The Complete Guide to Smart Plugs for Home Automation

Smart home technology has exploded in popularity in recent years. One of the most useful and versatile devices in the smart home ecosystem is the smart plug. Smart plugs allow you to control lights, appliances, and other electronics remotely via your smartphone or voice assistant. You can turn devices on and off, set schedules, monitor energy usage, and create automations using smart plugs.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at the top smart plugs on the market, how to choose the right one for your needs, and frequently asked questions about smart plug technology. Whether you’re new to smart home tech or a seasoned pro, read on to find the ideal smart plugs to help create your connected home.

The Top 5 Smart Plugs

There are many great smart plug options available today, but a few consistently rise to the top in reviews and recommendations. Here are our picks for the top 5 best smart plugs:

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug

The TP-Link Kasa smart plug is one of the most popular models on the market. Here’s an overview:

  • Seamless integration with Alexa and Google Assistant voice control
  • Scheduling and timer options in the Kasa app
  • Compact design with right-angle plug
  • Energy monitoring shows real-time and historical usage
  • Remote on/off control from anywhere
  • Simple setup process
  • No hub required, connects directly to WiFi
  • UL certified for safety
  • Under $20 for one plug

The Kasa smart plug ticks all the boxes for an affordable plug that’s packed with features. The ability to view energy usage statistics is nice for monitoring costs. Overall an excellent value smart plug.

Wyze Plug

Wyze is known for making affordable smart home products. The Wyze Plug has these highlights:

  • Super low price around $9 per plug
  • Control via the Wyze app or Alexa/Google voice
  • Real-time energy monitoring data
  • Compact flat plug design
  • On/off scheduling for automation
  • Secure AES-128 data encryption
  • Simple installation taking only minutes

While the Wyze Plug lacks some advanced features like energy usage reports, it’s an extremely inexpensive way to make devices smart. Awesome smart plug for controlling lights and appliances on a budget.

Amazon Smart Plug

Amazon entered the smart plug market with the predictably named Amazon Smart Plug. Here are the main features:

  • Direct integration with Alexa allows voice control
  • Schedule timers and routines in the Alexa app
  • Monitor energy usage, set usage goals
  • Small profile flat plug
  • Built-in night light on the plug
  • No smart home hub required
  • Weather-resistant for outdoor use

The Amazon Smart Plug is ideal if you already use Alexa. With no need for a separate app, it integrates seamlessly into your existing Alexa ecosystems.

Philips Hue Smart Plug

Philips Hue is a leader in smart lighting, and they offer a smart plug as well. Key features include:

  • Control via the Hue Bluetooth app or voice assistant
  • Compatible with Hue hub for out-of-home control
  • Monitor energy usage and set timers/routines
  • 2-outlet design, controllable independently
  • Night light feature with millions of color options
  • Higher price tag around $40 per plug

The versatility of multiple independently controlled outlets and color night light makes the Hue Smart Plug stand out. It’s a great option for Hue ecosystem enthusiasts.

Belkin WeMo Smart Plug

Belkin WeMo offers a straightforward smart plug with these features:

  • Supports Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT
  • Scheduling and automation abilities in the WeMo app
  • Night light on the plug
  • Energy monitoring for costs and usage
  • More expensive around $25 per plug
  • Reliable brand with positive reviews

WeMo smart plugs are simple to set up and integrate into your larger smart home framework. The energy tracking insights are useful for identifying savings opportunities.

How to Choose the Right Smart Plug

With many different smart plugs available, it can get overwhelming to choose the right one for your needs. Here are the key factors to consider when selecting a smart plug:

Determine Your Needs

Think about how you plan to use smart plugs and what features you’ll need:

  • Do you want basic remote on/off control, scheduling/timers, or advanced automation based on triggers?
  • How many plugs do you need – a single plug, a multi-pack, or whole-home coverage?
  • Is this for indoor or outdoor use? Some plugs are weather/water resistant.
  • Do you use Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, SmartThings or other ecosystems? Ensure compatibility.

Having a clear idea of your usage and needs will direct you to the right smart plug capabilities.

Consider the Socket Design

While smart plugs serve the same essential functions, the physical socket designs differ.

  • Many plugs have a right-angle design that allows close placement of furniture.
  • Flat plugs maintain a low profile against the wall.
  • Some plugs have multiple outlets that can be controlled independently.
  • Outdoor plugs may have longer cables and weatherproof housings.

Consider the socket shape and layout that will best suit your particular situation.

Look at Special Features

Beyond basic on/off control, smart plugs offer extra features that may be important:

  • View real-time energy usage data and track costs over time.
  • Night light or no night light on the plug – night lights provide visibility in dark areas.
  • Additional USB charging ports to conveniently charge phones/tablets.
  • Multiple outlets on one plug that can be controlled separately.
  • Higher amperage capacity for larger appliances.

Compare the features of different smart plug models to determine which additional capabilities you want.

Review Safety Specifications

Don’t forget to check that any smart plug you’re considering is designed and certified for safe operation:

  • Verify it is UL listed and meets established electrical/fire safety standards. Avoid sketchy knock-off products.
  • Smart plugs should be designed to avoid overheating and should have temperature monitors.
  • Only use plugs rated for the amperage/wattage of the devices you’ll control. Don’t overload them.
  • Indoor-rated plugs should not be used outdoors.

