HomeTechHacker: Prepare Your Home Technology for Outages

Saturday, August 27, 2022

power lines go down frequently
By Marlon Buchanan

Fall and winter in Shoreline and Lake Forest Park are prime seasons for outages. Power lines, cable lines, and fiber lines are above ground and near many trees. Every year I’ve lived here I’ve experienced at least one utility outage.

The smart home devices and other technology in your house probably rely on power, cloud services, and Internet service. How do you prepare your home technology for when these services are down? Below are some tips.

Know what happens when you have an outage

In order to know what outages to prepare for, think about the ones you’ve had recently. Did your power go out last year? For how long and how many times? Does your Internet service provider (ISP) frequently have outages? Has your cloud smart home hub service gone down?

You can do some testing. You probably already know what happens when there is a power outage. What about when you lose Internet service?

Run a test for this by simply unplugging your modem from your router or ISP. What still works in your house and what doesn’t? Make note of what doesn’t work right, and what doesn’t have a workaround. This will help you plan later. Here are some things that may not work properly:
  • Smart plugs, speakers, switches, thermostats, etc.
  • Home security system
  • Surveillance cameras
  • Streaming services

Do some testing
Dealing with Internet and cloud service outages

You’ve done your Internet outage testing and determined what works and what doesn’t. Are there things you can’t live without? You have a couple of options depending on your situation:
  • Replace important devices that require an Internet connection to work with ones that don’t. Not every device in your home needs to be smart. Also, some smart devices can still work even without an Internet or cloud service connection. Remember, cloud services can go down even when your Internet connection is working. For example, your smart thermostat may rely on a service that goes down. Try to look for devices that will still give you key functionality even when the service provider is having problems.
  • Have a backup (failover) Internet connection. You could have two wired services, but when one goes down the other might too if the outage was caused by a downed tree line. This is why I decided to implement cellular failover Internet in my house.
Dealing with power outages

Loss of power is the outage most of us are pretty familiar with. All of us have experienced some type of outage caused by a storm, accident, or even scheduled brownouts. What should you do to protect and prepare your smart home? Here are some suggestions:
  • Buy a whole-home surge protector – Often power outages are preceded by power surges which can damage your home electronics. A whole-home surge protector will provide protection.
  • Connect key electronics to an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) – UPSs are great for keeping devices running during short power outages and allowing you time to gracefully shut computers down so no data or files are lost.
  • Get a whole-home UPS or a generator – These can keep some or even all of your electronic devices running during a power outage. There are lots of different kinds. Prices can go from the hundreds to the tens of thousands for installation, but it might be worth looking into.
Have a plan
Have a disaster recovery plan

What happens when the power comes back? Internet? Do things need to be rebooted or reconnected? Make sure you have a plan for how to get things back up and running quickly when the outage is over. The more complicated your home technology, the more detailed this plan may need to be. When an outage happens, you’ll be glad you were prepared.

Marlon Buchanan is a best-selling author, IT Director, and founder of HomeTechHacker.com, a website with free resources to help you make the most of your home technology.


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