10 Creative Uses For Smart Plugs That’ll Make You Want One
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Smart plugs come in all shapes and sizes, and can be snapped up for prices to suit all budgets. They’re also the most basic element of any smart home. Forget Internet connectivity, home networks and gadgets enabling remote management – smart plugs are where it starts.

The chances are that you have a household without a smart plug, yet own a smart meter, or have embarked upon some smart home project (perhaps using the Raspberry Pi with OpenHAB Getting Started with OpenHAB Home Automation on Raspberry Pi Getting Started with OpenHAB Home Automation on Raspberry Pi OpenHAB is a mature, open source home automation platform that runs on a variety of hardware and is protocol agnostic, meaning it can connect to nearly any home automation hardware on the market today. Read More ). If this is the case, just stop what you’re doing, grab a smart plug, and go back to basics.

Benefits of Smart Plugs

If you’re reading this cold, and have no prior knowledge of smart plugs, here’s a brief explanation.

These devices, which sit between the electrical outlet and the device you’re plugging in, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and specifications. However, they all possess a shared quality: control, usually in the shape of a timer.

This enables you to set a plug to switch on or off at a pre-determined time. This is particularly useful, and thanks to recent developments, it doesn’t end there.

You’re now able to purchase Wi-Fi smart plugs 6 Smart Plugs That Aren't Belkin WeMo 6 Smart Plugs That Aren't Belkin WeMo Read More , to which you can connect directly via a desktop or mobile app, or indirectly using a third party tool such as IFTTT. This connectivity option means that the possibilities are considerable for any smart home project.

Ultimately, smart homes begin and end with smart plugs, as these 10 examples demonstrate.

Wake Up to Smart Plugs

What is the first thing you do in the morning? Perhaps you like to listen to the radio, or enjoy a cup of coffee? You might like to heat up a croissant, spread some butter and jam on it, and start your day off with all three.

Rather than stumbling out of bed as your alarm goes off, walking into the kitchen door and electrocuting yourself on the toaster, before burning your fingers with the kettle and getting the radio antenna up your nose, why not employ smart plugs to switch all of these on for you?

With less to concern you in the morning, you’ll be able to focus on getting yourself dressed and looking presentable. If you have a family, the benefits are multiplied!

Enjoy Pre-Heated Hair Irons

On the subject of getting ready, why not preset your smart plugs to switch on at the optimum time for doing just that? Ladies, for example, can have quite a detailed and time-consuming regimen first thing in the morning.

If this sounds familiar, and you have a set of curlers or irons that you need to heat up early every day to get your hair looking perfect, then smart plugs can again come to the rescue, either with a manual timer on the device, or using a time-based app to remotely switch on the plug and allow the hair irons to heat up while you make breakfast (or do something else).

It might take a couple of days to get right, but you should find those hair irons are ready to use when you pick them up.

Fool Opportunistic Burglars

A large proportion of burglaries are not pre-planned. Rather, they are opportunistic crimes, committed by thieves too lazy to even bother committing to planning something.

But what can a smart plug do to help?

If you’re out or away from home for a few hours and concerned about crime in your area, why not employ smart plugs to control your lights (the Belkin WeMo is a good option 3 Ways The Belkin WeMo Can "Smarten" Your Regular Household Lamps 3 Ways The Belkin WeMo Can "Smarten" Your Regular Household Lamps We took the time to look at the possibilities for turning your regular household lamps into smart lamps. Read More here)? Either a timer or an app can be used here; imagine it getting dark outside while you’re on your way home from work — all you need to do to create the illusion of activity in your house is to tap a button on your smartphone to switch on a light! Similarly, you could switch on your TV as well.

Marry this up with some useful home security camera solution How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones How to Build a Security Camera Network Out Of Old Smartphones There's no better use of old smartphones than by building your own DIY network security camera system -- we show you everything you need to know! Read More , and your property should be pretty well protected.

Cook Dinner While You’re at Work

What else might you do while at work? How about getting dinner ready?

I’d personally recommend that you rely on a crock pot (known as a slow cooker in the UK) for a healthier and tastier end result than something like a microwave, and by adding the ingredients you need before you head to work, you can activate the crock pot remotely to ensure you have a very tasty meal to come home to.

And if your budget doesn’t stretch to a smart plug with Wi-Fi (several models are available Which Smart Plug Is the Best One for You? Which Smart Plug Is the Best One for You? Even if you aren't into the whole smart home automation trend, you really should get yourself a few smart plugs. They're one of the easiest smart home products to use. Read More ), simply program your analog or digital smart plug to switch on at the right time for the meal to be ready when you step through the front door.

Switch Off Your Tumble Dryer Overnight

Tumble dryers have been proven to cause a lot of house fires over the years, and you don’t really want to spend the last moments of your life in an inferno of your own making. To avoid this, employ a smart plug (connected or analog) and use it to switch off the tumble dryer after, say midnight.