Safety first! Make sure the plugs are properly safety certified.

Check Compatibility

The ideal smart plug will work both with the electronic devices you want to control and with your home ecosystem:

  • Verify the plug integrates with smart home platforms like Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, SmartThings etc.
  • Ensure the mobile app will work with your Android or iOS phone.
  • Confirm that the plug’s electrical rating is appropriate for the appliances you want to use them for.
  • Check that the plug will work with your WiFi router – 2.4 GHz vs 5 GHz compatibility.

Doing your homework on compatibility avoids tech headaches down the road.

Compare Prices

Smart plug prices range from bargain-bin around $10 per plug to premium models over $40. Consider:

  • How many plugs do you need? Buying in multi-packs saves money.
  • Basic remote control plugs are very affordable. Models with more capabilities cost more.
  • Brand names like Philips Hue tend to sit at the higher end of prices.
  • Sales and promotions on smart home tech are common – keep an eye out for deals.

Shop around, compare deals, and find the right balance of price and functionality.

Read Reviews

Looking at customer reviews provides real-world insight into pros/cons and how the plugs perform in actual usage:

  • Positive reviews indicate easy setup, intuitive apps, reliability.
  • Critical reviews may reveal flaws like poor connectivity, lacking features, glitches.
  • Look for common feedback on hardware design, WiFi connectivity, app quality.
  • Watch out for overwhelming negative feedback on bugs and malfunctions.

Research reviews from tech websites and Amazon/retailer listings to learn from other users’ experiences.

Frequently Asked Questions about Smart Plugs

People new to smart plugs often have questions about how they work and how to use them effectively. Here are answers to some of the most common smart plug FAQs:

Do smart plugs use a lot of electricity?

No – smart plugs themselves use very little power, just 1-2 watts even when active. They won’t significantly add to your electricity costs. Any energy usage represents the electricity flowing through to the appliance.

Do I need a hub for smart plugs to work?

Most smart plugs today don’t require a special hub and connect directly to your WiFi. Some exceptions like Philips Hue can work standalone via Bluetooth but integrate with a hub for added functionality.

Can smart plugs be controlled without WiFi?

To control smart plugs remotely via smartphone you need a WiFi connection. However, some plugs offer basic manual on/off control from the plug itself when offline. Voice control may also be limited without WiFi access.

How many smart plugs can I operate through one app?

Most smart plug apps support controlling multiple plugs within the brand’s ecosystem. For example, you can control dozens of TP-Link Kasa plugs from the Kasa app. Just check the maximum device limits listed by the manufacturer.

Do smart plugs work with smart speakers like Alexa or Google Home?

The most popular smart plug brands like TP-Link and Wyze all support Alexa and Google voice control. Just enable the corresponding skill in your smart speaker app to link them. Choose plugs that specifically note smart speaker compatibility.

Can smart plugs help reduce my energy bills?

Yes – smart plugs allow you to better monitor energy usage and identify problems. By automating schedules and turning off devices when not needed, smart plugs can cut electricity costs over time.

Are smart plugs safe to use?

Reputable branded smart plugs that are UL certified for safety are as safe as standard plugs. Avoid no-name plugs that lack safety testing. Follow all ratings/guidelines and don’t overload plugs. The key is choosing high-quality plugs from trusted manufacturers.

Do smart plugs work with smart light bulbs?

Yes – smart plugs are commonly used to control power to smart light bulbs. When the smart plug is off, an attached smart bulb will turn off. Both can often be controlled from the same smartphone app.

What appliances are not suitable for smart plugs?

High draw appliances over the plug’s amperage rating like stoves, heaters, and air conditioners should not be connected to smart plugs. Follow all ratings and guidelines for appropriate use.

How do I set schedules and timers on smart plugs?

Most smart plug apps make it easy to set schedules and timers. For example, you can set a plug to turn on at 6 AM or off at midnight each day. Scheduling varies a bit between brands but generally offers programming by time and day.

What happens if my WiFi goes out?

Smart plugs depend on WiFi for remote control through apps and voice assistants. If WiFi is interrupted, remote access is disabled until connectivity is restored. Any pre-set schedules and automation rules would also not function. Manual on/off may work.

How long do smart plugs last?

With typical indoor usage, most quality smart plugs will last 3-5 years or more. The electrical contacts and circuits can wear over time from heating/cooling cycles. Check the warranty length – plugs that last will come with at least a 1 year warranty or longer.

Can I use smart plugs outside?

Some smart plug models are designed specifically for outdoor use with weather/water-resistant housings. These outdoor-rated plugs have cords rated for exposure to the elements. Avoid using indoor plugs outside which could short out and become a safety hazard.

So in summary, while smart plugs share common core functions, variables like design, features, compatibility, and price differ between models. Thinking through your specific wants and needs helps narrow the choices and ensure you select the right smart plug. Brands like TP-Link, Wyze, Amazon, Philips Hue, and Belkin WeMo are top options to consider with unique advantages.

I hope this guide gives you a comprehensive overview of the smart plug landscape so you can make an informed decision! Let me know if you have any other smart home questions.

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