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 and they can end up saving a lot on electricity costs. Best of all, they’re affordable!
A smart plug is a device that plugs right into an ordinary outlet. The device itself has its own outlet, so in a sense it’s like an outlet extension. Instead of plugging your lamp into the wall, you’d plug it into the smart plug (which is itself plugged into the wall).
The benefit is that the smart plug can be controlled remotely, whether by using a home automation smart hub or connecting to the smart plug with the relevant mobile app. Some plugs are even programmable so that they automatically turn on or off depending on certain timers or events.
But there are so many to choose from. Which one should you get? Let’s dive in and look at the pros and cons of each one on the market today.
Belkin WeMo Switch ($44)
The Belkin WeMo Switch was the first smart plug to become popular and is therefore the most well-known smart plug currently on the market. While that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best choice for you, many people have purchased it and are quite happy with it.
Plus, because there are so many WeMo Switch owners online, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find help on the Internet if you ever need troubleshooting advice.
The WeMo Switch is incredibly simplistic. Once you’ve installed the WeMo app on your Android or iOS smartphone, you can toggle it on and off from afar. You can also set schedules through the app.
Easy to use and highly recommended for newbies. You can’t go wrong with it.
The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch is similar to the regular WeMo Switch mentioned above but comes with one extra feature that proves incredibly useful and is well worth the bumped up price: a built-in energy monitor.
In other words, the WeMo Insight Switch gives you insight into how much energy is drawn and used by whatever device is plugged into it. It still has the remote on-and-off ability and the scheduling feature through the app, so you can just think of it as an improved model rather than a different product.
You might be surprised by how much energy you’re using! Depending on how much waste you catch, the WeMo Insight Switch could pay for itself within a year or so.
The SmartThings SmartPower Outlet works in much like the same way as the Belkin WeMo Switch in that it plugs into your wall and allows devices to be plugged into it. It can also be controlled remotely through an app provided by SmartThings.
A cool feature with this one is that it will send out an alert if it detects that lights or electronics were accidentally left on. Otherwise, it’s pretty much a basic model with basic functionality.
In order to use the SmartPower Outlet, you’ll need a compatible smart hub. The SmartThings Hub for $99 is the most obvious choice here, but since this smart plug communicates using the ZigBee protocol, any ZigBee-compatible hub should work with it.
Insteon On/Off Outlet ($62)
The Insteon On/Off Outlet is certainly the most aesthetically pleasing of all the smart plugs we’re covering. It has a clean, slim, in-wall design that blends seamlessly rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. You won’t know that it’s there unless you look very closely.
Another bonus: while every other smart plug on this list is a single outlet, the Insteon On/Off Outlet is a double outlet. At first glance it seems like the most expensive choice, but ends up being the most affordable option if you need more than one outlet.
As for the two outlets, the Insteon On/Off Outlet allows independent control of each with a single Insteon controller device (e.g. the mini remote for $40, the on/off wall switch for $55, etc). Another option is to use the Insteon app for Apple Watches. Otherwise, you can use your smartphone in conjunction with the Insteon Hub for $115.
Note: The Insteon line is rather insular so you should only consider it if you’re okay with being locked into Insteon products for the foreseeable future.
The Aeon Labs Smart Energy Switch is a lesser known product that deserves more attention than it’s been getting. It’s not as elegant in appearance as its competitors, but the functionality is just as straightforward: it plugs into the wall, then you plug a device into it.
The unique design may actually be preferable. Even though it’s not as space-conscious as something like the Insteon On/Off Outlet, the Smart Energy Switch’s cord allows it to side off to the side so that it doesn’t interfere with other nearby devices.
Like the WeMo Insight Switch, the Smart Energy Switch has a built-in energy monitor that keeps track of how much energy is being drawn and used by whatever device is connected. It can be controlled remotely using any Z-Wave-compatible controller with a distance up to 100 feet.
If you want a more compact design, consider getting the Aeon Labs Smart Switch Appliance Module for $45. It’s a little more costly but easier to manage and easier on the eyes. Either way, this product by Aeon Labs is one of the cheaper solutions available.
Which One Is Best For You?
Get the Belkin WeMo Switch if you want a product that’s popular and used by many (consider the WeMo Insight Switch if energy monitoring is important to you). It’s definitely the most straightforward to use and the easiest to troubleshoot.
Otherwise, the SmartThings SmartPower Outlet and the Aeon Labs Smart Energy Switch are best for wide protocol compatibility (ZigBee and Z-Wave, respectively). I’d only get the Insteon On/Off Outlet if you really want something invisible.
But these aren’t your only choices. If you’re absolutely certain that you’re only going to get smart plugs and you have no intention of expanding into other smart home products, you may be interested in these alternative smart plugs that are one-off solutions.
Which smart plug looks best to you? If you already have a few smart plugs in your home, how are they working out? Do you recommend them or not? Share with us in the comments below!
Image Credits: Smart Plug Outlet Via Shutterstock