Name an electronic device and there’s a good chance there’s a smart version of it now. If you’re someone who lives in a smart household where you can control almost everything with your voice, or you’re looking to upgrade to bring into the 21st century, the humble smart plug might just be the most underrated device around.
While your first impression might be that these devices are only handy for turning off electrical sockets with the sound of your voice, there are so many other ways that a smart plug can benefit your day-to-day life.
By themselves, these plugs are a great starting point if you’re looking to start a smart home. These plugs can be used to give smart functionality to non-smart devices, like being able to remotely control certain kitchen appliances. If you already have a few smart devices in place, these plugs can slot into your home’s current ecosystem quite easily.
Here are a few clever ways that a smart plug can help improve your home, along with a few recommendations of which plugs to pick up.
Why you need a smart plug in your home
Keep your cool
A smart plug gives you versatility, and that means any old fan you’ve got lying around can be connected to your smart home network. This allows you to get the air moving with a push of a button on your phone or with a voice command to your smart speaker. You could also schedule your fan to do a bit of air recycling for short periods while you’re asleep or out at the office.
Add peace of mind
If you’re often left wondering whether you’ve turned off something at home, no matter what it is, you can use a smart plug to make sure certain gadgets aren’t drawing power at particular times of the day or night. Use it with a power strip and you’re able to disable several gadgets at once, whether you’re trying to save power or just prevent accidents.
Cook from work
Hook up your smart plug to a slow cooker and you can have your evening meal cooking timed perfectly for when you walk through the door after work. Whether you need to start or stop the simmering at a particular time while you’re out at the day job, a smart plug means you don’t need to organise cooking schedules around your comings and goings.
Put off burglars
Smart lights have their own apps for running on a schedule and for turning them on and off while you’re away from home, which is a good tactic for fooling would-be burglars into thinking you’re in. If you don’t want to buy any smart lights though, or would rather make use of an existing lamp or two, then smart plugs can do the same job for you.
Maybe you’ve got a good morning routine set up with Alexa or with Google Assistant. If you add a smart plug to the mix, connect it to your kettle (that needs to be filled with water and switched to boil), and you can use a voice command to start it off while you’re still hitting snooze. Anything that can get you a few extra minutes in bed has to be worth it.
Control hidden sockets
You might well have electrical gadgets plugged into sockets hidden behind bookshelves, under stairs, or in hard-to-reach spaces down the side of desks, and in these cases — whatever the actual gadget is — you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble with a smart plug. You’ll be able to turn devices on and off from your phone rather than having to crawl around to find the switch.
Pump up the jams
If you’ve got a radio at home you can combine it with a smart power plug to turn the music (or news) on or off at certain times. You can control this with your smart plug app, with a specific set of timers, with your voice (if the plug is connected to a Google Home or Amazon Echo), and even based on your current location (via a service such as IFTTT).
Limit internet for the kids
This one needs another device, a separate Wi-Fi extender or hub with its own separately named network—you can then plug this device into the smart plug to get manual or automatic control over when the kids’ devices are online (remember to connect them to the extender Wi-Fi network). You can even build in voice control: Something like “Alexa, turn off the kids’ internet” would work.
Protect your privacy
Don’t forget you can hook up smart plugs to other smart devices — disabling your smart security camera, for instance, when you don’t want it monitoring everything you’re doing. By combining it with some geofencing technology (like the applets offered over at IFTTT for various smart plugs), you could even turn cameras on and off as you come and go.
Toast it up
A smart thermostat system can do a very good job of letting you control the heating in a home of course, but if you happen to have a room or space that’s heated with a portable radiator or heater — like a shed, maybe, or an upstairs attic — then you can combine it with a smart plug and make sure the room is toasty before you arrive.
Light your way
The sort of lighting you want set up in your garden may not necessarily match any of the smart bulbs on the market, so a smart plug is a good middleman for attaching any (wired) lights around your garden to your phone. You can turn on lights running down a garden path as you get home, for example, by activating the power source they’re hooked up to.
Our smart power plug recommendations
Meross Smart Wi-Fi Plug
If you’re not big on Apple, you can grab the Meross smart power plug. Not only is it compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, but it’s quite an affordable option. You won’t see much difference in your home if you buy just one, so the more, the merrier is always best when it comes to smart plugs.
Most smart plug brands include a scheduling and timer feature, so you can schedule them to turn your heater on before you get home, so it’s nice and warm when you walk through the door, or prepare a cup of coffee for you the second your alarm goes off in the morning.
Where to buy the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Power Plug (single): Amazon Australia ($19.99)
Eve Energy Switch
Meanwhile, some of the more advanced plugs let you monitor energy use, which is a nice but non-essential feature. If tracking your power consumption and forecasting what your electricity bill could be is important to you, then you’ll love the Eve Energy Switch. When paired with the Eve Energy companion app, you’ll be able to keep track of your daily energy usage, allowing you to see which connected appliances and devices are using the most juice and allowing you to schedule out routines to help lower that consumption.
TP-Link Tapo and Kasa smart plugs
If security is top of mind for you when it comes to your home, a smart plug can help you out almost as much as a surveillance camera can. Did anyone ever tell you that it’s a good idea to leave your TV running or your lights on when you’re out so burglars will be less likely to try robbing your home? It’s something that’s always sat with us since moving into our own homes, and thankfully, a smart plug can help in a big way.
Using the TP-Link Tapo or TP-Link Kasa smart plug, you can select an “Away” mode from your phone that will make all of the connected lights in your home flash periodically to give the sense that someone’s home. This will make your house a less likely target for breaking and entering and give you plenty of peace of mind when you’re at work or travelling.
In case you’re wondering what the difference is between the TP-Link Tapo and TP-Link Kasa smart power plug, it’s that they both require separate apps, even though they’re from the same company. If you do decide to grab a TP-Link branded smart plug, ensure that you carefully check the product name so you can get a matching set — otherwise, you’re going to be flicking back and forth between apps.
TP-Link Kasa Smart Power Strip
While you could plug a power strip into one of the aforementioned plugs, you run into a slight hitch – turning off the plug means turning off everything attached to it. That’s where a smart power strip comes into play.
With TP-Link’s smart power strip, you won’t have to conform to that all-or-nothing system anymore. Similar to the other TP-Link smart plugs, this Kasa power strip is compatible with Alexa or Google Assistant, and allows you to control its three outlet plugs independently from one another. That means you can set individual schedules and timers for each plug.
It also includes two USB ports, so that’s one less outlet that you need to dedicate to plugging in a phone charger or headphones. However, these ports aren’t smart-controlled and are always on.
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