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How your home automatically switches to Home or Away with presence sensing

Presence sensing basics

  • With presence sensing, your home uses activity sensors and phone location to automatically switch between Home and Away when everyone leaves home or someone comes home.
  • To set up how devices behave when your home switches to Home or Away, you can use either Home & Away Routines in the Home app or Home/Away Assist in the Nest app.

    Learn about Home & Away Routines. Note: this feature is only available to you if you use your Nest devices and services with a Google Account. 

    Learn about Home/Away Assist
  • The exact timing of when your home automatically switches to Home or Away depends on several things:
    • The location of everyone in your home and whether they use phone location to help tell when they’re home or away
    • What products you have in your home
    • Whether your Nest products are installed somewhere they can sense activity
  • Factors like your phone’s signal strength, nearby Wi-Fi signals, and your phone’s hardware and software versions can also affect the accuracy of your location. For a detailed explanation of how phone location helps tell when you leave or come home, go to How presence sensing uses your phone’s location.
  • The more your Nest products contribute to presence sensing, the better your home will get at knowing when you’ve left and when you’re back.
  • You can manually set your home to Home or Away mode with the Nest app or Home app.

Presence sensing can also be used to help control when you receive incoming calls on speakers or displays. Learn about Only Ring When Home.

How your home learns when you leave or come home

  • Presence sensing should start working right away if you’ve set your phone to help tell when you’re home. If you don’t have a phone helping decide when you leave or come home, there will be a learning period that usually takes about a week before your home can automatically switch to Home or Away.
  • If you don’t have a phone set to help automatically switch to Home or Away, the accuracy and timing can be affected, especially if your Google Nest thermostat or Google Nest Protect don’t typically see a lot of activity. For instance, if you have a Nest thermostat installed in an alcove that is away from normal daily traffic, it will not be able to notice when people arrive.

How Nest products help sense when you leave or come home

  • Nest thermostat: When you’re coming home, your Nest thermostat will notice activity and switch your home out of Away very quickly. But when you leave, it will wait a while before switching itself to Eco Temperatures, and switching your home to Away, to make sure everyone’s gone.

    Note: Google Nest Temperature Sensors do not have activity sensors, so they cannot help with automatic switching.
  • Google Nest Cams, Google Nest Hello, and Nest Hub Max won’t switch your home between Home and Away. So if you only have cameras, you’ll need a phone set up to help your home automatically switch to Home or Away.

    How your camera works with presence sensing
  • Nest Protect: When you come home, wired 120V-240V Nest Protects will notice activity right away, so they can switch your home to Home very quickly. However, when you leave, they’ll wait to report inactivity to help ensure that nobody’s still at home.

    Note: To maximize battery life, battery powered Protects check in less often, but they can help improve presence sensing accuracy.

When your home will switch to Home or Away

It depends on the device sensors you choose. Homes that only use phone location can behave quite differently from homes that also use sensors from thermostats and other devices. Some people find that only using phone locations works best for their home. Others may prefer including other device sensors.

Your schedule matters. If you have a regular morning schedule and are always out of the door by 8:00am to catch the bus, then your home might automatically switch to Away as soon as 8:30am. But if you have an irregular schedule, or if it turns out that someone is still home after it’s switched to Away, your Nest products will learn and adapt. It may take longer to switch to Away in the future.

Your home won’t go into Away immediately after you walk out the door or drive out of the garage. The length of the delay depends on what Nest products you have set to help your home automatically switch, what they’ve learned about your home and your habits, and if you’re using your phone’s location to help.

There are two reasons for the delay in switching to Away. First, your phone’s exact location isn’t being tracked and there’s a buffer zone around your home. Second, because presence sensing also uses sensor data from your Nest products and your historical occupancy patterns, your home will take some time to make sure that people aren’t still inside before it switches to Away. This is to help make sure that just because one person has left home, people who may still be home won’t have the heating suddenly turned down.

How presence sensing uses your phone’s location

Switching to Home happens much faster than switching to Away. When you walk through the door, your home may already be in Home. If your phone’s location hasn’t yet triggered the switch by the time you get home, there will usually only be a short delay. Your home should switch soon after your Nest products sense your presence.

Presence sensing works differently at night. It won’t automatically switch to Away at night when Nest product sensors probably won’t sense any activity. Otherwise, unwanted things might happen. For instance, you wouldn’t want your Nest thermostat to be set to Eco Temperatures while you’re asleep. That would probably make everyone uncomfortable.

However, if you’ve installed your Nest products in a business, your home can automatically switch your home to Away and set the thermostat to Eco Temperatures during the night.

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