Smart home hacks, tips and tricks to keep things fresh and clean


As convenient as a smart home can be, setting one up takes some work. To the surprise of some, a smart home also requires maintenance to keep it running – especially if you want to stay on the cutting edge like us tech journalists. It’s really worth doing an occasional “spring clean” of your home tech, whether it’s once a year or when there’s a major change.

To that end, here’s a checklist of things to do to keep your smart home in top shape.

1. Delete unused automation routines and scenes

Google Home App Refresh 2022 1

Platforms like Amazon Alexa and Google Home make it relatively easy to build automations. It’s possible to get overzealous with this, though, and even casual smart homeowners can gradually accumulate routines and scenes they rarely (if ever) use. You probably don’t need your house to erupt in red, white and blue light effects every time the 4th of July rolls around, for example.

Scrubbing unnecessary automations clears apps and reduces the chance of unexpected events, such as fans triggering because you’ve moved a motion sensor to another room. It also prevents routines from interrupting each other – a sensor-based lighting routine can conflict with one based on sunrise/sunset offsets, leading to lights staying on when they should.

Some device brands (such as Micron and Philips Hue) have the ability to export their native scenes to third-party smart home platforms such as Alexa and Assistant. If so, you may want to go into those branded apps to delete unused scenes and/or disable scene sync.

2. Remove unused accessories

lifx smarter light with app and google home natural light

Ryan Haines / Android Authority

It can be tempting to leave smart home accessories connected to apps/platforms when they are not doing anything or even when they are completely offline. After all, this saves you the hassle of setting things up again if and when you start using them again.

The ugly truth is that if you haven’t used an accessory in months, you probably won’t want to start it again (holiday lights excepted, here). It is better to admit this and delete an accessory from relevant apps, as this clears control panels and prevents repeated error messages if an accessory is offline.

It is actually even more important to disconnect unused accessories if they are still online. They use unnecessary energy and bandwidth, potentially overloading your router and causing other devices to drop out. It’s unlikely if you’ve upgraded to Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, but the threat is there.

3. Create a stash for all your pairing codes

Google Keep copied to Google Drive

Joe Hindy / Android Authority

While some accessories can pair wirelessly, many rely on QR or alphanumeric codes to link to apps and platforms. If you lose one of these codes or it becomes unreadable, you may be SOL if you need to reset the matching hardware.

A good fail-safe is a database with scans of all your home’s codes. You could use something like Excel or Google Sheets, but often the easier solution is to create notes in apps like Google Keep. It makes it easy to insert images and text, and if you search for an accessory’s name, the info should pop up right away. Of course, scanning a QR code by taking a picture of one device with another can be difficult, but it is possible.

Consider using a password manager to create a similar database for smart home account passwords. You’re going to hate yourself if you or your partner can’t remember how to get into apps that control essentials like lights and robot vacuums.

4. Reboot or hard reset faulty devices

Amazon echo 2019 top angle

Many smart home products can run their entire lives without problems. If they give you occasional problems – for example by failing to respond to voice commands or recognize new settings – it’s worth trying a reboot or a factory reset if that doesn’t work. Resets should always be a last resort, for the obvious reason that you will have to reconfigure a device as if it were new. You may also need to reconstruct any automation that the device was a part of.

Rebooting can often be done by simply disconnecting a device and then reconnecting it. Resets are best handled by a device’s native app, although there is usually a physical reset method as a backup. Double check the instructions to learn what to do.

5. Check for new features in smart home apps

Apple announces Matter support for HomeKit at WWDC 2022

As a casual smart home user, it’s easy to miss new app-based features unless a developer goes out of their way to highlight them. For example, did you know that the Alexa Android app now supports pairing Matter accessories? You might not even know why matter is important if all you’re looking for is release notes and accessory packaging. And have you looked at the revamped Google Home app with its more robust automations?

That kind of twist makes it worth searching around apps for overlooked features. However, instead of blindly exploring, we suggest you look up official websites or consider the kind of things you want to do and then search relevant menus in the app. Here at Android Authority we also have guides for all the major smart home platforms, including not only Alexa and Google Home, but also Samsung SmartThings and Apple HomeKit.

6. Make sure your Wi-Fi is running smoothly

The Eero Pro 6E Wi-Fi router on a desktop

If you can handle occasional accessory outages, spring cleaning is a good time to address them.

Make sure your Wi-Fi router(s) and any extenders are out in the open, unobstructed by large objects, as barriers inhibit the Wi-Fi signal. This means you don’t have to put your router in a drawer, cupboard or behind a TV. And get your router off the floor too.

Similar rules apply to accessories. For example, you might want to place some smart speakers out of sight, but that can be the reason why they sometimes become unresponsive.

If dropouts are common, you may need to upgrade your Wi-Fi setup. Most smart homes should use Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, as Wi-Fi 5 (aka 802.11ac) struggles to keep up with dozens of devices. And if certain rooms seem hard hit, you may need to invest in extenders or a mesh router system, the latter being preferable as your smart home accessories should ideally be on the same SSID (Wi-Fi Network ID) .

7. Build new automations for real-world problems

Micron Overlight 8x Entryway RGB

The polar opposite of our first point is that once you’ve got everyday automations down, it’s possible to forget about niche cases where automation is still useful. The trick is to recognize what would help more than once in a blue moon.

An example from one of my work colleagues is a “cleaning time” routine that she uses when it’s time to scrub her apartment. This turns on more lights, starts some music, and runs her robot vacuum cleaner. In my own home, I have a “gaming lights” voice command that sets office lighting the way I like it when I’m playing something like PUBG or Cyberpunk 2077.

8. Narrow your brands and platforms

A kitchen lit with LIFX smart bulbs and light strips

There is a critical rule at play here: the more brands and platforms you use, the more complicated a smart home becomes.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is with smart light bulbs. Let’s say you buy a pack of Philips Hue bulbs, but then you can find some Wyze bulbs on sale and add them to the mix. You’ll need to set up each brand using separate apps, and while both brands offer things like scheduling and sleep routines, you’ll also need to set up those features in separate apps unless you can set up a unified routine in Alexa or Google Home . Wyze also doesn’t support HomeKit, which could cut some Apple devices out of the loop.

Matter should eventually resolve these kinds of conflicts, but until it’s more widely adopted, it’s best to choose a single overarching platform and buy from the fewest compatible brands possible. Use one brand for all your lights if you can, another for all your security cameras, and so on. As you phase out old accessories, you can improve consistency through replacements.

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