I’m getting ready to move and my smart home is in the way


A close-up of the Blink Video Doorbell

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Moving has always been my most dreaded chore, and the move my wife, son and I begin this year will probably be the biggest of our lives. We’re moving from the US to my native Canada and as if immigration, selling the house and packing ordinary belongings weren’t enough, we’re also dealing with the sheer number of smart home accessories I’ve amassed over the years from technical journalism.

That brought up a recurring problem. It seems like accessory makers work on the assumption that you’ll live in the same space forever: there’s little to no mention of movement in their marketing, and little thought is given to their design. I will explain some of the problems you may encounter, as well as a few ways to relieve the pain.

See also: The best smart home devices you can buy

Many accessories are time consuming to remove

Eufy Video Doorbell Base and Back Bell

While it’s relatively easy to pack things like lights, plugs, smart speakers, and screens, other accessories can be demanding. Consider a smart doorbell — even after you’ve done a software reset, it still needs to be physically removed from your front door, unplugged from its wiring if it’s not a battery-powered model, and replaced with a “dumb” doorbell if you put one down. Products such as locks, thermostats and outdoor security cameras have similar obstacles.

If you’re selling a home, it may make more sense to leave some things behind as an asset rather than waste time taking them with you.

The more hard-mounted products you have, the greater your burden. If you’re selling a home, it may make more sense to leave some things behind as an asset rather than waste time taking them with you. This applies all the more for extremely large and/or custom-made accessories, such as smart sun protection.

There is no easy way to transfer ownership

Ecobee SmartThermostat and Sensor

Technically, there’s no reason why vendors like Amazon, Google, Ecobee, Philips, etc. couldn’t offer simple ownership transfer options in their software while maintaining privacy. But they don’t, so people are usually forced to factory reset anything they don’t take with them. I doubt many people eager to buy an Ecobee thermostat for the first time would imagine having to come up with reset procedures a few years down the line.

One particularly tricky platform in this regard is Apple HomeKit. Most HomeKit accessories rely on pairing codes, and while makers are better off printing those codes directly on their products, you’re out of luck if a code was printed separately and you lose it. I’ve had this exact problem with older Lifx bulbs.

The hassle doesn’t stop when you arrive

An Inside View of an August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

When you finally move into your new home, the next step is to reinstall all the smart home accessories you brought with you so you can spend extra time on anything that needs to be assembled or wired. It’s a bit much after dragging boxes, luggage and furniture.

Then, of course, you need to configure accessories to suit your new space. That means reconnecting them to Wi-Fi, giving them the correct room assignments, and adjusting the settings to suit your new environment. Groupings and automations may also need to change. A room with lots of natural light, for example, doesn’t need smart lights that come on at 7 a.m.

Leaving accessories behind can create significant gaps in your ecosystem. The choice is then to live with those gaps or splurge on new hardware, which can be prohibitive given other moving costs like shipping, travel, and new furniture. I will probably discuss my new direction on moving day.

Ways to Relieve the Pain

Nanoleaf Shapes panels in a bedroom

One of the simplest things you can do to improve movement is to bring your existing Wi-Fi router with you. Plug it into your new modem and all your accessories should come back online once you reinstall them. Make sure to keep the same SSID (network name) and do not reset accessories unless absolutely necessary. If you can’t take your existing router with you, you can set up the new one with the same SSID and password, and that should technically work.

When you buy a smart lock, doorbell or thermostat, it’s a good policy to keep the ‘dumb’ accessory you’re replacing in a special box.

When purchasing a smart lock, doorbell, or thermostat, it’s good policy to keep the “dumb” accessory you’re replacing in a special box, complete with any special tools, parts, or instructions needed to put it back in place. I use the smart accessory box to further simplify the process – my old deadbolt button, for example, is stashed in the box of my August smart lock.

Make sure to label everything old and new with where it’s going, at least if there’s the slightest chance of confusion. For example, if you have a dozen Philips Hue bulbs, it can be difficult or impossible to remember which ones fit which room. Grab a Sharpie, some duct tape and go to town. This way you don’t have to change lamp and room names in your new place.

Related: A guide to getting started with Philips Hue

Likewise, when you first install smart home products, take pictures of any pairing codes or complicated installation details, such as thermostat wiring. Save these images in clear cloud notes that you can possibly share with others.

Have you had to take a step with smart home devices in tow? How hard was it?

53 votes

Yes, and it was annoying/difficult

26%

Yes, but it was easy enough

23%

New

30%

I don’t have any smart home devices (not even smart speakers/displays)

21%

Final Thoughts

Google Nest Cam with Floodlight installed

C. Scott Brown / Android Authority

I realize, of course, that accessory manufacturers can only do so much to improve mounting and wiring. They have no control over how apartments and houses are built, and in the case of outdoor accessories, you don’t want it to be too simple. Thieves sometimes target doorbells and security cameras, even ripping them off in seconds if mounted weakly.

Either way, moving should be something smart home companies include in the design process, especially when it comes to software. It seems crazy to me that I can’t get into an app and quickly transfer one or more accessories to someone with an account on the same platform. A new owner sometimes needs to download an app and create that account, but they should do it anyway, and it would speed up and simplify the transfer process.

If nothing else, it should be common practice for suppliers to offer advice on moving beyond factory resets. Here in the real world, people often have to move every few years and aren’t always willing or able to buy new smart home accessories when they take the plunge.

Read more: These five improvements promise to “fix” the smart home

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