Smart plugs are among the most useful home devices revolutionizing how we use various smart home devices. They are connected in between an electrical outlet and the device you are plugging in.
They come in different shapes, sizes and specifications. Commonly, they come with remote control via the use of an App, usually done by the aid of Wi-Fi connectivity; but if you have an older device, you can use a timer.
The plugs are also compatible with home networks such as Alexa and Google Assistants for added connectivity.
Despite this core role that smart plugs play, they do not usually get credit for it, as much of the attention is typically focused on larger smart home devices like hubs. However, smart plugs, when used smartly with their Smartphone Apps installed, can make you live in a smart heaven on earth.
In this article, we will share 14 of the most common uses for smart plugs and how you can manipulate the device to make it even smarter.
There are several ways in which smart plugs are commonly used. However, many people who own smart plugs (and those who do not) are often unaware of some of the neat tasks that these devices can perform. Continue reading to find out more!
What Are Smart Plugs Used For?
A smart plug can transform your home devices into part of your smart home network. This will give you control of every home device by simply plugging the device into it and then plugging the smart plug into a wall socket.
This control is possible even when you are not at home since the plug connects to an App on your phone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The appliance connected to the plug can be operated without the need for a smart hub.
Common Uses of Smart Plugs
There are several ways that smart plugs are commonly used. Some of these include:
Improve home connectivity
With the new technology, new model appliances have the capability of connecting to the home network. Not every home device has home network capability, especially older models.
Smart plugs turn any of your existing appliances and electrical devices into a smart home device so that each and every one of them is “smart” and can be controlled remotely.
Manage and monitor your energy usage remotely
Smart plugs allow for easy scheduling of the home device operation. This can be done by creating a “scene” for your appliances.
For instance, if the living room light is off, you can have the device turn off the kid’s gaming console and television but specify this command only after 10:00 p.m. This is one way of how smart plugs are commonly used to manage power consumption.
In addition, they are often used to access information on energy usage via the App on your Smartphone. It can provide details on weekly or monthly energy consumption depending on how you have it set up.
This will enable you to make any necessary adjustments the following week, month, or year after you become well informed of your own habits.
Turning appliances on and off with just a tap of a button or voice
Smart plug Apps are often used to turn your appliances on and off whether you are at home or not. Also, you can use this App to check back if there could be an appliance that was never turned on or off.
Let’s say you were in too big of a hurry that caused you to forget to turn your hair straightener off; you can imagine the stress this could cause. The smart plug is commonly used to relieve you from such stress.
All you need to do is ensure that the appliances are connected to the plugs whenever you are using them. Then, you can remotely turn off your device and watch your stress disappear.
Some smart plugs can connect to Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistance to control the devices via an App. This control is done through sound, by speaking to these smart home networks.
Some have built-in visual assistant support. With this, you can speak directly to a smart plug instead of using a smart App. Some of these devices can also work with a separate remote other than a smartphone. These remotes operate the devices in a much simpler way through the smart plug.
Creating opportunities for your devices to work for you and not the other way around helps put you in more control.
Regulating your house temperature
Smart plugs can be used to regulate your home’s heating and cooling appliances even when you are not at home. You can schedule your heater or air conditioner to turn on or off remotely no matter the time or the season.
As an example, you can use the device to turn on your heater so that by the time you get back home, your house is at a comfortable temperature. On the other hand, you can set a time for your fan to be on if you are coming home from a hot day.
Either way, this allows you to arrive at a comfortable home without having to run your appliances all day, thus saving you plentiful electricity.
Smart plugs are safe to use because they will not overheat. Some models even monitor wall temperature and will then send an alert when it reaches a temperature that is too hot.
Further, some are set so that the plug will simply turn off automatically if it reaches a certain temperature.
Creative Ways to Use your Smart Plug
Above are some of the ways we commonly benefit from using smart plugs. However, it does not end at these.
The more you become creative with your smart plug, the more you benefit from it. Here are just some of the ways you can make your smart plug ‘genius’.
