Skip to main content

How to use Home and Away status for Google Home routines

Once you have several smart devices connected, the Google Home encourages you to set up routines where smart devices together toward a common goal. Routines can be deeply customized based on what you want to happen, but there’s a very easy, effective way to get started: Using the Home and Away Routines.

These Routines switch all your smart device settings to control both what the house does when no one is there and what it does when the first person comes home. Let’s go over how to set up these popular Routines and customize them based on your household activities.

Step 1: Connect all your compatible smart home devices to Google Home

Google nest hub in night mode.

You have to do this step before anything else. Google Home needs to be connected to all your smart devices, which means they need to be fully set up. Not all smart devices are compatible with Google Home/Assistant, so you’ll only be able to use devices that support the app. Those devices can vary a lot, but include:

  • Nest smart thermostats
  • Nest cams
  • Nest doorbells
  • Certain brands of smart lights
  • Certain brands of smart plugs
  • Certain brands of smart switches

Make sure compatible models are updated, on the same Wi-Fi network, and visible in Google Home after setup. Even just connecting a smart thermostat and camera to a Home/Away routine can make a big difference. Other devices are a plus, such as making sure all the lights are off when people leave or turning on fans/air purifiers when you get home.

Step 2: Set up Away device activity

Adjusting the temperature on the Google Nest Thermostat.

Now it’s time to start creating Routines. Open the Google Home app. Select Routines with the sun-like icon. You may also see a prompt to Set Up Home & Away Routines, which you can choose.

You’ll now see a variety of Routines categories. Focus on Household Routines. Here, you will see two categories: Home and Away. Start with whichever you want, but it may feel a bit more natural to start with Away, since that’s the first Routine that will be activated in the morning after everyone is gone.

Important note: Some variations of Google Home’s interface may not have Home/Away options. Instead, they may say something like I’m Home or Leaving Home. These are similar — but somewhat more limited — options focused on Google Assistant that you can use instead.

Google Home Away Settings.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Select Away and then select Add Action. You will then be able to add any smart device connected to Google Home. When you choose a device, you can view its available actions and what that action does. You can also view Suggested Actions to see what you can do and save a little time.

Google Home Routine Set Thermostat.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Select your device and what it will do. For example, tell your smart thermostat to lower/rise several degrees — depending on season — so it saves energy when no one is home. It’s also a good idea to make sure smart lights are off, security systems are enabled, and so on.

When you are finished, select Save to set the Routine into action. You may see an additional step about Home Occupancy here, which we dive into below.

Step 3: Set up Home device activity

Sengled smart bulb in dining room.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Now switch to Home, and follow the same steps for everything you want to happen when the first person arrives in the house. Common steps include turning on inside and outside lights for the evening, turning on the TV, raising the heat or AC a bit, disarming the security system, and so on. As always, you can get as creative as you like here. Select Save when finished.

Step 4: Choose advanced sensing options

The Routines are ready, but there’s a crucial step left. Google Home will also ask questions about Home Occupancy. Here, you should have two important choices — each with their advantages.

Presence Sensing: This uses motion sensors in Nest devices to sense when people are moving around the house. The benefit is that this switches between home and away modes automatically, no matter what changes occur in your household. However, you do need a device with the right sensors, usually a Nest Smart Thermostat, for it to work. While these sensors are specifically designed to look for humans, it’s not a total guarantee they won’t be set off by large pets.

Phone Location: In this option, you assign a specific phone and turn on its location-tracking capabilities. Home and Away settings shift based on the phone’s location. You need a phone that’s turned on and should be comfortable using it with location-based settings. It also designates one person as the Home/Away catalyst, because the Routines will only switch when they leave and return.

Step 5: Adjust as needed

Your Home and Away routines should now be functioning. It’s a good idea to make minor adjustments to how and when they work as you use them more. You’ll also want to change some settings based on summer/winter seasons and such.

Editors' Recommendations

Tyler Lacoma
If it can be streamed, voice-activated, made better with an app, or beaten by mashing buttons, Tyler's into it. When he's not…
What an Alexa red ring means and how to fix it
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) on table.

We’re conditioned to associate a red ring on our devices with bad news. If you suddenly see one on an Alexa device like an Echo, it’s easy to start worrying. It’s even worse when you try to use Alexa, but find that the voice assistant isn’t responding as it should.

Read more
8 Google Assistant settings you should disable or adjust
Google Nest Hub 2nd Gen.

Smart home devices like Google Nest Audio and Google Nest Hub continue to grow more popular every year -- but so do privacy concerns about what data they’re collecting and what’s being shared with their manufacturers. It’s highly unlikely these products are tracking everything you say, but users will be glad to hear there are several settings you can adjust to ensure your information is secure. Beyond security, Google Assistant has plenty of other settings for you to tinker around with, allowing you to optimize its performance for your home.

From adjusting its listening sensitivity to offering up vegan recipes, here’s a look at a few Google Assistant settings you should adjust. Most of these changes take no more than a few seconds to complete but could radically improve your smart home experience.

Read more
Amazon Astro: everything you need to know about this home robot
Amazon Astro following a person through a door.

Amazon Astro came as a surprise when it was revealed in September 2021. The quirky device does a little bit of everything, serving as a robot companion that boasts facial recognition, impressive navigation skills, and tons of useful home security features.

But a lot has changed with Astro since it was first announced, and it's gotten some new competition in the form of EBO X. Here’s a look at everything we know about Astro, including how you can get your hands on it and add it to your home.
Designed to rove around the home

Read more