What Happens if You Lose Power or Wi-Fi?

Controlling your garage door, lights, thermostat, and other devices right from your smartphone makes life so simple. But imagine if the power or Wi-Fi goes out. Exactly how difficult does life get?

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We posed the question to Dr. Shawn DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). Most devices will continue to operate, he says, but will lose customization and remote functionality, or the ability to control it from afar.

One way to think about it is to imagine your smartphone. It still works when you don't have Wi-Fi, but without connectivity, you don't have full use of all its special features. The same goes for your Wi-Fi-enabled smart home devices.

The extent to which a device's functionality is affected depends on the product and its service, DuBravac says.

Take the popular Nest connected thermostat, for example. Thanks to battery backup that kicks in during power outages, it still works. Without Wi-Fi, however, you lose access to the services and features that make the thermostat "smart."

Same goes for LiftMaster MyQ garage door openers. A lost Wi-Fi connection means loss of the ability to control it from your smartphone. Yet, as long as your model has battery backup, you'll be able to use it with your keypad and visor remote as usual.

Then there's the Phillips Hue Personal Wireless Lighting Bulb. After an outage, it simply defaults to its brightest white setting. Many products have such built-in defaults.

If there's a device that you're particularly concerned about losing power to, consider investing in an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) or generator, DuBravac says, and making sure you have spare batteries stocked and ready.

You may be able to tether devices to your smartphone's Wi-Fi, too, he says. It's not a difficult process once you know how to do it, but you will want to check to see if your phone and service provider support tethering first.

Basically, an outage affecting a smart device shouldn't be all that much more inconvenient than one affecting a regular device. Just be sure to investigate what happens to your specific device in the event of power or Wi-Fi interruptions, so you'll be aware of what you'll have to contend with before it happens.

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