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4 easy smart home routines for beginners

If you're ready to automate your smart home, these are the beginner routines we suggest.

Kacie Goff Contributor
Kacie is a contributor to CNET.
Kacie Goff
6 min read

Lots of people have multiple Google Home and Nest smart speakers in their houses, and the Google Home app's new media controls help keep them organized.

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Even if you weren't an early adopter of smart home technology, the odds are high that some smart devices have wormed their way into your household. Now that they're there, you might as well make the most of them, right?

The key to doing just that is easy: establish smart home routines. With a routine, you can connect Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri with your smart lights, security cameras, thermostats, speakers, locks and more.

Setting up a routine is a surefire way to make sure you're capitalizing on the potential of all the smart home devices you've installed. It allows you to use multiple devices with a single command. Instead of telling your smart home assistant to turn on the lights, play music, start coffee and check traffic in the morning, for example, a simple "good morning" can trigger all of those activities. Or you can even set routines to start without voice commands at a certain time, like your morning alarm time. 

Setting up your routine may take a little bit of work, but from there your routine can run on autopilot, making it easier for you to do everything from getting the family out the door to resting easy at night. 

Plus, routines are nearly universal. While the actual setup will vary from device to device and platform to platform, the ideas we'll give you here can be established with pretty much any of the major smart home platforms. So whether you're an Apple HomeKit loyalist or you can't imagine life without Alexa, here are some routine ideas you might want to consider. 

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Good morning 

Why should you have to muster up all of the motivation to get out of bed on your own? Set up a routine to trigger at whatever time you need to start your day, and your smart home can do all of the following simultaneously:  

  • Wake you up: This doesn't have to be a blaring alarm. You can have your smart home speaker wake you up with music, a game, a story or your favorite radio station. 
  • Turn on the lights: If you have smart plugs or smart bulbs installed, add them to your routine to turn on the lights or bedside lamp when it's time to get out of bed. 
  • Warm up the house: Similarly, with smart thermostats, you can add a temperature adjustment to your routine, especially if you like to sleep in a cooler temperature at night but don't want to wake up to a freezing house. 
  • Make your coffee: You can buy a smart coffee maker for this one, or you can connect a coffee maker with a power switch that will stay on with a smart plug. When your routine turns the smart plug on, your coffee starts brewing. 
  • Check in with the world: Voice assistants generally have an option to read you the morning news. You can choose from specific sources or hear summaries like Alexa's Flash Briefing.  
  • Check in with your world: You can set up your routine so your voice assistant gives you a rundown of the activities on your calendar that day, a look at the traffic on your commute and the day's weather.  

If you've got Amazon devices, you can do a deeper dive into some of these features in our guide to automating your morning with Alexa

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Leave for work

You can schedule this routine for a certain time if you're always on schedule, or you can have it trigger when you say a command like, "Hey, Google, I'm leaving!" Either way, your leave-for-work routine could include:

  • Turning off the lights: Whether you have smart lights or you connect your existing lights to smart plugs, you can trigger their shutoff when you leave for work each day. 
  • Locking the doors: You'll need smart locks for this, but once you have them, you can get peace of mind. With your routine in place, you won't have to worry that you forgot to secure your house before you left. Most allow you to check your lock status remotely.
  • Turning down the temp: If no one will be home during the day, you can save money with smart thermostats, which can crank down the temperature while you're gone in colder months or up in warmer weather. You can also add a routine at a set time to return the house to a comfortable temperature before you get home. 
  • Turn appliances off or on: If you're prone to forgetting whether or not you left something on, this routine can make sure it's off. On the flip side, if you've got certain digital helpers like a robot vacuum or a smart dishwasher, your smart home assistant can power them on while you're away so the house looks pristine (or, at least, as pristine as possible) when you come home.

If you have kids, you can also help keep their morning on track by having your smart home assistant issue a reminder that the car or school bus leaves in five minutes. And if they leave after you, your routine can ensure the door locks behind them. 

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Leave for vacation

Routines can help you get out the front door — but they can also keep would-be troublemakers away from it. And we're not just talking about the smart locks and security cameras, either. Our idea for this voice command? "Alexa, bon voyage!" Consider these options:

  • Turn lights on and off: Set up a schedule of lights turning on in different rooms throughout the evening to make it look like someone's home. You can also turn on and off other devices like a lamp, fan or TV with the help of a smart plug.
  • Playing music: Similarly, you can have your routine power up your smart speakers at specific times each day to further deter snoops. Alexa Guard on compatible Amazon speakers and displays can play the sound of a dog barking. 
  • Turn on camera alerts: Some of the best security cameras connect to your voice assistant. That means they can push you notifications while you're away if something seems off at your house. And features like Alexa's Guard will even keep an ear out for you, listening for sounds like glass breaking. 
Chris Monroe/CNET


Since a smart home routine can help you start your day, you probably already guessed that you can set up something similar at night. With a "Hey, Siri, goodnight!" command or a routine starting at a certain time, you can do things like:

  • Dim the lights: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri can all dim the lights for you -- assuming you have dimmable bulbs in place. 
  • Tell the kids (or you) a bedtime story: Alexa and Google Assistant both offer built-in bedtime story features. But, for now, to get a bedtime story on HomePod (the Apple HomeKit smart speaker), you'll need to turn to a podcast. Still, though, you have a broad range of options. And if you have Google Assistant, you could even record and share your own bedtime stories. 
  • Lock the doors: With a smart lock installed, you can make sure your home is secure even if you're already tucked in for the night. You can lock doors or check the status of a door by asking "Hey, Google, is the front door locked?"
  • Lower the temp: Studies have shown that sleeping at a lower temperature can be more restful. A routine can automatically lower the temperature for bedtime. 
  • Turn on your security system: If you don't run it during the day, your routine can activate the security cameras on your property overnight. 

Setting up smart home routines

You're probably wondering how, exactly, to set up a routine of your own. The short answer is: it depends on your devices and the smart home platform you're using. If you want to learn more about setting up a smart home routine with a specific platform, we've got details for Alexa and Google Assistant owners. We also include setup for a basic routine (turning on the lights when you get home) with HomeKit here.  

If you own an Alexa device and you want to explore more routines, you can check out this aggregated list from Amazon. Here's a routine guide from Google, as well as details on automations (what Apple calls routines) for HomeKit.  

Clearly, you can do a lot with a smart home routine. And as devices and their capabilities only get more sophisticated and better integrated, we'll see more opportunities to make our lives easier with these routines.