Electricity is not just a luxury. A prolonged power outage could lead to food spoilage, harm to your pets, a flooded basement, or burst pipes. Use these solutions to receive automatic alerts when the power goes out in your home so you can take action.
Why you should monitor your home’s energy status
Perhaps monitoring the power status of your home while you’re away isn’t something you’ve given much thought to. Here’s why you should.
There are as many reasons to monitor the energy status of your home as there are ways to use that energy, but the most important are occupant safety, food safety, and structural safety.
If you’re at work or on vacation, for example if the power goes out, your pets could be at risk. Fish tanks require a constant power supply for circulation and aeration, for example, or you may want to turn on the air conditioning to help keep your dogs cool. Even if there are no pets, your refrigerator and freezer without power for an extended period of time can lead to spoilage and potentially foodborne illness.
A prolonged power outage in an unoccupied building can even lead to physical damage in the form of broken pipes in the winter or flooded basements, due to a sump pump failure, during summer storms. This isn’t much of a risk if you’re just out for the day at the office, but for homes like, say, a seasonal cottage or inter-tenant rental, a long period without power can be problematic.
Whatever your reason for wanting to know when the power goes out while you’re away, we’ve rounded up more than a few solutions for you.
what to look for
Before we delve into the actual solutions, there are a few things worth keeping in mind when comparing methods and choosing one for your needs. The tips below will help you evaluate the solutions we’re talking about here and any others you might come across while doing your own shopping.
First, the higher the risk involved, the more redundancy you want. If you think it would be nice to know when the power goes out, using just one of the methods described below might be enough. However, if the power outage for an extended period could be catastrophic to your hobby, livelihood, or pets, we recommend that you use several methods to be vigilant.
Second, always consider how information will get from your home to you when the power actually goes out.
Some power alert modules on the market rely on Wi-Fi to transmit the message, which doesn’t help you at all if your router and modem are also off during power outage. Others rely on an external ping between the larger Internet and the local network at home.
That can be useful but it also introduces false positives. If the internet goes down but the power stays on, you won’t know if it’s an internet outage or a power outage.
Finally, consider how much information about the specific thing you need to know can be provided by the monitor you choose. For example, if a particular solution can only tell you whether or not the whole house has power, but not whether a specific circuit (such as the one that feeds your emergency heater or sump pump) has power, then go with a solution that can plug in properly. on the same circuit that those critical things are on.
How to receive automatic power outage alerts
With the above tips in mind, let’s take a look at a variety of ways you can be notified in the event of a power outage.
We have ranked the solutions below roughly in terms of reliability and risk of false positives.
Leverage existing network-connected equipment
While we can’t recommend this method as a true power alert solution to use in real emergencies, it’s one of those inadvertently very convenient things about having a house full of networked hardware.
Quite a few smart home products that have cloud integration will alert you when the cloud side of the equation loses contact with the device on your home’s local network.
For example, every time a Nest security camera goes offline, you’ll get a push notification from the Nest app on your phone letting you know that a camera has gone offline. Some network devices that have cloud connectivity, such as routers and access points, will also alert you if the hardware is offline.
Of course, as we noted earlier, hardware going offline doesn’t mean there’s no power. It means that the camera or router is no longer connected to the network or the big Internet.
And, to further complicate matters, depending on the platform you receive notifications from, you may receive offline notifications but not online notifications. You might see “Backyard camera is offline” and that could tell you that the power went out, but without the corresponding “Backyard camera is online” message, you would have to keep checking to see if it was back on. line. .
But if the location you’re monitoring has very reliable internet and you’re not dealing with issues related to your ISP, broadband modem, or Wi-Fi router on a regular basis, then the offline device method might be good enough for your needs. “Especially if you’re just keeping an eye on things while you’re at work or running errands.
Sign up for utility company alerts
The vast majority of utility companies support consumer notification in the event of an outage. If you have a smart meter installed in your home, you’re in luck.
RELATED: No, smart meters are not dangerous to your health
With smart meters, this notification process isn’t just a broad “FYI, power maybe being out at home” notice, but it is specific to your home because the meter connected to your home can communicate with the utility company.
If I log into my local utility company’s dashboard right now, for example, it shows that my meter is online and the power is on in my home. If the power goes out, I’ve signed up for SMS and email alerts, and I receive a follow-up alert when the power is restored at my location.
This method can’t tell you if the power is off at the breaker level, but for a report on whether or not power is available at the meter, it’s hard to beat.
Set up a cellular-based monitor
Notifications that rely on your home Internet connection are obviously less than ideal because that Internet connection needs power, and an Internet outage doesn’t automatically equate to a power outage.
This is where an energy monitor that communicates over the local cellular network comes in handy. Whatever the power status and network status in the home, it will not change the cellular monitor’s ability to notify you. The only time this method falls short is if the location you’re monitoring is so remote that you don’t have cellular coverage.
You can roll your own monitor with an older iPhone or Android device, both of these app ecosystems have apps like Power Monitor Failure (Android) and Power Failure & Outage Alarm (iPhone) that turn the phone into a monitoring station. When the power goes out and the phone switches to battery, the monitor app sends a notification through the cellular network.
There are also a variety of specialty options on the market that combine energy monitoring with other metrics that might be interesting to someone keeping an eye on their home while they’re away, like temperature and humidity readings.
The MarCell company, for example, makes a basic monitor that covers all three variables, as well as a more advanced model that has a wired probe. The probe allows you to monitor the ambient temperature if you wish or you can place it in a fish tank, freezer or whatever else you want to keep an eye on.
Whether you choose a cellular-based solution or use a smart electric meter combined with alerts from your utility company, you’ll be aware of any future power outages.