You might even consider purchasing a Nest Protect Smoke Detector Battle: Roost Smart Battery Vs Nest Protect Smoke Detector Battle: Roost Smart Battery Vs Nest Protect Once you see how the Roost Smart Battery and the Nest Protect stack up against one another, you'll wonder how you ever got along without either. Read More , and then use an IFTTT recipe to kill the dryer if any smoke is detected in the basement. This has the potential of putting a stop to a potential fire before it ever ignites.

muo-smarthome-smartplugs-tumbledryer

Alternatively, you might program the smart plug and a companion app to switch on the tumble dryer only on weekends, or other times when electricity is cheaper to use.

Control Your Kids’ Consoles and TVs

The modern family household often features a children’s bedroom or playroom complete with a TV and game consoles. You might even have a PC in there too, upon which you should manage access using family safety software How To Protect Your Children With Windows Live Family Safety 2011 How To Protect Your Children With Windows Live Family Safety 2011 Windows 7 has a number of default parental control features built in. Using these, it’s possible to deny access to certain applications and games as well as restrict a child’s account so that is can... Read More . But what about the TV and console?

Well, it’s smart plugs to the rescue once again. With these installed between the appliance and the power outlet, you can have the devices shut down based on a predetermined (and, for the best results, agreed-up) time, using a timer.

You might also opt to use a smart plug app to manage time earned by your hardworking children on their favorite game console. Just go easy with it – you wouldn’t want them to have to repeat a level because the console was shut down before they saved their work, would you?

Remotely Recharge Device Batteries

You’re at work, and you notice what a stunning day it is outside. Obviously there is little you can do to enjoy it now, but if you had a smart plug connected to your garden trimmer’s rechargeable battery, you could get the device topped up mid-afternoon, and have it ready to use by the time you pull into your driveway.

muo-smarthome-smartplugs-gardencutter

Similarly, you could use a Wi-Fi connected smart plug to charge your vacuum cleaner. This might prove particularly useful if you discover at the eleventh hour that you have family coming to stay over, and have last minute vacuuming to carry out.

Keep Your Space Warm in Winter

Your den, or private study area… whatever you call that place where you chill out and do stuff that you enjoy for some “me time”, may get quite cold in the winter. This is especially true if your space is a shed, or an attic.

To keep things warm, before heading to your wintery abode, why not plug an electric radiator into a smart plug, and remotely activate it to heat things up in advance? As long as the radiator isn’t set too high and you don’t leave it alone for too long, you should find yourself stepping into a nice, warm, and cozy space.

Save Money on Your Next Electronic Purchase

How much do your electrical appliances cost to run? One of the big draws (and for some, drawbacks) about smart plugs is the ability to connect them to smart meters.

With these devices setup in your home, you can tell what devices are in use, and how often they’re active.

You can use this information to measure how much it costs to recharge a phone, tablet or laptop, and use this knowledge to choose a potentially more efficient device in the future!

Switch Everything Off when You Fall Asleep

We’ve already looked at the pitfalls of having particular appliances running while you’re asleep. But how can we ensure that they are switched off? What if we forget one of them?

Using a smartwatch or a fitness band is the way forward here. As we told you previously, the Jawbone Up integrates with IFTTT, so if you team this up with a smart plug, you should be able to program your appliances — such as a tumble dryer, or perhaps TV and Blu-ray player – to shut down for the night when you do.

There’s a clever kind of perfect about that, don’t you think?

We’ve given you ten creative uses for your smart plugs, but how do you use yours? Tell us about how you get the best out of your smart plugs (whatever the brand), and any related apps, in the comments.

Image Credits: Coffee maker by Charles Brutlag via Shutterstock, Cyril PAPOT via Shutterstock.com, trekandshoot via Shutterstock.com

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  1. Rob M
    December 14, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    All of the Wi-Fi plugs I have integrate with my Amazon echo, so they are all voice command enabled. I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, at the other end of the house, I have lights along that path set in a group command, so I just mutter 'alexa all lights on' and the path is safely lit. Same command for off as I get back into bed.
    I care for elderly parents who use little technology, and to let them know I'm almost home, I used Ifttt to geofence my property, and now when my phone gets within 1 mile of home, the lamp in the living room comes on so they can welcome me lol.
    I keep my router and modem plugged into a Wi-Fi plug so it can be restarted (Or cut off entirely) by remote.
    I have a small space heater on a Wi-Fi plug with Ifttt Integrated into my weather underground reporting weather station, and if the inside temp goes below a certain temp, it comes on, above a certain temp it turns off or stays off.

  2. Yak
    November 24, 2017 at 7:53 pm

    Saw these on sale for 10 bucks today (black fri), came here to figure out what I would use it for (other than a light timer, of which I have 3 or 4 already). Not a single thing mentioned is feasible or of interest to me. I guess I'll save my $10. Thanks for confirming what I already suspected. lol

    I am, however, interested in a light switch with wifi capabilities for the timer aspect (wemo). I have a digital wall timer switch already (for my outdoor lights) which is programmed at the source and extremely difficult to fuss with (tiny buttons, tiny display, complicated programing), so one with wifi and a simple control from my smartphone would be great. Give me one of those for 10 bucks (not $40-$60).

