Troubleshoot Common Smart Home Problems

Smart home technology is rapidly gaining popularity for its convenience, entertainment and security benefits. It has gone from an elite luxury requiring professional installation to a budget-friendly DIY possibility. But with this popularity comes some challenges, as homeowners need to provide their own technical support to solve any issues that arise.

Don’t be intimidated: We’ve got some tips for resolving some of the more common smart home challenges to keep your smart home devices up and running. If you have difficulty with a specific product, you may also be able to reach out to the manufacturer’s technical support team, but these quick tips may help you solve the most common problems quickly.

Troubleshooting 101: Plug It in

It’s a running joke that when you call customer support for a device that isn’t working, they first ask if it’s plugged in. There’s a reason for this: It’s frequently the root of the problem. Check that your devices are receiving power. If they are battery-operated, try changing the batteries. Even a small decrease in battery power can impact your device functionality.

Communication Is Key

If you are piecing together your own system, the first thing you need to know is that not all devices speak the same language. You may already know that some devices use Wi-Fi to communicate, some use Bluetooth, some use cellular and some use all three. But there are other protocols in place, such as Zigbee and Z-Wave, that allow for communication between your smart home devices. If you’re having trouble getting your devices to talk to each other, make sure they have at least one of these protocols in common. Many smart home devices, such as the Phillips Hue bulbs, require a hub to work. Make sure you have all the parts you need.

It’s All About Connections

Much like the issue of power, this one seems fairly obvious, but you’ll want to make sure the device is connected to the system/hub/internet it needs to do its job. Here are a few things to try:

If the device speaks to a hub, make sure the hub is plugged in and functioning properly.

If it uses Wi-Fi, check that the Wi-Fi is up and running and is in a place with reasonable signal strength.

Try rebooting your hub or Wi-Fi router if the device doesn’t seem connected. Turn them off and wait 30 seconds for them to fully power down before rebooting.

Voice Recognition

If you have a voice-activated device, chances are that at some point you’ve found yourself shouting at it irrationally, like it’s deliberately ignoring you. Voice activation has come a long way, but it still has challenges. For example, voice-activated devices tend to have trouble understanding young kids. These devices are simply programmed to understand adult voices. Beyond trying your “grown-up voice” to solve the problem, try the following:

Ensure that the device microphone is facing into the room (as opposed to being turned toward a wall) and is not blocked by anything, including home décor.

Speak slowly and clearly. Be aware of your regional accent, as that may impact how the device understands you.

Keep a list of the exact commands near you as you get used to using the system. These devices are meant to respond to a specific set of commands and they may not align with your natural speech patterns.

Avoiding Headaches

If you continue to have issues with your smart home setup, or find it all too overwhelming to begin with, consider going with a professional installation. Home security systems, including those from your local cable and internet service providers, now offer many of the bells and whistles you see from DIY setups with reasonable pricing. But instead of having to figure it all yourself, a professional can do the installation, show you how it works, and return if there are problems.

Smart home technology is getting easier for average consumers to manage on their own, but it’s not without challenges. Understanding the basics of how your technology works can go a long way to assist in your troubleshooting efforts. Take the extra time to do your homework in advance and read the manual once it arrives. And when in doubt, make sure the device is plugged in before calling call tech support.

Christy Matte is a mom of two and a Boston-based writer who covers home security for XFINITY Home. She is also a die-hard techie who blogs at QuirkyFusion.com.  

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