Not all of the
tasks I ask Google Home to perform need to be done right this very second. Stuff like turning off the lights before bed or starting a coffee pot in the morning can (and need to) wait, especially when I'm issuing commands from another room. Other functions I need to start immediately but would really rather they not go all day and night if I forget to turn them off -- like running my space heater. Up until recently, Google Home could only execute commands immediately. If I wanted something to turn off after a certain duration, well, Google Home could set a timer for me, but ultimately I'd have to remember what to do once it went off.
That's all changed, thanks to a recent update. Now you can have Google Home hold off on certain tasks for up to a week -- or you can start something now, but put an expiration date or time on it so that it stops later. What's better, you can also schedule tasks around sunrise or sunset and Google Home will calculate what time that is for you based on your location.
As with any new feature, there were a few kinks at launch that needed to be ironed out, but several that I had pointed out in the original draft of this article have since been apparently addressed. Here's how you, too, can now schedule Google Home actions and some examples of when this new feature might come in especially handy:
Start with these Google Home scheduling basics
At its simplest level, all you need to do to have Google Home perform an action later is to add a length of time to your command. After you say, "Hey,
, turn my bedroom lights off," just add "in 15 minutes." Google Home will acknowledge with a precise time, so if you gave that command at 9:02, it would respond, "Sure, I'll turn off the lights at 9:17 p.m."
Likewise, if you'd like something to happen for a certain period of time, just add the duration to the end of your command. "OK, Google, turn my bedroom lights on for five minutes" might give you just enough time to go grab a snack, for example. Or, "Hey, Google, play relaxing music for 30 minutes" might be long enough to let you fall asleep.
Google says you can set delays up to 7 days ahead
Although the documentation on Google's developer support pages says Google Home can hold off on an action for up to seven days, some users have reported difficulty getting it to follow through on anything offset by more than a day, so your milage may vary.
If you do want Google Home to perform a task, say, tomorrow, you'll want to be as precise as possible in how you say the command. In other words, don't just say, "Hey, Google, turn on the living room TV tomorrow" or even "tomorrow morning." Instead, say, "Turn on the living room TV tomorrow at 8 a.m."
Safety measure or glitch? You be the judge
I'm big on space heaters in the wintertime, but I'm acutely aware of how they can drive your utility costs through the roof. I've cobbled together all kinds of smart home workarounds to get my space heaters to turn off after a short duration -- usually 20 minutes. I figure, if I'm still cold, I'll just pop it back on. If not, great! So when I discovered I could now schedule actions, this was the very first thing I tried: "Hey, Google, turn on my office heater for 20 minutes."
Imagine my dismay when Google Home replied, "Sorry, I can't schedule actions for devices configured as heaters." Thankfully, I was pretty sure I knew a workaround -- changing the type of device to make Google Home think it's a light. (Check out this article on how to coax "brief mode" out of Google Home for the step-by-step on changing device type).
Sure enough, even though my "light" is called "office heater," Google Home will now run it for the requested 20 minutes (although it will also now turn my space heater on if I tell it to "turn on the lights," so I'll have to fiddle a bit to get that bug ironed out, too).
The hosts over at This Week in Tech's Smart Tech Today podcast pointed out in their Nov. 30 episode that Google probably disabled scheduling on devices identified as heaters as a safety precaution. I get it -- space heaters are responsible for 40% of all house fires and 84% of associated deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association. That's why I'd like to emphasize that I never leave space heaters running unattended, and neither should you: For safety and health reasons, always monitor your space heater.