Blinking Christmas tree lights introduce noise affecting detections

Background for how I realized what’s going on. I have a Hubitat and have only just started dabbling in smart home devices. I set it up so that there is a virtual switch for the washer. When Sense detects the washer has started, it uses IFTTT to turn the virtual switch on. When it detects the washer is off, it turns the virtual switch off using IFTTT. Pretty simple. If the switch is off for 3 minutes, Hubitat will send a notification to my phone and my wife’s phone.

We put our Christmas tree up the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Monday, I was riding the bus home when I got the notification that the washer had finished. Followed shortly by a text from my wife saying “yeah, like an hour ago at least.”

I didn’t think much of it, because sometimes Sense just doesn’t see things 100% of the time. But then it happened again on Wednesday. I started to think it was a little odd, but maybe a coincidence. Then on Friday, since it was the holiday weekend, I was home when the washer was running. It had been done for at least 30 minutes, but Sense was still seeing it. On a hunch, I turned off the Christmas tree lights. Within a couple of minutes, Sense realized the washer had finished. To confirm my theory, just this morning I realized the washer was on. I texted my wife and she confirmed it was on. I asked her to make sure the lights were off when it finishes. Sure enough, we got the notification within a few minutes of the washer actually finishing.

So what’s the point of this post? It’s not to complain. I just want to offer an insight. Our house is normally very electrically quiet. Meaning our power meter is almost always flat unless a “big” item is running. The washer has a very unique signature though and Sense has always detected it very well. It’s a HE side loading model. It seems to spin for a couple of seconds, then stop, then spin, then stop. When spinning, it only uses about 100W Here’s what the washer’s power meter looks like in Sense.

We have 2 strands of white incandescent lights on our tree that twinkle in a nice pattern. I would love to replace these with LED, but have never been able to find LED that twinkle in a pleasing random pattern.

Anyway, since they twinkle, I assume that they don’t use a constant amount of power. The power draw changing up and down I am guessing mimics the washer closely enough that Sense will never realize it’s off. Also… for some reason the report a problem > device is not on did not work. Or maybe it did but then Sense thought the washer turned right back on? I did it like 4 times before going and turning off the tree lights.

Water boy… Very good observation. Just wanted to add we have a ‘HE’ washer as well. Sense finds it almost all the time. The drum motor runs on way and then reverses and runs the other way. The one thing I find odd about ours is that when it is reversing, Sense shows about 1-2 watts during the pause. Then when the motor starts up again, it goes up to like 60-70 watts. It shows the basic current draw. If all appliances were that way we would have a screen full of 1-2 watt bubbles… my 2 cents…Gerry

My Sears HE washer does the same thing; the 1-2 watts is the controller “thinking”. Just like many many devices today, the electronics is actually on, even when the device doesn’t seem to be running…or pausing as in this case.

Still 1-2 watts is pretty much nothing in terms of cost (my power company charges $0.00018 per watt hour).

From another angle, I have a washer/dryer combo on a smartplug so I can (theoretically) reliably trigger an IFTTT “Drying done!”. In practice the IFTTT latency is all over the place. Somewhat useful but I wouldn’t put it in the “industrial strength” category.

I will leave it to others to quantify their experience.

I left the Sense notification on for a while, so I was getting a notification from my hub and one from Sense. The one from my hub actually usually arrived sooner than the notification from Sense by about a minute.

Today, Sense saw the washer come on at 9am, but thinks it’s still running now at 5pm. My wife said the Christmas tree was on the whole time. I’m 98% sure now it’s the tree lights causing it.

I just texted her to turn the tree off. The washer changed to off in Sense within a minute, so now I’m 100% sure it’s the lights.

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I can confirm that big, atyptical spikes like that can definitely interfere with detection. If you write into Support, they could take a closer look as well.