Smart plugs are great little devices and they’re also a breeze to use. One advantage of using one is that they’re less expensive than installing a complete smart home system and you don’t need to spend a lot of time setting a smart plug up. Just plug it into the electrical outlet and connect your device. There is also an app to install so you can remotely control the plug, however, all this may confuse you if you aren’t familiar with the technology. So what is a wi-fi smart plug anyway?
A Wi-Fi smart plug allows you remotely power on or power off anything that’s plugged into it with your smartphone or a voice assistant. They work exactly like standard electrical outlets, but can be remotely powered on or off, allow you to set timers, and trigger other smart-home devices.
There’s no question that a Wi-Fi smart plug is a tool of the future, and more and more people are noticing just how useful they really are. In addition to the price, smart plugs have a few uses that you should probably be aware of, including the ability to dim lights which we’ve touched on before. However, before we dive into all of these handy functionalities, let’s talk a little bit about how they actually work.
What is a Wi-Fi Smart Plug: The Basics
Not everyone is familiar with Wi-Fi smart plugs, but the premise is pretty simple. The device goes in a wall outlet. It needs to draw power for the connected device. On the front is a three-prong outlet that can be used to power a lamp, small appliance, or any normal plug-in device. The design is similar to a power strip, except it only has one outlet.
The plug connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network via a downloadable app, and from there, you can remotely control the connected component, whether it’s a lamp, a humidifier, etc. You could turn a lamp on and off when you’re not home when it’s plugged into a smart outlet, for instance.
There are Two Types of Wi-Fi Smart Plugs
It shouldn’t surprise you that there are different types of smart plugs with varying capabilities. It’s the same with most Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Both types are affordable and easy to set up, it’s how you control the connected device that differs.
Smart plugs like the LoraTap Mini Remote Control Outlet Plug (on Amazon) are great for individuals that aren’t too tech-savvy or don’t want to install another app on their phones. You don’t need a smart home hub, and it doesn’t come with an app. Instead, you have a convenient remote control. The small remote slips easily into your pocket and have a range large enough that it can be used from anywhere in the house. Press a button, and you can control the connected device.
If you’re looking for more convenience, and don’t mind downloading an app, the Amazon Smart Plug (on Amazon) is a good option. It’s Wi-Fi enabled and works with Alexa. Instead of a remote, you can use your voice. After you’ve downloaded the app, you can remotely control the device with your voice or smartphone.
How Do Smart Plugs Work?
A smart plug is an ingenious device because it turns your ordinary appliance or device into a smart one. What makes them so great is that you don’t have to buy and install a complete system; just plug it into an electrical outlet. Regarding the adaptor, thankfully it isn’t huge but it is quite noticeable. However, since it’s white, it will blend in as you get used to it.
What a smart plug actually does is fairly straightforward. It allows you to control the power supplied by the outlet. After plugging the adapter in, download the app from the Google or Apple store. You’ll connect to your Wi-Fi or Zigbee/Z-wave network. Now, with the press of a button or voice command, you can control the smart plug and connected device.
While there are many great things about using one, there is a downside. When your electricity or internet is out, you’re back to manually controlling the device, unlike other smart home devices that can just be controlled locally as we explained in our guide on internet-less smart homes. You don’t have to unplug it. Most smart plugs come with physical buttons so you can still turn the lights or other devices on and off.
Some of the Best Uses for Smart Plugs
There are endless possibilities when it comes to the world of smart plugs and other smart home devices. You can use a smart plug almost anywhere you have an electrical outlet. While they are quite inexpensive, you want to make sure you get your money’s worth. For that reason, I’ve compiled a list here of some of the best uses for smart plugs.
You Can Control Lights or Areas of a Room for More Convenience
Most people have a reading nook or a small home office for either quiet reading time or necessary tasks for work. Smart bulbs are one way of making your life a lot easier, but it’s not always the best one. When you only want to turn one lamp on, a smart bulb is fine, however, it doesn’t work when you want to control multiple devices.
