Last week, I had three different batteries on my desk and a growing list of tasks I needed to do to keep my devices online and running smoothly. After swapping out batteries in a door lock, a door knob, and in the sensor of the MyQ garage door opener, I got another low battery notice from a Hue motion sensor in the storage room.
And I still need to clean the camera in my oven before it stops recognizing the food I put in and recommending the perfect cook time. I’m also worried that if I don’t clean the sensors on my Roomba it might take a dive off the stairs or simply stop cleaning as effectively. Plus, I have a number of devices that have fallen offline and need me to reconnect them, and a pair of Nest Audio speakers that just need to get recycled because they continuously shout, “I can’t help with that!” if anyone asks any other Google speaker for anything.
It is, in other words, spring cleaning time.
This is not just a litany of annoying small projects related to my many connected gadgets that I’ve completed or need to complete soon. It is a very detailed list of things that I try to cluster around this time of year for the annual smart home spring cleaning that I do. In some houses, people might wash their walls or clean their garage. In my home, it’s time to gather a smartphone, a cleaning rag (for those dirty cameras and sensors), and a truly prodigious supply of batteries, and refresh, reset, or reject each of the devices in my home.
This year, I had thought that I’d be doing a massive reset of my smart home hubs because I’d be upgrading everything to Matter, but that’s not happening just yet. So instead I’m going through and making sure my naming conventions are all in sync across the four home hubs I have running (Amazon, Google, SmartThings, and an undisclosed review unit). I make sure that every room in the house has the same name and that each device in each room has the same name (which is not the name of the room unless all of the devices in that room get turned on all the time). We talk about how to name devices in this post here, and why you shouldn’t get cute with your smart home names here.
I also check that my devices are all connected and reporting in. And that my automations still work for the life we’re leading today. (If you have a lot of different options on your devices, you can check this by seeing which automations have run recently). I also make sure the automations power the right devices. I swap out devices often, so a goodnight routine that turns off a door lock that’s no longer installed isn’t helpful.
I also open each smart home device app on my phone to check for messages, updates, and that I can still use it the way I want. For example, at some point in time the makers of my oven decided that I needed to manually activate the ability to remotely control the oven on my app by physically hitting buttons on the oven to enable the feature. This is probably a smart decision, but it is nice to know this before I try to preheat my oven away from home.
To be sure, it’s a lot of fiddly work. And while things like Matter will make this process easier in principle by carrying devices and their names across my different systems, and presumably making it easier to get devices back on the network if they fall off, my automations will still have to be checked and tweaked, and batteries will still need changing, and sensors will still need cleaning. And yes, I’ll still have to open 50 different apps.
If I wanted to take my spring cleaning a step further I’d also check the security stats of my devices, making sure the software was up to date (mine are all set to automatically update) and look at the data traffic patterns on my Firewalla to see if anything is behaving oddly. (Although I am fairly certain I’d get a notification if something was odd.)
Spring cleaning is also a great time to check passwords — and for anyone not using a password manager, taking the time to set one up. I think password services are essential for smart home users because we’re constantly linking services together through new hubs or new cloud integrations. Just the other day when setting up a new hub I had to enter almost a dozen passwords before I was able to deem the setup good enough and stop adding devices. Multi-factor authentication on devices where that makes sense is another must-have. Cameras, devices that control systems that could cause big damage such as HVAC and water, and appliances such as ovens or dishwashers are all good candidates.
I also use this time to look at any of my device subscriptions to figure out what I should or shouldn’t be paying for going forward.
The process isn’t fun, and some people are so organized they probably just fix problems the moment they pop up on their smart home network. But for me, especially when it comes to smaller devices I don’t rely on every day, it feels good to designate a time of year (and sometimes two) when I take stock and deal with anything that’s annoying but not so annoying that I fixed it the moment I first saw it.
If you have your own smart home spring cleaning tasks, I’d love to hear about them.