How do you move out of a smarthome?


I've an unhealthy amount of smart gadgets at home. Enough so that it's worth running an orientation session when friends come to visit.

This is what the Alexa does, here's which light switches not to use, don't be scared if the Roomba attacks. That sort of thing.

I don't know how long we'll live in this place. It's more than likely we'll move at some point. So what happens to the smarthome stuff we've accumulated?

When we hand over the keys to the new residents - do we hand over all the cloud passwords as well? Or do we factory reset everything and let them go through the dull process of setting up new accounts?

Some stuff is probably easy to move. Unplug the LIFX bulbs and replace with poundshop lights.

Some stuff is probably hard. Do I unwire the Tado Thermostat and replace with a generic version?

Tado, to their credit, have a procedure for people moving house. You need to provide them with:

  • A copy of your ID (photo or scan)
  • Your signature
  • Firstname & Surname of the new user
  • Your Email address associated with your tado° account
  • Email address of the new user
  • Telephone number of the new user

A bit of a faff - and possibly annoying to the new occupiers to not be able to easily set the heating until they've moved in, configured the WiFi, and registered for an account.

Now imagine doing that for every hardwired gadget you have - the light switches, the connected cooker, the smoke alarms, the doorbell, the security system. A nightmare which adds to the stress of an already fraught situation for both parties.

The Nest Protect smoke alarm suggests that you should factory reset alarms you inherit and then manually add them. When I move into a house, do I want to spend the first day looking up manuals online to try and work out which buttons to hold down in order to claim the devices as my own?

This is, of course, the epitome of "first-world problems" - but it is one that most people will have to face in the coming years.

14 thoughts on “How do you move out of a smarthome?

  1. Ah yes, I’ve just been through that; we moved house a month ago. The new owner wasn’t interested in Hue lightbulbs or in our Honeywell Evohome heating system, and they were worth enough that I decided to remove them both.

    The Hue stuff was a bit more work than you might expect, because I had removed all the old light switches and replaced them with blanking plates to avoid confusion. Fortunately, I still had the old switches and I had labelled all the wires in the more complex situations with double switches at the top and bottom of stairs, etc.

    For the heating, I bought a batch of very ordinary TRV heads to replace the smart Evohome ones, and a standard Honeywell timer and thermostats which I had to wire in. This was much easier because I’d done it before and, again, because my wiring was much more organised and better-labelled than what I originally had to deal with!

    Perhaps there’ll be a new ‘dumbing-down’ service that could be offered as part of a sale: making your home less smart so the new owners can decide hoe much they want to smarten it in their own way 🙂

    1. I don't know the practice in your country, but where I live the convention is that everything that's bolted down or otherwise permanently integrated into the house will stay. A smart thermostat stays, smart lights stay if they form a unit with smart lightswitches, etc... Although to avoid confusion it is generally recommended to explicitly list what stays and what doesn't prior to making the house sale.

      1. In England (in my experience) you provide an inventory of what is and isn't staying (often with an offer to sell some white goods etc). If you take stuff that's physically attached and/or wired in, the purchase contract will require the vendor to make good any damage.

        For instance when buying a previous house the vendors wanted £100 each for the really ugly wall sconces. We declined and so were left with terminated wires where we could fit our own lights. I don't see why smart home components would be any different provided you made good with basic switches and valves.

  2. At some point, the home itself will be smart, rather than talking about a collection of things within it. I presume we’ll do a handover/factory reset process as part of the legal steps and in place of “handing over the keys”, instead we’ll unpair the old owner and re-pair with the new owner.

    Plenty of scope for us to do a bad job at it… 😦 maybe there’s a business opportunity here to create a service which does it right…

  3. Well, I believe your problem really is that you haven’t invested in a proper smart home infrastructure but effectively created a zoo of various gadgets that claim to be smart-home capable but really have a limited shelf-life. So you problem will not only occur when you move out, but also when the vendors stops the (cloud) service in probably 2-3 years.
    Let me explain: right now, you use probably half a dozen of apps to control different aspects of your home. That’s because every vendor’s gadget comes with it’s own app that doesn’t talk to anything else than the vendor’s device or cloud service. That is not smart home, that’s just the normal gadget addiction we inherited from Laptops, Watches and Smartphones. These are not focussed on your infrastructure but on your personal experience (and data), even if they claim otherwise. That’s why you face these problem with aspects that are not a problem with small, mobile devices but become a nightmare when we talk physical infrastructure.
    A proper way to do Smart Home is with real device manufacturer, that has an ecosystem and not just 4-5 devices. HomeMatic for instance is such an ecosystem, on it’s own radio frequency (833 MHz) that works without a cloud, without WiFi and without apps (of course all these things can be added). It integrates in your home in a way so that everything continues to operate as normal – you continue to use the same light switches, the same wall sockets, the same consumers. You just install a couple of actors concealed and hook them up to the physical wiring, handles, switches etc and let the system handle the rest. When you “hand over the keys” you simple explain where all sensors and actors are and keep power to the CCU2. Done.
    This behaves properly when there is no cloud, no wifi, no gateway and comes back cleanly when there’s a power outage. Plus you can still override with physical manual control.

