How do smart plugs work?
Smart plugs use Bluetooth or WIFI to connect to your smartphone or your home assistant, such as an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
This means that the appliance that is connected to it can be turned on and off using the device that is connected to. So for example, if you have an Amazon Alexa, you could connect your coffee maker to a compatible smart plug, and use your voice to turn it on. This’ll save you that groggy crawl to the kitchen in the morning before you have had your coffee!
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Smart Plug Uses
Smart plugs can be used for basically anything that you can plug into a socket. Here is a list though of some of our favorite uses:
- Turning mood lamps on or off, and brightening and dimming the light.
- Preheating your oven while you’re out so that you can put your dinner in straight away when you get back.
- Use timers to turn on and off lights while you’re on holiday.
- Turning your air conditioning on when you are too hot to move.
- Brewing a cup of coffee while you’re still in bed to start your day right.
What do I need from my smart plug?
What features you actually need from your smart plug will depend on what equipment you have and what you plan to use it for. There is no point, for example, getting a Google Home Assistant compatible smart plug if you are only going to be using your smartphone to use it.
That being said, there are some useful features that often come with smart plugs that you may want to consider when choosing which one to buy:
- Voice compatibility: If you want to be able to command the plug to turn on and off an appliance by voice, make sure that it is compatible with the voice assistant that you have in your home.
- Energy monitoring: Some plugs can monitor the energy output that the appliance is using, which is particularly helpful if you are trying to save money by being more energy efficient at home.
- Schedules and timers: This is a feature that most smart plugs have, where you can create schedules for when you want the appliance turned on or off, or a timer for it to turn off.
- Light dimming: Some smart plugs are also capable of dimming lights, so if you have mood lamps, look out for this feature.
What are the best smart plugs?
As stated before, there is no definitive ‘best’ smart plug. What is best for you depends on what you will be needing it for. Nevertheless, here are some of our favorites that are on the market now:
- The WeMo Mini offers an impressive set of features, being compatible with all three main home assistants (Google Assistant, Alexa, Apple Homekit), as well as a lot of potential for scheduling and customization. For an extra $5, you can buy the WeMo Insight, which includes energy monitoring.
- The TP-Link Kasa Smart WiFi Plug Mini is another good option, and is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant. For only $14, it comes with a wide set of features and scheduling options.
- If you want to connect more than one device in an area, the TP-Link Kasa Smart WiFi Power Strip, 3 Outlet is a great option. It allows you to connect 3 appliances by the traditional mains, as well as 2 further USB devices. Each plug can be controlled independently, and it also comes with energy monitoring and comes with surge protection.
- For outdoor uses, our pick is the iDevices Outdoor Switch. This can be used to control outdoor lights, fans or other applications, and is compatible with Alexa, Homekit and Google Assistant. The only downside: the $80 price tag.