  3. Kylan Sherwood
    November 21, 2017 at 6:45 am

    By far the dumbest article I've had the displeasure of reading. I see the plugs are on sale for black Friday...I thought to myself...what could these possibly be used for other then a light? And for that convenience I could get a timer for much cheaper. So I read this drivel. Where to start...you leave bread sitting on a toaster overnight?. You have a microwave that just works when plugged in?, I mean some old ones had a mechanical timer sure but it didn't rely on electricity to function so it still would be off long before you turned it on as they were only good for short periods. So let me get this straight the people buying these things don't have keurigs/tassimos with built in timers they bought the $20 coffee maker so they could buy the $30+ smart plug, note keurigs and tassimos require a button push as well as power to operate...ok I'll buy the bit about old school irons with analog switches...you might burn down your house from preheating it without checking it first (defeats the purpose) but it might just save you from burning house down if you think you may have forgot to unplug it half way to work and remotely shut it down... Your dryer doesn't use a standard 110 plug...so that dumb idea is out...but you will use it to power on/off electrical devices?. Brilliant... Computers and electrical peripherals love that kinda stuff... No...no they don't....not at all... Do you get paid to write this nonsensical b.s or just to lazy or stupid to think it through for yourself?... I take what the box tells me the product does...I type it in my own words...make up random stuff and...spell check then post

    • Chris
      November 28, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      How rude.

    • Sara, no H
      December 10, 2017 at 5:57 pm

      ^^What he said.

      To the writer..
      I mean, how lazy can one be to not turn their own curling iron on in the morning? Mine gets to 360° in 30 seconds. If you're that short on time, don't curl your hair. Geez. Or, if you can't trust yourself to turn something off, you should probably have parental supervision. Better yet, ask your mom for a smart plug for Christmas, I'm sure she'll think it's genius seeing as she clearly failed to teach you how to turn things off when you're finished using them.

      I think the smartest idea, as well as the dumbest idea, for these plugs is the bit about shutting off power to your dryer. They suck a lot of energy, yes. They're also not compatible to the product. So.. good tryyy?
      WHY EVEN MENTION THIS?
      *face palm*

  4. pedro
    September 28, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    smart plugs can't be used to turn on/off dryers! Ever look at the plug? its 240V style. how can a smart plug turn on a TV ? you physically have to turn it on with the remote... also smart plugs are not recommended to turn on IRONs! or anything that can burn down your house!

    • Gary Gemmell
      October 8, 2017 at 11:08 pm

      Smart plugs are generally rated at 10A so cant be used to control high power devices such as ovens, heaters, tumble dryers that use more than 2400 watts!

      Even at 2000 watts i would be wary of actually setting the smart plug on fire and burning down your house before you get home!

      Smart plugs are great for low amperage devices but also rememeber they can use quite a lot of power sucking your electricity costs even when they are never used - fill your house with 10 or more and you coul dbe using 40 watts and more!

  5. Gina
    August 20, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    It would be really helpful for the appliances at your bach. You can make sure everything has been turned off (or left on in the case of your bait freezer) after your family has stayed and left. Now I just need a bach...

  6. SuperDad
    December 27, 2016 at 5:16 am

    I use mine to scare the hell out of my boys when they misbehave in their room

  7. Leah
    March 12, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    We used to have a timer on a lamp in the upstairs hallway. It would turn on at dark so we could see walking around the hall and it gave the illusion that we were home when we weren't. It broke and we haven't replaced it, but this article makes me interested to do it.

    • NYHusker
      November 13, 2017 at 2:59 pm

      The best part is, many of the apps let you location based sunrise/sunset so as the days get shorter, the lamp comes on earlier...one of my very favorite parts vs manual lamp timers...

  8. Monty_Python
    March 11, 2016 at 9:34 am

    ... i don't know how insurance companies in the US handle this, but if you have electrical appliances and especially a stove running and something happens nobody but yourself will be ending up paying for the damage. In the extreme case of a house burning down, that's just incredibly stupid.

    And preparing a meal?
    This only works for heating up a prepared meal (because chopping/ preparing/ cooking pasta sauce, etc. still has to be done by you before) and is not faster than coming home, turning on your stove - then change clothes, prepare the dinner table, pour whatever you'll drink with it - when you're done with that, the food is done as well.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 11, 2016 at 1:25 pm

      This is why we only suggested a crock pot (also known as a slow cooker) as these devices are typically left on during the day.

      • Thomas?
        June 23, 2017 at 3:34 pm

        There is nothing smart about any of these ideas. It's just fancy remote control. There is no logic or dicision making by the equipment.

  9. Ross
    March 10, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    I use mine to turn my hatred blanket on for 15 minutes before bedtime. Lovely during the winter!

    • JJ
      March 10, 2016 at 5:56 pm

      What heated blanket are you using? I've actually looked into this and not been able to find a blanket that is power on, heat on without a controller.

      • Ross
        March 10, 2016 at 9:15 pm

        Just a normal one with a slider on it. It's on all the time so the control socket turns it on and off.

    • Christian Cawley
      March 10, 2016 at 8:58 pm

      Personally speaking, my own blanket is lovely.

  10. Sarah Justine
    March 10, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    hi