Friday, July 23, 2021
How-tos

What Is a Smart Plug?


A woman plugging a smart plug into a wall outlet.
Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock.com

Smart plugs make any appliance or device smarter by allowing you to control them remotely. You can track energy consumption, schedule when a device turns on and off, and control it with your voice.

What Does a Smart Plug Do?

A smart plug is far more than just a plug. It’s more of a smart home device than a typical electrical outlet. But although smart plugs are more convenient than regular power plugs, their features are limited compared to other smart devices.

Many smart plugs can track the amount of electricity that appliances and other devices use. In the respective app to control the smart plug, you can view reports displaying the amount of energy used during specific dates.

Smart plug energy consumption report

You can turn smart plugs on and off by voice if they’re compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple Homekit, Google Home, or IFTTT (a platform that allows you to control services such as Alexa and Google Assistant better).

You can also schedule smart plugs to turn on and off during set times. This feature is incredibly valuable because there are many practical ways to use it. The perfect example would be setting a schedule to turn off the air conditioner two hours after you go to sleep to save on electricity. There are many other useful ways to use the scheduling feature, too. We’ll discuss them below.

You can find large smart plugs, such as the Gosund Wall Outlet, that provide additional ports for your appliances. With a plug this big, you can turn multiple appliances into smarter ones.

How Do Smart Plugs Work?

Smart plugs let you schedule power on and off and control an outlet with an app—or with your voice. Your smart plug might also monitor and display energy use, depending on the one that you choose.

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When you set up a smart plug, it will be registered in the manufacturer’s app. And with the app, you can control the plug on your phone. Once you plug an appliance into the smart plug, you can now control it like a smart device.

If your smart plug is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Homekit, or IFTTT, you can pair the plug with them to control it by voice using Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri.

This gives you more convenience, as you won’t need to lift a finger to turn an appliance on or off.

Even if you’re not home, you can still control your smart plug on your phone as long as both your plug and phone are connected to the internet.

How to Control Smart Plugs

There are three methods of controlling your smart plugs.

The first method is by using the manufacturer’s app. This is the app that you need to install on your phone when you’re setting up the plug. You can usually find the app’s name by looking at the packaging or product description of the plug.

Once you open the manufacturer’s app, set up your smart plug by following the instructions in the app. Keep in mind that the process will vary from app to app—in case you’re following a video tutorial.

After setting up the smart plug, you can turn it on and off in its app. Using the app, you can also create a schedule for it to operate on.

Smart plug turning on or off in app

The second method of controlling your smart plugs is through voice commands. The smart plug needs to be compatible with a voice assistant such as Alexa or Google Assistant.

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You then need to pair the smart plug with the respective voice assistant. The voice assistant’s app, such as the Alexa app, will guide you through pairing your smart plug.

Once it’s paired, you can control your smart plug using your voice assistant’s commands.

For example, “Alexa, turn on [smartplug name].”

The last method of controlling a smart plug is the conventional way—by physically pressing the on or off button (if it has one) or unplugging it. Although this defeats the whole purpose of the “smart” aspect, it’s mandatory whenever your internet shuts off.

What Smart Plugs Are Useful for

Even though smart plug features are limited, there are countless ways to make them useful. Here are some practical ways to use your smart plugs:

  • Turning off in groups when not in use: Every appliance that’s plugged into an outlet continues to use energy even when powered off. You need to completely unplug them to save on electricity. You can group smart plugs and turn all of them off at once—which is great for lights, TVs, and chargers.
  • Scheduling your daily routine: You can schedule smart plugs to help you with your daily routine. An example of this would be scheduling your coffee maker to turn on when you wake up. Think about everything that you can schedule that could make your life a little easier.
  • Turning on lights when you’re away from home: To deter thieves from breaking into your home at night, you can create a schedule to turn on lamps and other lights around your home.
  • Turning on appliances without getting up: Using the app or by voice, you can turn on the TV, fan, heater, nightlight, and Christmas tree without getting up—making your life a little easier.
  • Turning appliances off as a safety check: Suppose that you plug potentially dangerous appliances, such as ovens, curling irons, and hair straighteners into smart plugs. You could make sure that you’ve turned them off at any time, which can give you peace of mind if you were unsure.
  • Monitoring energy consumption: Many smart plugs allow you to track the energy consumption of any appliance or device. Use the reports to make energy-efficient decisions or upgrades.
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If you’re interested, smart plugs are inexpensive. Here are our top recommended smart plugs.

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