The truth about outdoor smart home gadgets and extreme cold

Electronics and smart home gadgets bring convenience and automation to the home. In many cases, little maintenance is required. Unless you live somewhere where it actually winters, barring a firmware update. Most shoppers are keen to set up and play with their new toy, but are mostly concerned about getting it with that gorgeous same-day shipping, and that new device won’t last long when the weather gets tough. No idea how it works. The fact is that living in extreme cold can stop smart devices like wireless cameras, lights, and other components from working.

Pay attention to temperature range

When buying outdoor devices, we usually pay attention to the IP rating. Many people look at this number and assume it means their gadget is immune to all kinds of weather. That may be true to some extent, but IP ratings fall short in extreme heat and extreme cold. The IP rating only measures water and dust ingress, not how effectively cold air or heat penetrates. To know how your device will hold up in cold winters and hot summers, you need to check its operating temperature range.

Most outdoor devices provide this operating range somewhere in their specifications. If you don’t see them, that’s a red flag. It might be worth contacting customer service or checking user reviews to see how they treat other users in real situations.

Many outdoor cameras, such as the Ring Spotlight Cam Battery, say they can operate from about -5 degrees F to 122 degrees F, which is a pretty decent range. However, if you live in an area where winter temperatures often drop below -5 degrees Celsius, you may run into problems.

What happens to smart home devices when it gets too cold?

If you experience extreme winter temperatures, your device may shut down and become inoperable, at least for a while. Electronics made for the outdoors are durable for the most part, but there are limits. For example, I’ve experienced smart outdoor cameras that stop working when the temperature drops below -5 degrees. unzips and automatically reconnects to the network. You may need to perform a reset or Wi-Fi reconnection. It’s no fun to step outside in a foot of snow and subzero temperatures and hit the reset button, but you’re only paying a small amount for your device to continue to provide reliable service for the remaining 48 weeks of the year. It’s a price.

Choose hardwired over battery in cold environments

Extreme cold weather is terrible for rechargeable batteries, especially some lithium-ion cells. This is similar to what is found in Ring devices, for example. “Really” cold weather can make it difficult to charge the battery, and “extreme” temperatures can cause the battery to completely fail, effectively freezing.

There’s not much you can do about Mother Nature, but if you live in a place where extreme temperatures are the norm, you can take precautions by choosing the hardwired option. That’s not a guarantee either, but eliminating the battery from the equation will prevent your system from going offline.

What to do if your device freezes

If your camera, smart lights, or other smart home gadget freezes, there are a few things you can do. First, wait for the temperature to warm up. As mentioned above, most of these devices will unzip naturally and come back online. If you need outdoor lighting or surveillance and need to speed up this process, you can:

Bring your device indoors. Bringing the battery or components back to normal temperature levels will help restore the device. You can either remove the battery and leave it inside until it warms up, or remove the entire device to normalize all those electronic components.

An Arlo security camera mounted on the side of a snow-covered house.

Please fully charge the battery. This procedure is especially useful if you have a system that uses solar panels to charge the battery. Try fully charging the battery manually instead of letting it fight the elements. Fully charge it and then put it back in the wilderness that you’ve had to buy for a while.

Consider insulation. Most of these outdoor-only smart home gadgets are actually built to manage many extreme environments, but sometimes cold weather pushes the limits. There are plenty of chat rooms full of advice on how to bolster your . This won’t stop you completely, it might just buy you time. Don’t forget to remove it after it warms up so it doesn’t happen).

Extreme temperatures can affect all kinds of smart home gadgets. It can be frustrating to have your device die in the cold, but remember, it’s not unexpected. In our tests, several Ring outdoor cameras briefly lost power when temperatures dipped to -30 degrees Celsius, but at the same time, co-located Philips Hue Outdoor smart lights turned on. I kept doing it. Win some, lose some.

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