Your Complete Introduction and Guide to Smart Plugs
Smart plugs offer an easy, affordable entry point for smart home technology. They are inexpensive, easy to install, and can bring a new level of convenience to your home. From voice activation to remote app control, the possibilities are huge. This guide introduces you to smart plugs and shows you how best to use them.
Smart home technology is becoming more affordable and accessible than ever. Still, not everyone is quite prepared to take the plunge, and rewire their entire home. In these cases, there is a great option out there. If you want to experience the convenience and reduced energy costs of a smart home, without a huge commitment, it’s all about smart plugs.
Smart plugs are a great way to get your feet wet, and decide what you do and don’t like about smart technology. Below, we are providing a complete introduction guide to smart plugs, to help you decide how to use them in your own home.
What Are Smart Plugs?
Smart plugs are individual outlets which can be controlled through either voice command, or remotely through an app. These devices plug directly into your regular wall sockets, just like an adapter would. They are equipped with either WiFi, Bluetooth, or a program like Z-Wave, which allows them to communicate. So, rather than purchasing individual smart appliances (which can be very pricey), you can plug regular appliances into the smart plugs to get similar capability for a lower cost.
You can switch on lights before you enter a room, power down TVs and game consoles when they’re not being used, or set timers on your exterior lights. Smart plugs allow you to have a greater level of control over the electronic devices in your home. This can both increase convenience and usability, as well as reduce overall energy costs.
And you can do it all with a much lower upfront cost than you might think.
Who Should Get These?
Considering the low prices and wide availability of smart plugs, now is definitely the time to get on board. So, to directly answer the question of who should get these, the answer is “anyone who wants to.” More to the point, smart plugs may be especially helpful for the following people.
Renters/Apartment Dwellers – People without the ability to make permanent alterations to their homes can still experience smart tech by using these plugs. Your landlord might not love the idea of you tinkering around with the wiring in your apartment, but you can completely sidestep that issue now.
Some of the best aspects of smart plugs are their versatility, portability, and lack of hard-wiring. These devices plug into your existing outlets, so there are no lasting installations. This is also helpful if you decide to switch up the location of your smart plugs. There’s nothing to uninstall or reinstall.
People on a Budget – Smart plugs are far less expensive than some other types of smart technology. Plus, when the only work to be done is plugging in an adapter, you do not have to involve an electrician. This is a very DIY-friendly installation, meaning the costs for this project won’t extend too far beyond the cost of the plugs themselves. You can transform your home into a smart home with just a single trip to the hardware store.
People Looking for Greater Peace of Mind – If you find yourself wondering “did I turn the lights off,” frequently, smart plugs can allow you to check in remotely. Likewise, if you don’t like coming home to a dark house, smart plugs let you switch your lights on while you’re on the train ride home.
Have a sneaking suspicion that certain electronics in your home are drawing more than their fair share of power? You can take control back with smart outlets. Some devices like TVs or computers may continue to draw power even when they’re switched off. You can cut that off at the source by switching off the smart plug when these devices are not in use.
Lastly, you’re far less likely to encounter any electrical hazards when no hard-wiring is required. If you don’t like the idea of rummaging around in your home’s electrical system, you can stay out of it completely by using smart plugs.
Smart Plug Capabilities
Smart plugs offer an exciting chance to experience smart home capability with relatively little fuss. Besides being simple on/off switches, smart plugs offer a range of different options. When shopping, be sure to check which features are available, as it may vary from brand to brand.
Convert Any Lamp to a Smart Home Device – By purchasing a few smart plugs, you can effectively turn nearly every light in your home into a smart device. You can connect them with a system such as Google Home, Apple Home, or Amazon’s Alexa for a fully integrated experience.
Motion Sensing – Some smart plugs offer motion sensing technology, which means they can power themselves up or down in response to activity in the room. Imagine a dimly lit room brightening up every time you open the door, and the light switching itself off again after you leave. It adds both convenience, and energy-saving measures to your home.
Voice Activation – Especially if you are using a system such as Google Home, Apple Home, or Alexa, voice activation is one of the cooler and more widely available features. You can tell your home to turn on the upstairs lights before you go up, or you can tell it to turn off your lights once you’re in bed.
Smartphone/App Control – Many smart plugs can be controlled through a smartphone app. This is especially helpful if you want long-distance remote control. Imagine being on vacation hundreds of miles away, and turning on your porch light from your phone. Of course, smartphone control will also work when you are inside the house.
Scheduling – Want to make sure your exterior lights turn on at the same time every evening? Want to ensure everything is off by 11 pm? Some smart plugs offer you the ability to pre-program a schedule. These can often be controlled through a smartphone as well, so they are very easy to adjust or change as needed.
Uses For Smart Plugs by Room
There are endless possibilities for how to put your smart plugs to use in your own home. To give you some ideas, let’s go room by room to point out some suggestions.
