective.

Nest includes a rechargeable battery that derives its charge through your cooling or heating system wires. When the battery gets low, the Nest thermostat will eventually shut down until the battery recharges.

But it’s not that simple. The nest will take steps to preserve battery charge for as long as possible, doing things like turning off the Wi-Fi connection, so you won’t be able to control the thermostat remotely, though it will remain functional.

Though the Nest thermostat can function for up to two hours during a blackout, it can take an hour once power is restored before the unit is operating properly. Needless to say: power outages can still have noticeable effects on all of your electronics, be it total loss of function or limited functionality for a short time afterwards.

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