The 10 Best Smart Plugs
10. WeMo Insight
9. Samsung SmartThings
8. iDevices Switch
7. Insteon Dual-Mesh
6. Tonbux Power Strip
5. Inovelli Dual
3. iClever Outdoor
2. iDevices Wall Outlet
1. Wemo Mini
What's Special About Smart Plugs?
A smart plug gives you several degrees of added control over just about any electrical appliance in your home. For one thing, it gives you remote access to switch a device on and off. Some you can also program to do so on a set schedule. Many models go a step further to give you in-depth insights about the way you use specific devices and the power they consume.
When it comes to things like lamps and other lighting, smart plugs can make a world of difference. If you've ever had to crawl behind a piece of furniture to unplug a lava lamp or find the switch on the cord of a light fixture when it's time to call it a night, you'll understand how remote access could help. But there are many creative uses for smart plugs that might not be as readily apparent and can do a lot to make your life more streamlined.
One example of where smart plugs can do quite a bit is for your morning routine. If you have your coffee machine brewing and your hair straightener heating up as you get out of bed, you can save yourself a few precious minutes every day. You can even put bread in your toaster the night before and set it to automatically turn on, so all you have to do to get your breakfast ready is spread some butter on your toast.
Some folks might also choose to use smart plugs to give the appearance that someone is home while their house is vacant. If you're going on vacation and prefer to make it seem as if your home is inhabited, setting a few lamps or the TV to turn on at certain intervals might just deter a potential burglar.
You can also use your smart plugs to check on device usage. Whether you want to lessen your carbon footprint or just lower your electricity bill, they can help you make a note of how much power a certain appliance is using. You can then use that information to set goals for your usage going forward. If you want to monitor how much your kids are watching TV or using a game console, they can do that too. You can also remotely cut the power when it's time for them to focus on homework or go to bed.
Regardless of how you use them, smart plugs are a simple way to make handy improvements in your home. They have a low barrier to entry when it comes to both cost and setup, so they're a great way to introduce the technology-averse to the wonders of modern gadgetry.
What Makes The Plugs Smart?
Most smart plugs themselves look simple enough. Essentially, they fit over your existing wall outlets, offering an extension into which you can plug any standard device or appliance. It's what's inside that really makes them special.
These devices use either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology. For those using the latter, their range is inherently limited. You must be within a certain distance of the plug itself in order to control it remotely, usually via an accompanying mobile app tailor-made for that purpose. This distance varies by device and environment, though 30 feet is fairly standard assuming there are no walls or objects interfering with the signal. As long as you're within range, you have control.
Wi-Fi-enabled plugs work a bit differently than Bluetooth. Some broadcast their own networks, which allow you to connect to them directly from your phone or computer. In those cases, a similar range limit applies. However, some models can connect to your home wireless network via your router. These allow you to control them from anywhere you have access to the internet.
Gaining control of the outlets in your home while you're away from the house opens a world of possibility. For one thing, it can give you peace of mind that all of your appliances are turned off when you're out of the house. It also allows you to control access to certain devices remotely. For example, you can shut off the TV when it's your child's bedtime, even if you're not home. There are myriad uses for these types of plugs, and they're limited only by your imagination.
The Power Of Energy Control
While many people buy smart plugs for their own convenience, there are plenty of ways they can make the world a better place, as well. The main one is by limiting energy waste. Sure, some models simply allow you to turn a device on or off without physically unplugging it, but others allow you to closely monitor your power usage and make positive changes toward conservation.
For those advanced plugs with energy monitoring and conservation features built in, most of the action will take place in the apps you use to control them. These apps work in a variety of ways, but the most basic feature in this regard is that they show you your energy consumption. Knowledge is power, and just understanding how much electricity you're using can help give you some valuable perspective on how to use less.
Many smart plug apps also allow you to set schedules for your appliances. This is a great way to lessen the energy consumption of something that you'd typically leave on all the time or overnight, like an air conditioner. Running your AC in 15 minute intervals with 15 minute breaks in between each one, for example, probably won't cause you to wake up sweating in the middle of the night, but it will save half the energy you would otherwise consume.
Some apps have more advanced energy monitoring features and actively help you save power by giving you tips and recommendations for your usage. At the end of the day, conserving energy is good for both lowering your electricity bill and the health of the planet. If saving money is as easy as tapping a few buttons, why hesitate?