Living Room – The living room is where families gather for relaxation, entertainment, and togetherness. Undoubtedly, the star of the living room is the entertainment center, and nearly everything in it can benefit from being attached to a smart plug.
Look at the number of cable boxes, Blu-ray players, and game consoles lined up beneath the TV. Each one of these (including the TV itself) continues to draw power even when it is turned off. Clever use of smart plugs can significantly cut down the energy consumption of this room.
Of course, you can hook up any lamps in the room to smart plugs. When the holidays roll around, you can pre-program those festive interior lights.
Home Office – Like the living room, there are often a lot of large electronic devices put to use in a home office. Among them are computers, laptops, printers, fans, dehumidifiers, etc. Again, many of these will continue to draw power even when they are turned off. Smart outlets can make good gatekeepers in that regard, making sure that you are only paying for the electricity you actually use.
If you have environmental controls such as fans or dehumidifiers, you can turn those on prior to the start of your work day, so you are entering a room which feels comfortable.
Kitchen – If you have freestanding lamps, or plug-in lights in your kitchen, you can set these up with a smart plug to have a greater degree of control over the light in the room. You can turn off your unused appliances to help save money on electricity too. Remember, when looking for any electronic devices for the kitchen, waterproofing is recommended.
Bedrooms – You can use smart plugs to program the lights in your bedroom to automatically turn on or off at certain times of day. This can be especially helpful if you have trouble sticking to a schedule. Let the smart plugs do it for you. If you have a TV in your bedroom, a smart plug can also be put to good use there as well.
Bathroom – Always use waterproof devices in the bathroom. Smart plugs can be used in the bathroom for extra peace of mind. Worried that you left a curling iron plugged in? Now you can shut off that outlet remotely.
Of course, these are just a few examples. Any outlet in your room can benefit from a smart plug. Use your imagination, and put this technology to work for you.
Smart Plugs Vs. Smart Switches
There is sometimes a bit of confusion between smart plugs and smart switches. Smart plugs, the things we’ve been discussing in this article, plug right into traditional wall outlets. Smart switches on the other hand, require hard-wiring.
Both have somewhat similar capabilities. They can both respond to voice control, motion sensing, remote control, and other standard features. The main difference between the two of them is that smart switches are a more permanent installation. If you are not 100% comfortable working with your home’s wiring, it is recommended that you hire an electrician.
Smart switches may offer you wider ranges of capabilities such as dimming, or per-programmed light “recipes,” but they are also limited in that they cannot be moved from the spot of their installation.
Many families find that a combination of smart plugs and smart switches works best for them.
Mistakes to Avoid
When choosing your smart plugs, be aware of the following potential issues. Avoiding these can save you a lot of time, money, and frustration.
Incompatibility – This might be the most common mistake. If you are brand-new to smart home technology, you may not realize that certain devices are completely incompatible. The best thing to do is take stock of everything you need, write out a list, and begin researching your options.
One of the most common issues faced by new smart plug owners is that moment where the plug won’t talk to their phone or tablet. Consider which type of technology you use every day (Apple, Android, etc.) and make sure the smart plugs you purchase are compatible.
Remember, while some smart plugs work through Wi-Fi, others need Bluetooth, while still others need technology like Z-Wave. If your home isn’t already set up for that, you will need to get it ready before you attempt to install anything new.
Wrong Sizing – Smart plugs are getting more streamlined and compact, but some are still significantly bulkier than others. It never hurts to do a bit of measuring and planning before purchasing anything.
If your smart plug is going to cover more than one space on a wall outlet or power strip, make sure you are prepared for that. If the smart plug needs to fit into a small space such as behind a bookshelf, make sure there is enough clearance for the smart plug, plus whatever will be plugged into it.
Indoor/Outdoor Use – Smart plugs are electronic devices, and as such, they will typically be rated for either indoor use, outdoor use, or both. If you intend to use a smart plug outdoors, it absolutely must be rated for the outdoors. This is a safety issue.
Remember, even some indoor environments may require special precautions. If you plan to use a smart plug near your kitchen sink, or in your bathroom, you should look for an option with waterproofing.
Failure to Plan – When you first begin thinking about smart home technology, it’s easy to get carried away. Still, don’t go running off to the store, or to an online retailer without a plan in place first. You may find yourself sitting at home with six new smart plugs, but not the hub you need to make them work. Or, you may find that you need more plugs than you thought, and now this “simple” installation has turned into a multi-day process. Yes, smart plugs are very easy to use, but they should still be treated like any other home improvement project. Plan first.
This is a very exciting time for those interested in adding smart technology to their homes. Thanks to low prices, market competition, and wide distribution, the average person can now update their home in ways they never imagined. Good luck with your smart lighting projects, and remember to put the advice in this guide to good use.