What is a Smart Plug? – Overview
So you’ve decided to convert your home into a smart home, but with all the smart home devices available in the 21st century, where do you start? And how can you make your smart home dream a reality on a budget? The answer is easy; smart plugs.
So what is a smart plug? A smart plug is a relatively small adapter that can be connected to a standard power wall outlet, and it can also be connected to a Wi-Fi network.
Once connected, smart plugs can be manipulated remotely through a dedicated application as well as any other devices in your home. In addition, any appliance or device connected to a smart plug can be switched on or off using a smartphone.
Smart plugs make it simple to automate and control smart appliances and devices in your home, and since they are relatively cheap, they are a great alternative for you to start turning your home into a smart one. In this article, we will look at what makes smart plugs smart, the features of smart plugs, how they work, and what to consider when buying smart plugs.
What Makes Smart Plugs Smart?
A smart plug is somewhat of a power-point adapter that occupies the space between the power outlet and the appliance you want to connect. At their most basic level, they switch things on and off. However, when integrated into a home platform, they become very nifty devices.
Smart plugs are considered ‘smart’ because they allow you to control connected appliances remotely from an app. Top-of-the-line apps even allow you to set schedules for the plugs so that you can switch your appliances on and off at set periods and on certain days.
A couple of smart Wi-Fi plugs take things a notch higher and accumulate information with regard to how much energy-connected appliances are consuming. This is a very handy feature if you are an energy-conscious energy user.
So how do you control smart plugs? Most smart plugs communicate to their central control bridges or hubs using Bluetooth or your home Wi-Fi network. The hub then uses Bluetooth or Wi-FI signals to convey information to the dedicated app on your phone.
How Do Smart Plugs Function?
Smart plugs are small handy devices that fit between the power outlet and the connected appliance, throttling power to the appliance at your command. There are several smart plug brands such as Amazon, Eve, Philips, Check-in, Wemo, Wyze, among others.
What’s more, these devices work with their own dedicated apps and Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. You can also get dedicated outdoor smart plugs that are ruggedized and weatherproof.
Essentially smart plugs are switches that function much more like a standard light switch. The main difference between smart plugs and light switches is that rather than physical buttons, an app controls the smart plugs, although most of them have physical buttons.
Do Smart Plugs Need To Be Hooked Up To A Wi-Fi Network To Function Properly?
The answer to this question is a bit complex. Most smart plugs need to be connected to the internet to access all their features, but some of them can function without it.
If the connection is shitty, the physical button on the side of most plugs still works, which allows you to switch the plug on and off. However, most appliances will not respond to verbal commands and changes made via mobile applications.
However, some smart plugs use radio signals rather than Wi-Fi. These plugs have smart bridges or hubs which communicate via Wi-Fi. In most cases, scenes and preprogrammed features will still work though you might not have access until you’re connected to Wi-Fi.
To give you a definitive answer to this question, Yes, Wi-Fi connectivity is important for the entire operation of most if not all smart plugs.
What Are The Top Ways To Use Smart Plugs In Your Home?
You might be wondering, “Why do I need a smart plug for my house?” Well, the answer varies; there are a couple of reasons why you should have smart plugs in your house.
In addition, there are a couple of ways of using smart plugs around your home, and the best uses are on a case-by-case basis.
Most people use smart plugs as a security means when they’re not at home, for instance, when they’ve traveled or something of the sort. With a lamp or two connected to a smart plug throughout your home, you can set scenes and turn them on automatically at specific times or turn them on randomly from the dedicated app.
So apart from security, what else can you use a smart plug for? Other people might use smart plugs for holiday lighting, enabling them to switch on their decorations and string lights with their voices or by setting schedules.
Another common use for smart plugs is restricting the parasitic draw of electricity by appliances. Appliances with ‘Standby Modes’ never power down, and they draw power even when switched off.
A smart plug can help you cut the power drawn by the appliance. While it’s true that smart plugs will also exhibit parasitic power draw, it’s normally less compared to appliances.
Which Home Appliances Are Ideal For Smart Plugs?
Smart plugs are handy in helping to maintain the correct temperature in your home, especially if you have a small space heater or a window air conditioner. You can set the heater to switch on before you get home so that it will be nice and cozy inside.
No smell can match a fresh brew of coffee in the morning. So when you have a smart plug, you can either set your coffee maker to start brewing coffee before you open your eyes in the morning, or you can press the button on the app immediately after you wake up and allow the machine to do its thing while you enjoy your final precious moments in bed.
Holiday lights or Xmas Trees
Smart plugs come in handy all year round with regard to energy saving. Therefore you can use them to make sure that your holiday lights only run when people are around to enjoy them. In addition, you can use a plug to schedule when the lights turn on and off throughout the day.
