Smart plugs, like power cords and cable adapters, lack the appeal of other smart home products. After all, they’re just plugs. Even so, they are still beneficial and definitely worthy of adding to your home automation plans.
As dull as they may initially seem, smart plugs can make your life easier, save you time and money, and give you added peace of mind, depending on your situation or setup.
Along with some of the best smart plug options available, we’ll also be looking at some of the best things to use smart plugs for.
What Is a Smart Plug?
Smart plugs are devices that go into ordinary electrical outlets. Because it also contains an outlet, smart plugs are also considered outlet extensions. Instead of plugging your toaster or lamp into the wall, you connect your appliances to the smart plug, which in turn connects to your outlet socket.
What makes a smart plug intelligent is that you can control it remotely using a mobile app or smart home hub like an Amazon Echo or Google Home device. Through apps or hubs, smart plugs are also compatible with other smart home devices. That allows you to use tools such as IFTTT to combine tasks.
For example, you could program a lamp to turn on whenever the doorbell rings or when someone enters the kitchen in your home.
Four Great Smart Plugs
Here are some great smart plug options for your home. No matter which one you choose, they can all be used with any of the best uses for smart plugs, which we discuss below.
A great, all-around choice is the Wemo Mini Smart Plug. Along with a reasonable price, the plug is compatible with three major smart home protocols—Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Amazon Alexa. You can also control the plug with a smartphone app.
Thanks to the compact size of the plug, you can use two on the same outlet. You can schedule the plug to turn on and off at specific times of the day. When you’re on vacation, a special away mode will turn lights on and off randomly to make it appear that someone is home.
Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home, the Etekcity Smart Plug provides more than just a simple way for automating appliances around your home.
The automatic night light will turn on at dusk and switch off at dawn to provide light for dark hallways or another part of a home. You can also use a smartphone app to control the plug and create a custom schedule.
Instead of having to worry about buying two separate plugs, the ConnectSense Smart Outlet² can automate an entire outlet. You can control both sockets with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit. There’s even a controllable smartphone app available, too.
As a bonus, there is a 2.4A USB charging port built-in so you can juice up a smartphone or other electronic device. With the app, you can also monitor real-time energy consumption of any device plugged into either outlet.
Smart plugs aren’t just for use inside. The iDevices Smart Outdoor Plug is built for harsh conditions like rain, sleet, and snow and won’t let in any moisture. That makes it perfect to automate equipment like outdoor lights or holiday decorations. You can control both plugs using a smartphone app, Amazon Alexa, or Apple HomeKit.
18 Ways to Use Smart Plugs in Your Everyday Life
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can use smart plugs in your home. We’ve divided them into five categories: security and safety, convenience, energy conservation, kid-friendly, and a few creative smart plug uses as well.
Using Smart Plugs for Security and Safety
1. Space heaters can make rooms in your home toasty rather quickly. Unfortunately, some space heaters aren’t energy efficient. Use smart plugs to control when these appliances are on. Setting up a schedule will not only keep you warm but will help cut down on your energy usage.
2. Turn your lights on and off remotely or create a lighting schedule. With this solution, your home will look like it’s occupied—even if you’re thousands of miles away.
3. Morning chaos is the norm in many households. Instead of worrying that you left the curling iron on (again), turn it off remotely. You can also use a smart plug to turn the curling iron on each weekday morning at a particular time, so it’s ready for you.
Using Smart Plugs for Convenience
4. Rather than rushing home to prepare your dinner, fire up your slow cooker from your office. This way, dinner is waiting when you arrive home from work.
5. Time for tea or coffee? Simply use your home automation app to schedule your kettle or coffee maker to turn on before you get out of bed in the morning.
6. When the cold weather sets in, you might need a humidifier in your bedroom. You can use your home automation app and your smart plugs to ensure it turns on every evening before you head for bed. The same process would also work for a dehumidifier in the warmer months.
7. Does your family like pancakes or fresh waffles in the morning? Start the griddle as soon as you wake up using your smartphone, so it’s hot when you’re ready to make your breakfast.
8. Do you sometimes find yourself sleeping through an alarm clock? Use a smart plug to turn your lights on automatically, too. That combination might help you wake up easier.
Using Smart Plugs to Conserve Energy
9. Air conditioners and central air units are common in many homes. However, ceiling fans are also important in keeping cool since they can circulate the air around your home. Use a smart plug to schedule times when the fans are on.
10. You can control air conditions remotely, as well, when they’re attached to a smart plug—but do your research and be sure that your smart plug can support the power draw of your appliance.
11. Some smart plugs on the market have now added an energy control feature. Some smart plugs analyze a device’s real-time and historical power consumption. The data is then shared in an easy-to-understand format on the app. Using this data, you can get a better idea of how much energy you use in your home.
Using Smart Plugs With Your Children
12. All kids deserve a little break before doing homework each day. But when playtime is over, use your smart plug to switch off the TV or gaming console.
13. Want to take it a step further? You could always plug your router into a smart plug, giving you the power to turn internet access off at any time from your smartphone. Or, you could choose to schedule it so that the internet is only online during set hours.
14. Some kids need night lights or sound machines at night. It’s easy to automate these devices using your smartphone, ensuring you never forget to turn them on before leaving your child’s room.
15. If you’re worried about family members making their way to the bathroom in the dark, consider using an IFTTT integration to turn on a nightlight or lamp plugged into a smart plug when motion is detected in the hallway or if a door is opened.
Creative Uses for Smart Plugs
16. Are you the type of person that obsesses over outside lights during the holidays? Use smart plugs to turn these lights on/off with ease. You can schedule them to turn on and off at set times, or even automate a pattern—which could be especially effective for a spooky Halloween surprise!
17. With a little bit of planning, smart plugs can also be used to control lawn and irrigation systems in your home—especially effective if you want them to stay watered on a schedule while you are on vacation.
18. Radios work very well with smart plugs. Schedule them to turn on/off at set times, so you never forget to tune in to your favorite programs.
The Best Uses for Smart Plugs
For a price tag that’s a lot lower than many other smart gadgets, smart plugs can revolutionize the way that you use your existing electronics and gadgets. These ideas are really just the beginning—there’s no limit to what you can accomplish with the technology.
And if you’re looking to add more technology to your home, but are on a budget, take a look at some cool cheap smart home gadgets and devices under $50.