1. Morning power break
Instead of jumping out of your bed every morning to heat up a croissant with butter and jam on it, to brew your fresh pot of coffee, or to turn on your radio, why not have your smart plug turn the switch for you.
From the comfort of your bed, you can operate the device in real-time using your phone.
Next, if you usually spend time on your hair every morning, you can schedule the appliances to heat up so that by the time you finish with your shower they are ready.
Thus, your morning tasks are made easy providing you with the modern convenience needed to start your days out on the bright side. Maybe Mondays will not seem so bad, after all.
2. Cook from work
Imagine arriving home after a long day of work and dinner is already heated. This is possible with a smart plug!
All you need to do is hook up your smart plug to your cooking device, and from your phone, you can prepare your evening meals in time. (This will work much better with a crockpot than a microwave.)
Just add the ingredients before you head to work, and simply program your smartphone to switch on so that the meal will be ready when arriving back home.
This can be very useful, especially when you have a slow cooker. Coming back from work exhausted but having a meal that has already been prepared can reduce great amounts of stress.
Let your smart plug begin to heat your food at the perfect time so all you have to do is come home and enjoy.
3. Cooling yourself
Imagine coming in from a long day of yard work and flopping down only to notice that your fan is not turned on.
Your smart plug will save you from the hassle of getting back up as you can keep your house cool from any part of the house you choose. Simply add a smart plug and you can use your App or voice commander to cool your room by connecting it to your fan or AC unit.
As mentioned previously, if you want to arrive home from work and find your house temperature conducive, the smart plug can do the trick.
4. Turning off your children’s playing devices including TVs and electronics
Battling with kids to go to sleep or, rather, do their homework can become tiresome. Having trouble enforcing rules on what time and for how long TV should be watched, or Xbox or PlayStation can be played?
The smart plug is ideal in managing your children’s’ screen time so that they maintain an appropriate after school routine.
For instance, you can have the smart plug turn the power off to the TV making them do their homework for two hours and then turn the power on for them to watch for an agreed period of time.
Then, turn off the power when you go to bed to ensure none of them wake up to watch when they are supposed to be sleeping.
5. Make the entire room warm and cozy
Your smart thermostats might not be sufficient enough for the entire room, as there might be some specific areas that are not usually warmed up. You can use a space heater in this particular area.
With the smart plug added, you can schedule for when your space heater is turned on or off. Smart plugs usually control energy flow to the appliances, so you do not need to worry about your space heater sparking into the fire if you are not closely attending to it.
6. Charge your device’s battery remotely
Garden trimmers or electric drills are some of the home devices that often use a rechargeable battery. When you plan to attend to your garden after running other errands, just leave your device connected and turn it on any time you want from wherever you are.
You can use a Wi-Fi-connected smart plug to charge your camera so that you are prepared to take as many photos as you want, never missing a moment. Or, charge your electric drill to make sure it is ready for use when you get back home.
7. Heat up your blanket before bedtime
When you are living in areas with extreme winters, you need an electric blanket. Electric blankets are not eco-friendly and therefore you need to warm them up directly prior to bedtime.
Smart plugs are at your service once again. With a timer or timed App, you can schedule it to switch on and heat the bed and turn off before you get to the bed.
So, if you are out for a fun night with friends and know what time you will be home, the smart plug can ensure that your warm, cozy bed is ready when you arrive.
8. Switch off devices when you are asleep
When you fall asleep your devices should be ‘sleeping’ too. Having appliances run while you are asleep can become very risky. There are also cases where your Smartphone or toothbrush has run out of power and you have to charge them overnight.
As per the manufacturers’ specifications, it is not recommended to overcharge your Smartphone. In fact, more than 8 hours of charging can ruin the lifespan of your device’s battery.
You can connect your phone and toothbrush to charge for 2-4 hours before the power is disconnected. A smart plug allows you to specify the amount of time you would like the charger turned on or off.
By connecting the charger through this plug, you can schedule it to automatically turn off the power at a set time. As an added bonus, this will save you money in replacement costs for overcharged batteries.
