Ah, the humble electrical plug. They do so much, yet get so little glory. And we’re not even talking about smart plugs here.
Smart plugs are revolutionizing how we use various appliances in our homes. But most people are too busy thinking of smart devices and home hubs to pay them very much mind.
However, a smart plug — with its smartphone app at the touch of a finger — can help you avoid the costs of buying smart home devices, and even save you money on energy bills. Click here to find out how smart plugs are some of the easiest hacks out there. Here are 8 ways you can use a simple smart plug to get your house really connected.
1. Did I leave the coffee maker on?
How many times have you run back-and-forth from your car to your home to make sure appliances that could be dangerous have been turned off? And it always seems to happen when you’re in a rush.
If you use a smart plug, you won’t have to worry about this anymore. With your app, you locate the smart plug a particular appliance is hooked into and just turn off the plug. You can even turn off a slew of appliances if you have a smart power strip.
2. It’s getting hot in here
The beauty of a smart plug is if you can plug a device into a regular wall socket, you can use it with a smart plug. This comes in handy if you just want one device to turn on and off occasionally.
For example, let’s say there is a part of your home that tends to catch the sun at a certain time each day and really heats up the area. If you have a fan, plug it into a smart plug and with your app, just set up a schedule for when the fan should turn on and off. Not only does this keep the area cool, but it also helps recycle stale air.
3. Dinner’s almost on the table
How many of us love it when we get home and dinner is already made? Especially if you’re the first one home? It’s easy.
Just plug your crockpot into a smart plug (it doesn’t even have to be a smart crockpot) and on your app, set the time for when it should turn on and start cooking. You can do this from work, a classroom or even if you’re out shopping. If you find yourself running late, you can even lower the heat to a simmer so your stew, chili or soup doesn’t burn.
Related: Smart home starter kit: What should you buy first?
4. OK, that’s enough
You’ve set up an amount of time that your kids can be on the internet, watching TV or playing on their game console. But every time you tell them it’s enough, they respond with, “Just one more minute.”
You’ll need a separate Wi-Fi extender or hub with its own separately named network. Then just plug the device into a smart plug and you’re in control of all of your kids’ devices. You can set a timer on the smart plug and when playtime is over, it’s over.
5. Saving some cash
We all know certain appliances are “energy vampires.” That is, they suck up a lot of energy throughout the day, even if they are turned off but are left plugged in — and it shows on your electricity bill. Tap or click here for more information on how to handle energy vampires.
Thanks to a smart plug, you can not only monitor which of your devices is sucking up energy, but you can also spot the ones that are merely plugged in but are still drinking up power. If those appliances or devices are plugged into a smart plug, just turn off the plug and the devices are well and truly off.
6. Baby, it’s cold outside
Even if you have central heating, there are always spots in a home that can remain chilly in the winter. You could put in a smart thermostat, connect it to your smart home hub and control when that space will remain warm and cozy.
Or you might prefer to keep more cash in your pocket and add a smart plug where you can use a space heater. You can set up a schedule for when the space heater should turn on (you’ll be in the area) or turn off (you’ve moved to another room). And because a smart plug really stops the energy flow to an appliance, you don’t have to worry about the heater being a fire hazard.
7. Don’t you hate it when…
Putting that bookshelf in front of the wall outlet seemed like a good idea at the time, although now you can’t remember why. Same for that wall outlet under your home office desk.
You can stop the constant crawling and pushing to plug and unplug devices from hard-to-reach areas. Just do it once for a smart plug and you can start turning the devices on and off with your phone. Better yet, put in a smart power strip and you can turn a number of devices on and off at the same time.
8. Let there be light
Again, you could get smart lamps that are integrated with your smart home hub and schedule them to turn off and on at various times, especially if you’re away and you want to keep burglars at bay.
But you already know by now you can do the same thing with a smart plug and a dumb lamp. You can set up a light schedule on your app and your lamps will be on when you get home and turn themselves off at bedtime. This is also a great feature if you have outdoor lighting.
Related: 5 smart gadgets to keep your home safe
Now that we’ve shown you just a small sample of all the great things you can accomplish with a smart plug, here are some of our recommendations on some great smart plugs you can buy.
Works with Alexa
Amazon Smart Plug works with Alexa to add voice control to any outlet. It’s simple to set up and use. Just plug it in, open the Alexa app and start talking to Alexa. You can schedule lights, fans and appliances to turn on and off automatically or control them remotely.
No smart home hub required is required, just an Alexa to make the smart plug voice-activated.
When you need smarter things
Samsung’s SMARTPLUG SmartThings allows you to easily control your plug remotely from your phone, tablet or TV using the SmartThings app and your home’s Wi-Fi. If you use several SmartThings WiFi Smart Plugs, they will work together so you can monitor energy usage and set routines when you’re away.
The smart plug can be voice-activated and is compatible with Bixby, Google Assistant and Alexa.
Small but powerful
Wemo Mini Smart Plug is small but it can stand up to the bigger competition. Just plug the WeMo Mini Smart Plug, download the free app and you’re ready to control your lights and appliances from your phone.
You can also control them with your voice, as the WeMo Mini is compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Home Kit. Because they are small, you can stack two Mini plugs in the same outlet. To get this working, you’ll need a Wi-Fi router and an Android 4.1 or higher or an iOS 9 or higher.
Mi Kasa is your smart Kasa
TP-Link has a whole line of smart plugs under the Kasa label that gives you a variety of options.
The Kasa Smart Plug Lite (2-Pack) by TP-Link allows you to turn electronics on or off from anywhere with your smartphone using the Kasa app that is compatible with Android and iOS. You can also make the smart plugs voice-activated by enabling it to work with Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana.
The Kasa Smart Plug Lite works with light-duty plug-in electronics such as lamps, TVs and stereos.
The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip is a wonder. You can independently control six smart outlets, plus charge three devices with the strip’s built-in USB ports. This is what you want to get smart control over electronics in your home, home office or business. In addition, it is an ETL-certified surge protector that shields sensitive electronics and appliances from sudden power surges.
Be smart in the great outdoors
With the TP-Link Kasa Smart Outdoor Plug with 2 Outlets, think durable. It’s ideal for landscape lighting, swimming pool pumps, holiday lights or other outdoor appliances. It’s not afraid to handle the heavy-duty stuff.
It has a Wi-Fi range of up to 300 feet and can be controlled from anywhere with your smartphone. You can also use it with Alexa and Google Assistant. Because it’s an outdoor smart plug, you can make sure it can take out during all sorts of weather.