Using a smart plug, you can control multiple devices simultaneously. Turn on a lamp and laptop remotely, so you’re ready to get to work before you enter the room. Another option is a smart switch, you’ll find more information on this below.
Prevent Vampire Power Users to Save Money
You don’t have to break out the garlic, it’s not that type of vampire. What we’re referring to here are devices that continue to draw power when they’re turned off. Also referred to as “phantom power”, it causes your electric bills to rise. A smart switch can detect vampire power devices and alert you through the app. You can turn the device off or even set it to a timer.
Some common devices to watch out for are: laptop and desktop computers, HVAC systems, modems, scanners and printers, phone chargers, TVs, and other entertainment devices, as well as small appliances. It’s amazing how much money you can save by turning off these devices through your smart plug.
Preserve Your Phone’s Battery Capacity
Did you know it’s not a good idea to leave your phone charging overnight? It wears down the battery. Once your phone battery is at 100%, it starts trickle charging, and this is what causes wear and tear on the battery. Some phones have a built-in feature that prevents trickle charging, however, a smart plug will also fix this issue better than software can. You can use a smart plug to turn on a few hours before you wake up, charging your phone battery at the right time and avoiding trickle charging.
Set Up Lights to Deter Burglars
Everyone knows homes with the lights off are a common target for burglars because it’s almost a sure sign no one is in the house. Using several smart plugs, you can make it look like someone is home which will make a criminal think twice. When the plugs are used throughout the house controlling lights, it will seem like multiple people are there.
Additionally, you can set the connected lights on timers through the app. You can turn all of the lights on at once or at scattered intervals, along with lamps. You might also be able to connect your television to a smart plug. Your stereo is another option because nothing deters a would-be burglar like lights and noise.
Are There Smart Power Strips?
There are smart power strips, and some like the TP-Link Kasa (on Amazon) will let you plug in up to six devices. When you need to connect multiple devices in one room, it’s a cost-effective option. A smart power strip works the same as a plug, you just have to download the app, connect to the network, and you’re ready to go.
Why Use a Smart Power Strip?
Do you have a home office and want to control multiple devices? Or maybe you want to remotely control a coffee maker and charge your phone? A smart power strip is the perfect answer to your problem. Instead of having multiple smart plugs through your office or kitchen, you can have one discrete power strip that controls everything. The ConnectSense Smart Outlet (on Amazon) comes with two plugs.
You can set your phone to charge and have coffee waiting for you in the morning. Smart power strips are also more cost-effective. because you will save money buying one, instead of multiple plugs. There is a thick cord connecting the power strip to the adapter, but it’s no different than a traditional one. You can easily tuck it behind a device or appliance if you’re worried about aesthetics.
Use a Smart Power Strip Outside
Another great use for smart power strips is for outside lights because they can be great burglar deterrent as well as adding some cosmetic flair. The problem is controlling them remotely without spending a lot of money. The D-Link Outdoor Smart Plug (on Amazon) is weather-proof and comes with two plugs. There are also exterior LED buttons so you can control the power strip when the electricity’s out.
It’s also great for use with an outdoor hot tub. You can have the water ready as soon as you walk out the door. If you own an electric grill, this smart power strip will also control it, in other words, you can get the coals hot without stepping outside.
Simplify Your Life With a Wi-Fi Smart Plug
There’s nothing wrong with your electrical outlet if you don’t mind manual operation. You physically have to turn it on and off, but there is an easier way. A Wi-Fi smart plug lets you remotely control the connected device. All that’s needed is for you to connect the device to the smart plug. Depending on the type you get, you’ll either use a remote or an app.
Smart plugs that come with an app are recommended unless you like carrying a remote control around. The app connects the plug to your Wi-Fi, along with Google Assist and Alexa. You can also connect to your smart home hub. As great as smart plugs are, they’re not practical when you want to connect more than one device. In this case, look for a smart power strip.