9. Feed your pet while at work
You would not want your pets to go hungry even if the circumstances dictate you have to leave them home.
With programmable timed feeders available, a pressure triggered feeder with a Wi-Fi smart plug is the new way to make sure your furry friend is properly nourished in time.
Even if you are at home at night to personally attend to your pet, an automatic feeder is a worthwhile backup.
Perhaps you will be gone for a day or two and your indoor cat only needs food to stay home without hiring a cat sitter. You can operate the feeder remotely and your pet will have its meals as usual.
10. Control hidden sockets
You can have some of your electrical gadgets plugged into sockets in hard-to-reach places. Say you have a plug inconveniently located behind the bookshelves, under a sofa chair or whatever tight place you can imagine.
Smart plugs will save the time you spend struggling to access it or the trouble you might encounter while squeezing your way to reach them. Using the smart plug App, you can turn the device on or off and you will only have to plug it in the initial time.
11. Protect against burglars
Smart plugs can be used as a source of security by faking your home presence. You can decide to operate your devices remotely in such a way that a supposed burglar may get fooled into thinking that you are home.
Think of it this way: someone walks into your neighborhood and towards your door and your lights go off. The music starts playing from somewhere deep in the house.
Then a bedroom light turns on, just for a while before switching off again. The music reduces then the TV turned on with a maximum volume. Surely that would be enough to scare any burglar away.
12. Automate your Christmas lights
While some Christmas lights come with automatic timers, you might own some that do not. Rather than purchasing new lights, simply use your smart plug to turn your lights into smart devices.
Instead of staying up late to turn them off or have to fool with turning them on or off nightly, simply attach them to a smart plug. Cue smart plugs to do the work for you.
Plug all your set of lights to a common power board then connect it to power through the plug. Schedule how they run and you will have an easy time putting them on and off at the comfort of your bed.
Once the holiday season is over, you will still have a smart plug that is available for other uses rather than having spent your money on new lights that will only endure one season of the year.
13. Save more on energy usage
Your smart plug is not just for creating a scene or tracking energy usage in order to help you manage your energy consumption.
You can be much more creative with it to help you reduce power usage as well. For instance, instead of waiting for monthly feedback on your general energy usage, you can use a smart plug to track and identify the appliance which consumes the most energy.
It is simple to do by plugging in one appliance at a time. With this information, you can decide which appliance will save you energy when turned off.
In addition, you can set up for less “vampire power” aka devices that suck energy like crazy. The power your electric device uses when on standby may accumulate up to 10% of your electric bill. Standby power makes the device less eco-friendly, and it is said that it contributes to roughly 1% of the global CO2 emission.
The smart plug will help you switch the device off when you are leaving the house, or you can schedule and switch them off remotely. Here are some of the biggest standby energy suckers:
- Desktops and laptops
- Phone chargers
- Printer and scanners
- Kitchen appliances such as microwaves and blenders
- Heaters and ACs
- Wi-Fi modems
- TVs, DVD players, and game consoles
- Printers and scanners
14. Reduce chances of electric fire
Any electrical device has the potential to start a fire in the house. Many risk drawing an electric shock into the home as well. It is wise, therefore, to turn them off whenever they are not in use.
In case you have forgotten to turn one off, you can remotely have your smart plug do you that via an App on your Smartphone.
Precautions to take when Using Smart Plugs
There are thousands of ways in which you can manipulate your smart plug to accomplish various tasks for your benefit. Despite this, smart plugs have their shortcomings too.
It is important to be aware of these prior to purchase, but these should not dissuade you from general purchase and use.
Outlet blockage potential
Often there are cases where a smart plug has a larger footprint than a single outlet. This means that for you to fix it in the socket, you may have to do so with the aid of another plug.
While this is not the case with every smart plug, it can become stressful when you do not have the second plug. Researching different smart plugs is a good way to prevent this from being a surprise to you.