Outdoor Smart Plug
Smart Plugs are not only handy in automating appliances inside your house; you can also use them outside. However, you need to go for rugged and weatherproof options such as the iHome Outdoor Smart plug. In addition, you can utilize outdoor smart plugs to switch appliances such as string lights on the patio on and off remotely.
If you’re a fan of whipping up meals with a slow cooker, a smart plug can help you control how long the slow cooker is running. Let’s face it; sometimes you find yourself being away for a bit longer than expected because for various reasons.
But when you have a smart plug, you can be able to switch off your slow cooker from wherever you are to avoid ending up with an overcooked pot roast or worse, a fire.
Benefits of Smart Plugs
Besides how cool it is to talk to your smart home, and it responds with actions, you can add smart plugs to your home if you’re looking to save cash on power bills.
By using the scheduling feature in the smart plug’s dedicated application, you can schedule tasks such as the lights to turn on during specific times of the day when you’re at home so that you don’t end up consuming too much power.
Smart plugs are also handy in keeping your home safe from fire hazards. If you use heat-intensive appliances such as a clothes iron or curling iron, connecting them to a smart plug gives you the capability to turn them off remotely using your smartphone.
Therefore if you get to your place of work and realize that in your rush to leave, you left the clothes iron switched on, for instance, a smart plug can save the day.
Concerns You Might Have About Smart Plugs?
Anywhere where power is involved, you need to be careful. As a result, let’s look at some of the most common concerns people have with regard to smart plugs.
Are There Specific Devices That Shouldn’t Be Connected To A Smart Plug?
Most smart plug brands recommend connecting appliances directly to smart plugs and avoiding using regular extensions on top of the smart plug.
For instance, using a regular extension connected to the smart plug will cause the plug to shut down to prevent a fire hazard. Note that using multiple extension devices such as extension cables and power strips is a safety hazard whether you have a smart plug or not.
Do Smart Plugs Increase The Risk Of Electric Shock Or Fire?
Smart plugs are built to meet similar codes and standards of power outlets. A couple of them actually exceed the minimum required safety standards.
Smart plugs have automatic shut-down features in the event of power surges or any other power incident that could cause harm to appliances connected to the smart plug. In several ways, smart plugs are an upgrade with regard to safety compared to conventional plugs.
How Much Do Smart Plugs Cost?
The average price of a one-socket smart plug is between $25 and $50. Special smart plugs such as those designed for outdoor use or power strips will be pricier.
What Should You Consider Before Buying A Smart Plug?
You can use verbal commands or use your smartphone to get specific with dimming. Then, you just need to pair a dimmable lamp with a smart plug that supports dimming.
If you’re short on power outlets around your home, a smart plug such as the TP-Link Smart Strip will give you the ability to expand the number of outlets in your home.
By connecting a home appliance such as a coffee maker to a smart plug, you can learn the amount of electricity the appliance is using, which can be pretty useful if you’re trying to decide on moving to a more power-efficient model.
The plug checks the amount of power routed to your appliance, and it sends a report to the dedicated app. Reports will vary from app to app, but most allow you to see peak power hours and power consumed over time.
A couple of smart plugs also give you the option to automatically switch appliances on and off using a schedule so you can save on power. Some proper energy monitoring smart plugs include D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug, Elgato Eve and WeMo, and WeMo Insight Switch.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor Use
For outdoor use, some of the top smart plugs include Lutron Caseta Outdoor and Wyze Plug Outdoor. For indoor use, the ConnectSense Smart Outlet and Philips Hue Smart Plug offer the best versatility in the smart plug world.
These smart plugs are suited to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and if voice assistant integration doesn’t impress you, these smart plugs can work without hubs.
Most smart plugs have the option to set schedules for switching devices on or off at specific times. It’s a common feature, but you should ensure it’s there before buying the smart plug.
A smart power plug with surge protection might be the best option for you if you have a busy desk or entertainment center in your home.
Voice Assistant Integration
Ensure the smart plug you want to get supports the voice assistant you want to use. For instance, you shouldn’t buy a smart plug that can only be controlled with its dedicated app if you have Alexa-ready devices.
Not all smart plugs are compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so ensure that the plug supports your preferred voice assistant. Note that you can use voice assistants and other platforms such as dedicated apps to create scenes.
To sum it all up, if you’re a control freak, you’ll enjoy smart plugs. Or maybe you just want to save cash, save energy and not have to worry about remembering which switches you switched on that day; you can allow a smart plug to be the brains of your appliances.
How to Setup Wifi Smart Plug Camera?