Smart plugs are incredibly useful devices. You can control heaters, monitor and reduce energy usage, or automate your indoor and exterior lights–there are tons of convenient and useful features here. You can even run some basic machines like a coffeemaker using smart plugs. Due to their various functions, many users often wonder if it’s possible to use a smart plug to dim lights.
Can you dim lights with a smart plug? Not all smart plugs can dim lights but if f the plug has an onboard dimmer, you can. Typically, brightness can be controlled via buttons on the plug or a downloadable app.
A smart plug, assuming you’re using the proper buttons and the right application, can control the brightness of a light but it’s not uncommon for there to be problems. One of the issues is that people often think their lights are dimmable when really they’re not physically capable of being dimmed. There can also be downsides to using a dimmable smart plug.
You Can Dim Lights With The Right Smart Plug
As you’d know if you’ve read our guide on converting regular blinds to smart blinds, smart plugs are commonly used to turn lights on and off with either an app or some other type of command . Options like the Gosund outlets (on Amazon), can also be used for dimming or brightening lights. However, it can be a challenge to find the right type of smart plug because of some confusing advertising.
Smart plugs that are advertised as having dimming capabilities might not be what you expected for a couple of different reasons. Sometimes the plug comes with a dimmable light switch, which is an entirely different component. In this case, you’ll have to install a new switch plate, along with connecting the smart plug. So you’ll need to do a little extra research and read the review for the plug you’re considering.
Types of Smart Plugs
As we’ve already discussed, there are smart plugs that come with built-in dimming, however, you want to make sure that the plug has the dimming capabilities built-in and not just the capability to work with an external switch. Along with having an extra component to install, it isn’t always possible to remotely control a switch through an app. This is one of the reasons why it’s advantageous to use a dimmable smart plug.
Smart plugs are divided into three categories determined by their system requirements. Ones that require Wi-Fi access, like the Leviton DW3HL (on Amazon), are often the least expensive overall since you don’t need to purchase a hub. Sometimes, a hub is necessary for wireless control and this will cost extra. The other two types of smart plugs that require a hub are Z-Wave and ZigBee.
Features to Consider
Whether you purchase a smart plug that uses your home Wi-Fi as a hub or another type, there are some features that all have in common.
- Maximum wattage – Smart plugs will list the maximum wattage. You need to know this to prevent overloading the plug.
- Energy monitoring – An advantage of using smart plugs is being able to monitor energy usage and cut back as needed. Dimming the lights can help with this.
- Plug design – Smart plugs can come with two or three prongs. Check your outlets before choosing the wrong design.
- Control compatibility – Before buying a dimmable smart plug, make sure it’s compatible. Your smartphone needs to be able to download the app, and if you have a smart home system the plugs must be compatible with it.
What Types of Lights are Dimmable?
It might be surprising to learn that not all lights are dimmable. Chances are you already know that the light bulb must be screwed into a pluggable lamp, or in other words, a lamp that is plugged into an electrical outlet (here’s everything else you need to know in our guide) .
The lamp must be connected to the same electrical system the smart plug is connected to. Otherwise, the plug won’t be able to control it. To be clear: the smart plug needs the ability to control the dimmable bulb (as we talked about in our tutorial), and the bulb needs to be able to receive that control.
Three types of light bulbs can be dimmed by a smart plug or used in a ceiling fan (our guide). You can use a bulb with arc lighting like a metal halide, mercury, or sodium vapor one. The problem is you will need a specialized smart plug due to the differences in technology. The three types of bulbs that work best are fluorescent, LED, incandescent, and halogen ones.
- Fluorescent bulbs are inexpensive, but not all work with dimmable smart plugs. The bulb must come with a dimmable ballast, and it should be listed on the packaging. If it doesn’t explicitly say it, you should assume the bulb can’t be dimmed.
- Led lights are energy-efficient, affordably priced, and have low wattage consumption. These bulbs can save you money on energy bills, but not all are compatible with smart plugs or work with all dimming devices. LED lights are more commonly dimmable, though, but you should still expect to find it explicitly stated on the packaging or description.
- Incandescent and halogen bulbs work with most smart plugs with dimming capabilities. Due to the increased demand for energy-efficient light bulbs, it is getting harder to find incandescent ones. Halogen bulbs are also not energy-efficient and this will be reflected in your energy bill. However, the way their brightness is directly tied to the energy received makes them work well with dimmable plugs.
Before you purchase dimmable light bulbs, make sure you read the product listing. You’ll may also want to think about energy usage. Dimming a bulb that’s not very energy efficient is a great way to take a few percent points off your energy bill.
Complications of Using Dimmable Smart Plugs
Using a dimmable smart plug is certainly convenient because you can control how bright a light is from another room or even when you’re away. If you don’t want to come home to a dark house but don’t want a blindingly bright light, you can use the app on your smartphone to dim it. As convenient as this is, there are some complications to consider when using a dimmable smart plug.
Potential Hazards of Dimmable Smart Plugs
One of the potential hazards with smart plugs is overloading the outlet. If you have too many devices plugged, there could be a power shortage and if your devices keep trying to function without enough power, it could cause expensive damage to the components. Another hazard to watch out for is bulb compatibility. Even if the bulb is dimmable it may not work with your smart plug which is usually indicated by a flickering bulb.
The overloading issue is pretty rare. You’ll know if this is a risk for you if you have several devices plugged into a single outlet, like a full power strip and dimmable smart plugs. The way this failure would reveal itself is by all the lights going off and the breaker tripping for that circuit.
There are a few additional issues when using a dimmable smart plug. Some have cords, effectively operating as extension cables, which can limit the range to a few feet. In this case, it’s better to use a cordless smart plug in combination with a proper extension cable.
Some plugs that use your Wi-Fi for a hub may have limited app range or connectivity problems (more on that in our article). If the smart plug can’t connect to your internet network, maybe because it’s down in the basement, it’s only good to use as an electrical outlet.
Not all apps are supported in all smarthome systems, and this is something you want to check beforehand. If support for the app ends you might not be able to dim your lights remotely which is why support is important for the firmware because there can be issues with connectivity and response.
Continued app support also indicates the manufacturer’s commitment to the product. Look for products that have Apple Homekit or Amazon Alexa capabilities, that way it’s harder for them to not be supported.
The design of the smart plug can be a problem if it blocks other unused outlets. Since most outlets come with two plugs, you don’t want to lose one. Depending on where you’re plugging in the smart plug, having two outlets might be necessary. Look for plugs that have a circular or rectangular design, to ensure the other outlet isn’t blocked.
You can use a smart plug to dim your lights as long as everything is compatible. The smart plug must come with a built-in dimmer, and the bulbs also have to have dimming capabilities (more on what they can do in our guide). Even if you have both the plug and bulb there can still be problems around the smart plugs connectivity capabilities.
To avoid any issues, always read the product descriptions. Look over the design of the smart plug and make sure you understand how it’s connecting to your smart home system, and then make sure you’re controlling dimmable bulbs with it.