Vacation Lighting Alternatives?

The Groovy smart app Vacation Lighting has been faithfully doing its job for years. . . .but clearly with Groovy shut down, no longer. I am looking at options to replace it, and having dug through the forums (here and in SharpTools), I can see many others are too. I figured might as well start a topic so we can brain storm options. In an ideal world I would like something to start at sunset and cycle some lights (that I can select) at an interval of at least a couple hours, until a set time of day (say 1am) and turn them back off. If someone comes home, turn them off. Seeing that is pretty difficult I have settled for a target of turn on one set for a few hours then turn those off and turn on some others for a few hours, then off at a given time or if someone comes home.

I have seen the suggestion to use the SmartThings Labs app No Worries While Away thrown out, but I just see too many issues with that. The biggest is that it seems it can only be time based. Since sunset can move up to 4 hours over the year, a fixed starting time makes that a non starter out of the gate. I didn’t get far enough to actually try it, but based on comments/question from others, not convinced it can do multiple modes (I use Away and Vacation) and almost sounds like you have to manually activate it when you want it. So I rule that out.

Then I moved on to look at Routines. I thought I could create a routine that kicks off when I leave and for the first 3 hours turns on one set of lights and then another routine for the next 3 hours a different set of lights. . . .but I can’t seem to figure out a way to do more than a 60 min offset which lands me right back into the issue of specific times and sunset moving up to 4 hours over the year. Plus I can’t see so the 2 routines can be mutually exclusive in time, again due to the limit of 60 min offset.

So I then looked at Smart Lighting (old version, waiting for migration). The good news is you can do more than a 60 min offset in the condition, but I ran aground trying to make 2 routines mutually exclusive since you can’t set a condition to be from sunset to sunset +3 hours as you can only reference sunset once. I could flip the logic and say start at sunset only if away/vacation, but I assume that’s won’t trigger if I leave an hour after sunset as the trigger is specifically sunset.

I looked at SharpTools and think could come up with something pretty close to my min requirement by having a rule that triggers at sunset, change to away/vacation, execute a Scene, delay, execute another scene. My issue is that the amount of logic I have to build in to each check after delay is a quite a lot. Is it still away, is it still vacation, is it after sunset, and is it before designated stop time. If I use 3 hours as my target cycle I think I have to code 2 or 3 “loops”. I think I could make this work, just trying to avoid spending the time to create such a heavy rule if possible.

At this point I think I am just going to have a routine kick off if after sunset and vacation/away then turn them all off when I get home or if still away/vacation and hit midnight. Not smart, not elegant, not as good. . . but such is life with all the “progress” happening. My hope is they will update routines to allow a more than 60 min offset which would make me at least able to do 2 “loops” pretty easily.


Alexa Guard has a random lighting mode when you set Guard. You get to pick the lights you want to use.

I use an Edge virtual switch with integral contact sensor to turn Alexa Guard on an off based my ST location mode

I know Alexa Guard is available in the US, but I don’t know about other areas.


Several people have been using virtual momentary buttons with auto-revert to serve as timers for when to recheck some condition such as if a door or gate is still open. They have also been using regular virtual switches as “variables” to represent some state like daytime where you need a mix of sunrise/sunset and a specific time like 5pm. These can then be used as preconditions in routines.

Not sure if that helps you with what you need to accomplish, but thought I’d throw it out there.

I didn’t need anything that complex so I just rely on Alexa Guard triggered by a location mode change in Smartthings.


Good suggestion, forgot I looked into that. My issue with Alexa automation is it seems it has to have either a verbal confirmation over an echo or a notification on my phone, which is Android. I don’t really want Alexas randomly talking and definitely nor want it giving me notifications on my phone.

Yes I do get a notification on my phone. I don’t know if Alexa talks since I am generally outside when I make the change.

Just rethinking what you both have said. My experience with Alexa has been trying to execute commands to run an ecobee, but I think what you guys are saying is I could use a virtual switch and then have Alexa trigger off that in which case I assume it can silently execute that?

There is an option to enable Alexa Guard in a routine. To disable it, use a custom action to simulate saying “I’m home”.


Exactly. I have a virtual presence sensor to represent whether the house is occupied. It gets triggered in my Away routine. I also have a virtual switch that I now use to change Ecobee program modes since the native integration doesn’t expose them and Ecobee Suite Manager is dead, but Alexa can change them.

I use the vEdge Creator from @TAustin which includes a setting to add a contact sensor to many of the virtual devices so they can be used in Alexa routines.

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Yes, she responds with the normal response for whatever command you issue. You could always lower the volume to zero or turn on Do Not Disturb as part of a Vacation or Away routine.

I like the notification on my phone because then I know the ST routine and Alexa routines were executed.

The Philips Hue hub has a ‘mimic presence’ feature. If you have that system, it will switch lights on and off for you. It also chooses the rooms at reasonable hours of the day, so it isn’t entirely random.

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I also had issues with guard due to the voice requirement. Are you saying one of your echos tells another echo “Alexa in home”?

No. Custom actions allow you to enter text that then mimics you saying “Alexa do something” like in this routine.

Cool thanks. Will try it

Does that turn off Alexa Guard? I tried it but it doesn’t actually turn it off in my experience.

Been using it for a couple of years now without a problem.

Hmm, do you have two Alexa devices in close proximity where one is speaking and the other one is hearing it? I just tried it again and it didn’t disable Guard for me. It disabled it when I raised the volume on one Echo so the other could hear it.

Okay, just configured guard and connected to a contact sensor and will give it a try when we go out tonight. The point about it speaking while we are away is a good one. For my ecobee, we are home just as much as a way when we use it, so I don’t think I’d want to do that. If this works well though, maybe I’ll buy a dot (we are mostly a Google Home household ) next time they are on super sale and stick in the garage so nobody has to hear it and get woken up.

Sounds like you are trying to use “Alexa Says”. You should be using “Custom” action.


That worked! Thanks!

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I have just come to the realization that my random lights / vacation mode setup is no longer working. How does Samsung get behind shutting things down like this - it seems like such a basic requirement to be be able to randomly cycle lights. I’m really frustrated by what seems to be a serious step backwards. Really wishing I had not invested so much time into what now feels like a total POS to me.