  4. I have replaced all my outlets and switches, thermostats, with insteon devices, added motion detectors, smart hinges, garage door sensor/controller, a ELK security system. I have a universal Devices ISY controller that controller everything, and I mean everything. Even my irrigation system is controlled with a insteon compatible controller. I have thought about all the work to either take it all out or take 6 months to train the new owner on what all the scenes are and all the programs, and how they could modify them to fit their needs.

  5. Depending on how long I'm in our house (i.e. whether I think my kit has residual value) I'll do one of two things:
    1. If I move soon, I'll probably do what Quentin did and take it with me.
    2. If I won't have use for the kit where I move to I'll probably create a [email protected] address and move the Evohome and LightwaveRF over to that. I can then leave a username and password for a functioning system and the new owners can do what ever they like with it.

    Part of the reason I chose Lightwave and Evohome is that they function without needing to be connected to the internet and so guests don't need training before using the house for 99% of the time the network capability is purely incidental.

    Security systems, cameras etc are going to be a much bigger problem. But as someone who moved into a flat with an ADT alarm that was a massive pain in the arse before IoT came into existence anyway.

  6. I was thinking about creating a profile for my home and moving everything onto it as well, seems like the best way to do it

  7. This article was quite a timely one for us. I'm getting ready to build a new home that has smart technology baked in and selling our current home which has a LOT of smart home technology we've added over the past 3 years. I hadn't thought much yet about how to back out of a home and leaving our smart technology behind. I suppose this will be a potential selling feature when we put our home up for sale AND perhaps a point of negotiation. I do agree that backing out is a new niche business. It's like leaving behind small bits of your personal data in all your IoT. Getting out and doing so securely is definitely going to be a niche for awhile until the technology catches up and makes that process more simple.

  8. I rehabbed a rental house that I made into a smart home. Samsung Smarthings hub, GE switches, amazon alexa.

    I planned it to be not associated with my personal accounts and actually set up a Gmail account with the address of the house. All things run through that email address.

    If we ever sell the property, I'll give them the credentials. But as far as tearing out light switches, etc. Nope.

    It would be like someone selling you a 1970s split level with that gosh awful intercom system and the buyer saying "can you take that with you?"

  9. This is the advantage of an INTEGRATED home and a home full of “smart” gadgets. The ability to control a device with an app does not make your home “smart”. A smart home is a home whose different services work together with if/then logic.
    Examples:
    -When I pull into my garage, turn on the lights in the home if it’s nighttime.

    -When someone rings the doorbell, stop the music and ring the chime through the speakers.

    -Turn off my kid’s TV Sunday-Thursday at 7 pm

    -Ignore the maid’s lock code if it isn’t Wednesday
    And millions of other situations

    I am a Control4 dealer, I set up Integrated smart homes. 1 account to control lighting, HVAC, security, pool and spa, audio/video. And they work together.

    When my customer moves, they leave everything and they or myself teach the new owner the system. Change their account over, and customize the system for their life.

    Conclusion: if you have a ton of accounts for all your devices, just take them. A thermostat is not hard to replace, and a dumb thermostat costs $10

  10. Why wouldn’t you take it all with you, except maybe a smart fridge, washer, dryer. Get a cheap thermostat and take your nice one. Most of my IOT will fit in a few boxes, And ive got a lot

  11. If I was buying a “smarthome” here would be my questions:

    If the “smart” thermostat stops working during the transition and the pipes freeze – is that covered by the seller?
    Is the seller willing to be techsupport for at least 1 year?
    If a “smart” feature fails what is the warranty offered by the seller?

    As a buyer – I do not want to figure out a smart home. I want it to work. I would love the cat6 to be laid and data center closet with a patch panel. But I don’t want to inherit any devices with questionable patches, outdated security connected to wires that I have to reverse engineer.

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