Routines using Alexa have time and again proved extremely useful in the everyday function of our smart homes. They help make our daily lives that much easier – most of the time.
Now, what if you want to take routines a step further? Perhaps you want them to run only when you’re home and can actually make use of them. You might find this easier said than done and want to find a way to do this.
Before we get into how you can run routines only when you’re home, let’s first dive into what Alexa routines are, and how they work.
What are Alexa Routines?
If you use an Amazon Echo, you’re most likely familiar with the Alexa app and Routines. Routines are smart home automations that get your various smart home devices to work together. With routines, you can get your smart home devices to perform a variety of functions collectively, resulting in smoother operation of your smart home.
People most often use routines when it comes to smart lights and cameras. For example, let’s say one of your cameras detects motion in the backyard. You can set up a routine so that when a specific camera detects motion, a light will come on, such as a floodlight. This can help deter burglars and other nefarious activities around your home.
Smart plugs are another popular smart home item. Routines that involve turning, say, your air conditioner or regular non-smart light fixtures on and off at specified times, are also very useful.
Another popular Routine is one that gets you ready to settle down for the night and relax. When you say your chosen phrase such as, “Alexa, time to relax”, main lights dim or change color, and relaxing music comes on.
The possibilities for routines you can create are practically endless!
Routines can be triggered by such things as a phrase, a time of the day, the action of another smart home device, or a variety of other options. You set up these routines in the Alexa app.
How to Set Up Alexa Routines
When setting up a routine, you first have to figure out what you want your devices to do, and when, as in, what sets the routine in motion. For example, let’s say you have a hard time getting up in the morning, and need your bedroom light to turn on at a specific time, brightness, and color.
You would first go into your Alexa app, then over to the three lines on the bottom right corner.
Then, go to Routines.
On the next screen, you’ll touch the plus sign in the top right corner. From there, you’ll see a screen where you’ll be prompted to enter your Routine Name, trigger as well as action, or what happens.
First, name your Routine. After you’ve named your routine, you’ll select “When this happens”. You’re then presented with a variety of options.
If you want to start your Routine according to a specific time, you’ll select “Schedule”. From there, you’ll be able to input the time of day you want your Routine to begin, as well as how often, whether every day or only on specific days.
You’ll then choose your action. In the case of our example, since it’s a smart light, you’ll select “Smart home”, then choose the smart light you’d like to use. From there you can choose the color and brightness that you’d like the light to come on.
Once everything’s set up, make sure you confirm so that your routine is saved. You can apply this same method to whatever smart home routines you’re trying to create.
Benefits of Running Routines Only When You’re Home
Alexa routines give you a lot of options as to what can trigger them. Something you may wonder is if they can get certain routines to run only when you’re home – or conversely, when you’re not home.
Let’s consider routines that involve turning on lights. After all, if no one is home, there’s generally no need for lights to turn on and waste electricity. Or conversely, maybe you want certain lights to come on only when you’re not home, as a burglar deterrent.
Another great example is if normally, you have a routine that turns your air conditioner on via a smart plug, at certain parts of the day. This way, your house is cool when you come home. If you’re out for a longer day, or maybe even for the night, you don’t need the air conditioner to come on at that particular time – but you don’t want to delete the routine entirely.
Having certain routines run only at certain times can help your smart home run more smoothly and effectively – so how do you do this?
How to Run Alexa Routines Only When You’re Home
Because the Alexa app isn’t compatible with such protocols as IFTTT, running routines only when you’re home can be easier said than done. While there are some challenges to overcome when trying to achieve this, there are fortunately a few options you can explore.
This is one of the first options you may want to explore when it comes to getting your routines to run only when you’re home. However, the only caveat to this is that your location is the trigger. This means that you can’t add additional triggers, as Alexa routines only support one trigger to start a routine.
This works if, let’s say, you want certain lights to come on only as you near or enter your home. To achieve this, when you go to create a routine, select ‘Location’ as your trigger. You’ll notice some prompts so that the Alexa app gets location permission.
Depending on your settings, it may take you to your device’s location settings for the Alexa app. Location-based routines only work when the Alexa app has access to your location ‘all the time’, as opposed to ‘only when using the app’.
After you’ve gotten permissions out of the way, you can go ahead and select or enter a new address. When that device reaches or leaves, that address – according to your preference, the action you specify in the app will take place.
However, if you’re looking for more than one trigger (i.e. when you’re home and it’s 4 pm), you’re going to want to explore other options.
This is a free feature from Amazon that detects certain sounds, such as glass breaking and smoke alarms, when set to Away mode. It’s only available with certain Amazon Echo devices, namely those with microphones, so that it can detect these sounds. Certain older Echo versions, such as the Echo Show 5 first gen, aren’t compatible with Alexa Guard.
Using Alexa Guard is another way to only run routines when you’re home – or not. This can be achieved by using Alexa Guard as your trigger.
For example, making the trigger ‘when Alexa Guard is set to Home’, then your action can be that the lights come on. Conversely, making the trigger ‘when Alexa Guard is set to Away’, then the lights turn off.
After you define Alexa Guard as your trigger, you can configure the rest of the routine in any way you wish.
Using External Equipment
Stopping Alexa routines from running when you’re not home may not be possible with the Alexa app alone, depending on the routine and what you’re trying to do. Because of this, you may have to explore other devices. Some of these may require the other devices’ respective apps.
For example, there’s the Switchbot Bot. This convenient little device can press any rocker light switch or button. It needs its own app, as well as the Switchbot Hub in order to control it.
While they can’t prevent your Alexa routines from running, you can get them to turn off power at the source of devices that would normally be used in an Alexa routine, such as light switches.
You’ll need to be hands-on about it, though. Meaning, you’ll have to turn the Switchbot device on and off via the Switchbot app during times when you know your Alexa routines are going to be running.
Another option for external equipment are smart sensors. This way, your Alexa routine can be something like, when its dark, turn on the lights. Or, if it’s light out, turn them off. With this option, if you’re not home, you can place a sensor outside so that when it’s dark, you can set a routine where the lights stay off, or turn off if a routine happens to turn them on.
Then, when you get home, you can either remove the sensor, or change the routine so that it doesn’t turn your lights off and leave you in the dark.
These are just a couple of options you can explore when it comes to external equipment.
Using Other Smart Home Hubs
So you may have decided that using Amazon’s Alexa may not be for you. The fact that it doesn’t work with protocols like IFTTT may be annoying. If this is the case, what other options do you have?
Samsung SmartThings is a popular option among smart home hubs. With this smart home hub, you can actually have multiple triggers. So you can add conditions such as ‘if it’s 5 pm and I’m not home’ (deciphered by a device location), then your lights, or some other smart device, won’t (or will) turn on.
Home Assistant is another option – though it may require a little more tech-savviness. This software-based smart home hub (that can run on a Raspberry Pi) lets you use various commands to control your devices, and you can add “Offsets”, or extra conditions for setting your devices off – or not.
Routines Your Way
Getting our Alexa routines to run how we want them to, when we want them to is important to us. Some routines are better run when we’re home – or when we’re not. While IFTTT isn’t an option with Alexa, there are, fortunately, a few other options. Alexa Guard, external equipment, as well as using Location schedules are all options that can help your routines do what you want them to.
If you don’t want to use Amazon’s Alexa, there are other smart home hubs available such as Samsung SmartThings and Google Assistant, that can also help you achieve the desired results.