Increased depth requirement
Small wall socket outlets are meant for ordinary plugs and have relatively shallow depths. Fixing the smart plug with a relatively longer footprint will mean pushing it to exceed the length of a typical socket.
This small size requirement can make a significant difference in the plug usefulness. Be sure to test out different outlets in your home if you run into this issue when using a smart plug.
Compared to traditional wall outlet plugs, smart plugs have a much higher initial cost. You will have to weigh the usefulness and convenience of a smart plug against the upfront cost to determine if it is a good option for you and your family.
Keep in mind, though, that the value of a smart plug, especially when using for creative purposes as addressed above, can far exceed the initial cost.
Best Smart Plugs and Their Features
Here are some of the best smart plugs available in our market today that you can choose from. The list is not comprehensive but will get you started in your research.
The iDevices Switch (see it on Amazon) is a Wi-Fi smart plug with energy monitoring. It does not require a traditional smart hub and it is therefore very simple to set up. It is user-friendly and energy monitoring and integrates with Alexa and Apple HomeKit. It is also compatible with Android or iOS devices.
It takes only one outlet in the wall with its own outlet positioned on the side. Given that it does not require a double distance of plugs from the wall, it is convenient for use even behind a bookcase or sofa.
A consistent Wi-Fi connection is always maintained between the App and the plug even if it has to be relocated into another outlet. With it, you can create unlimited schedules for your home devices to turn off or on depending on your preferred schedule.
The remote control function of the App is also very effective. Energy monitoring information is provided throughout the month, and you can set it to inform you regarding daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly energy usage.
TP-Link Smart WiFi Plug With Energy Monitoring
This plug (Amazon link) is one of the best smart plugs in terms of value. It offers diverse features at a very low cost. It is simple and integrates seamlessly with existing devices. Energy monitoring is very good.
It is relatively larger and will block the top outlet when connected to the bottom outlet. But it is definitely still one to consider if space is not an issue, or simply plug it into the top outlet to save space. It integrates well with Alexa and Google Assistance.
It is easy to install on either the iOS smart device or an Android. Once installed, there is always a reliable connection between the App and the plug. App installation guarantees remote control.
It has an integration countdown timer feature that automatically turns down the appliances at the set times. It also has a very special feature can turn your lights on and off at random adding an extra layer of security for your home.
Kasa Smart WiFi Plug Mini By TP-Link
This plug (Amazon) is similar to the TP-Link Smart WiFi Plug. it has a usable App with remote control, and offers an away mode that turns the lights on and off randomly (ex. scare away burglars).
This device is also Alexa-compatible. It one of the smallest available on the market and only covers a single outlet when plugged in. This level of convenience translates into slightly higher costs but it is well worth it for the compact size.
No smart hub is required for this smart plug which makes it straightforward and beneficial.
No energy monitoring is available with this device, but if that is not something you would consider essential, this smart plug is one of the best for more compact residences.
You can control it from anywhere you have internet access via the App, and once connected to the Wi-Fi, it maintains a solid, reliable connection.
Etekcity Voltson – Wi-Fi Smart Plug Mini Outlet
This device (Amazon link) is very easy to install and connects and maintains a strong and reliable connection. It offers remote control via an App from any part of the world as long as there is a sufficient network. You can plug it in the lower outlet and it does not block the upper one.
It is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistance for voice control. Just like other smart plugs, you can eliminate wasteful standby power and reduce energy usage. It allows you to track power usage by the individual device to determine which appliance consumes the most power.
Belkin WeMo Insight Smart Plug
This device (Amazon) offers energy monitoring and integration with many home networks such as SmarThing, Alexa, Google Home, Nest and IFTTT from which you can use voice control. You can remotely control any of the plugged-in devices as well as set schedules through the WeMo App.
It has an “away” mode that you can set while on your vacation to power your lights on and off and make it seem like you are home. This device also offers energy consumption data.
The plug has a larger, rounded design that will block both outlets. Because of this, some users say that it is not as user-friendly as some of the other smart plugs available.