Friday, September 22, 2023

Set up Google Home Household Routines

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Shreya Christina
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Google Home is Google’s smart home ecosystem, where you can control all your compatible smart home devices, such as smart lighting, smart cameras, smart locks and more. The easiest way to do this is with Google’s smart home routines. These are multi-action shortcuts that control one or more devices and/or make one or more actions happen automatically based on another single action.

For example, you can set up a routine where your lights are turned off at 10 p.m. and your cameras are turned on. Or you can set one that adjusts the brightness of your lighting when the TV is turned on and one that turns on the bathroom lighting when a motion sensor detects movement. Routines can also be adjusted according to the time, so if your doorbell rings after sunset, you can turn on the porch lights to welcome your visitor.

Google Home has two types of routines: household routines and personal routines. The main difference is that household routines can be edited and created by any member of your household, and they cannot contain personal information, such as calendar appointments — they only work in Personal routines. The steps for both Household and Personal Routines are quite similar.

As part of Household Routines, Google includes a preset ‘Home’ routine and an ‘Away’ routine that you can customize. These use sensors and other location data to determine when everyone is gone or when someone comes home and start a Routine based on that. For more information about Home and Away routines, you can: check out this google article.

Here I’ll show you how to set up a Google Home housekeeping routine from scratch so you can let your smart home do the hard work for you.

Create a household routine in Google Home

Steps for creating a household routine.

Steps for creating a household routine.

To set up a Google Home household routine, you need the Google Home app. Once your routine is done, you can also use Google Nest smart speakers and displays to get it started.

  • Open the Google Home app on your phone or tablet.
  • Press routine icon (a purple circle with a sun in it).
  • On the next screen, tap the plus button at the bottom right.
  • Then choose Households.
  • Give your routine a name. Here’s what you can say to Google to start the routine, ie, “Hey, Google – start Movie Time.”
  • Add at least one ‘appetizer’. This is what will start or activate your routine. You can choose to use a voice command, a specific time and/or day of the week, sunrise or sunset, or when a device does something. You can choose more than one starter, so for example you can only have a routine start on Wednesday after sunset when your doorbell rings. (I’ll go into more detail about starters next.)
  • Add at least one ‘action’. Actions include turning on or off smart home devices such as lights, adjusting the thermostat, or starting your robot vacuum; get information such as the weather; send an announcement through your Google Nest speakers; adjust the volume on a Google Nest speaker; or playing music or other media. I’ll cover more about actions in a bit.
  • You can add multiple actions to a routine. For example, a movie time routine could turn on the TV in the living room, send an announcement to all your Nest speakers showing it’s movie time, dim the lights in the living room, lock the front door, and set the thermostat.
  • If your routine includes audio, such as playing music or a podcast or announcing something, select which Nest speaker or screen you want it to play from. if you choose no deviceall messages are sent to your phone as a notification.
  • Tap Save.

Once your routine is set up, you can activate it at any time with your voice by telling the Google Assistant ‘Hey Google, start. to say [Routine name]” or by tapping the play icon next to the routine in the app. You can also edit, disable or delete a routine in the app.

Starters choose a Google Home routine

Starters choose Google Home routines.

Starters choose Google Home routines.

Google recently launched new starters for its household routines that make them much more useful. Now you can start routines when another smart device in your home does something, such as turning on a light, locking a door, or turning off a TV. You can also combine some starters and add to other conditions that limit the routine to only starting after a certain time or on a certain day or between two times.

There are several actions you can use to start a Google Home household routine. Among which:

  • Saying “Hey Google, start [Routine name]”
  • Specifying a specific time and/or day
  • Based on sunrise and sunset — you can choose to offset up to four hours

You can also set a routine to start when a device does something:

  • Turns on or off (such as a switch, plug, light, camera, oven, or TV)
  • Starts or stops (such as a robot vacuum, dishwasher, oven, washing machine, blinds, or sprinkler system)
  • When a motion sensor detects motion (motion sensors only, no contact sensors, or water or smoke detectors)
  • When a thermostat mode changes
  • When you lock a smart lock (but not when you unlock it)
  • When you arm a security system (but not when you disable it)
  • When someone presses your doorbell
  • When you play, pause or stop media
  • When you change the media volume
  • When you change the media input selection

How to choose actions for a Google Home routine

Choose actions for Google Home routines.

Choose actions for Google Home routines.

There are five main categories of actions you can add to a routine, and you can add multiple actions. You can also create your own actions by entering the command you want to run. Here are the categories and a few examples of each:

Customize home devices

You can have a routine turn devices on or off, start or stop them, or adjust them (such as the brightness of a lamp or the setpoint of a thermostat). For example, you can have it turn on all your cameras at 11 p.m. or have your lights on full blast at 8 a.m. Annoyingly, Google doesn’t group your devices together, so when you select actions, you have to select each smart bulb, smart plug, or smart camera you have separately.

You can also use a routine to adjust the volume of a Nest smart speaker or display (this is useful if you don’t want to wake up the whole house with your early morning workout). It can also turn on a TV and set the volume, lock a door or arm a security system. There are no options for unlocking doors or disabling security systems.

Retrieving information and reminders

A routine can contain information from the Google Assistant, such as weather forecasts and recent news.

Communicate and announce

Set up a routine to announce everything you like about one or more Nest speakers in your home. I use “get out of bed, you sleepy heads” as part of my weekday Good morning routine.

Adjust assistant volume

Sets the volume at which the Google Assistant speaks to you. I turn it nice and loud for the morning routine, but quieter in the evenings.

Play and control media

This will make your routine play music, read the news (you can select your sources), play the radio, or play a podcast or audiobook (no audible option unfortunately). It can also play a selection of sleep sounds, useful for a good nighttime routine.

Once your actions are in your routine, you can arrange the order in which they occur by tapping and holding the two lines next to each action and moving them around. By default, all selected media are always played last. Unfortunately, there is no option to add a pause between actions, so everything will happen almost simultaneously.

Look for improvements

Google is catching up with its routines. Apple’s Home, Amazon’s Alexa, and Samsung’s SmartThings smart home platforms have long had similar options for “starting” these types of automations. All three platforms also have more ways to trigger routines and more freedom in the actions you can perform on them. (Why can’t I run a routine when I unlock my door, Google?)

But with these new routine launchers, Google Home is now a more viable option for running your smart home. And with a new app on the way, we’ll probably see more improvements sooner rather than later.


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