Smart plugs come in all shapes and sizes and at prices to suit all budgets. They’re also the most basic element of any smart home.
Forget internet connectivity, home networks and gadgets enabling remote management—smart plugs are where it starts.
Here’s everything you need to know about smart plugs and how they can help improve your smart home experience.
What Is a Smart Plug?
Smart plugs sit between an electrical outlet and the device you’re plugging in. Available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and specifications, they all possess a shared quality: remote control. This is typically achieved via Wi-Fi connectivity, although older devices use timers.
This enables you to set a plug to switch on or off, whenever you like.
Wi-Fi smart plugs (such as the Kasa Smart Plug range from TP-Link) can be accessed remotely via an app, or indirectly using IFTTT recipes, creating an app-controlled outlet. Smart plugs are also compatible with Alexa (and Google Assistant) for added connectivity, making them ideal for any smart home project.
1. Wake Up to Smart Plugs
What is the first thing you do in the morning? Perhaps you like to listen to the radio, or enjoy a cup of coffee? You might heat up a croissant with butter and jam on it, starting your day off with all three.
Instead of out of bed and risking barely-conscious accident, why not employ smart plugs to switch these on for you?
With less to concern you in the morning, you’ll be able to focus on getting yourself dressed and looking presentable. The benefits are multiplied if you have a family!
2. Enjoy Pre-Heated Hair Irons
Need to style your hair before stepping out? Why not preset your smart plugs to switch on at the optimum time?
A timer or time-based app can be used to remotely switch on the plug, letting your hair irons heat up.
It might take a couple of days to get right, but you should find those hair irons are ready to use when you pick them up.
3. Fool Opportunistic Burglars
A large proportion of burglaries are opportunistic crimes, committed by thieves too lazy to even bother committing to planning something.
But what can a smart plug do to help?
If you’re out or away from home for a few hours and concerned about crime in your area, why not employ smart plugs to control your lights?
Either a timer or an app can be used here. All you need to do to create the illusion of activity in your house is to tap a button on your smartphone to switch on a light! Similarly, you could switch on your TV as well.
Used in conjunction with a wireless home security camera system, your property should be well protected.
4. Cook Dinner While You’re at Work
What other smart plug uses might you take advantage of while at work? How about getting dinner ready?
I’d personally recommend that you rely on a crock pot for a healthier and tastier result than a microwave. Just add the ingredients before you head to work. You can activate the crock pot remotely to ensure you have a very tasty meal to come home to.
Budget won’t stretch to a smart plug with Wi-Fi? Simply program your smart plug to switch on so that the meal will be ready when you get home.
5. Feed Your Pet While Working Late
Think you’re not going to be home on time to feed your cat or dog? It’s always hard leaving pets all day, but you wouldn’t want them to go hungry. While programmable, timed feeders are available, a pressure trigger feeder with a Wi-Fi smart plug is a good alternative.
After all, most nights you’re home to feed Fido. Having an automatic feeder connected to a Wi-Fi smart plug is a sensible backup.
6. Switch Off Your Tumble Dryer Overnight
Tumble dryers have been proven to cause many house fires over the years. To avoid this, employ a smart plug programmed to switch off the tumble dryer after, say midnight.
You might even purchase a Nest Protect, using an IFTTT recipe to kill the dryer if any smoke is detected. This has the advantage of putting a stop to a potential fire before it ever ignites.
Alternatively, you might program the smart plug to switch on the tumble dryer only when electricity is cheaper to use.
7. Control Your Kids’ Consoles and TVs
The modern family household often features a children’s bedroom or playroom complete with a TV and game consoles. You might even have a PC too, preferably with family safety software installed. But what about the TV and console?
Well, smart plugs come to the rescue once again. Simply place between the appliance and the power outlet, setting the timer to shut down the devices when agreed.
Consider also opting for a smart plug app to manage time earned by your hardworking children on their game console. This creates an app-controlled outlet to remotely control the console. Just avoid shutting down before their game has been saved!
8. Remotely Recharge Device Batteries
You’re at work, and you notice what a stunning day it is outside. While, there is little you can do to enjoy it from the office, a smart plug can help.
By leaving it connected to your garden trimmer’s rechargeable battery, you could top it up mid-afternoon. By the time you pull into your driveway, it’s ready to use!
Similarly, you could use a Wi-Fi connected smart plug to charge your vacuum cleaner. This might prove useful if you discover that your family are dropping in, and you need to quickly tidy up. Or ensure your electric drill is charged up before you get home to build that IKEA wardrobe.
9. Keep Your Space Warm in Winter
Your den, man-cave, office, or private study area… Whatever you call your chill out space may get quite cold in the winter. This is especially true if your space is a shed, or an attic.
What you need is a way to heat it up before you get there. Why not plug an electric radiator into a smart plug, and remotely activate it to warm the room in advance? If the radiator isn’t set too high and you don’t leave it alone for too long, you should find yourself stepping into a nice, warm, and cozy space.
10. Save Money on Your Next Electronic Purchase
How much do your electrical appliances cost to run? One of the big draws about smart plugs is the ability to connect them to smart meters.
These devices can tell what is in use, and how often they’re active.
Smart meters can measure how much it costs to recharge a phone, tablet, or laptop. You can use this information to judge your electricity bill and choose a potentially more efficient device in the future!
And speaking of saving money with a smart product, you might want to consider investing in one of these smart sprinkler systems.
11. Warm Your Bed Up Before Bedtime
Whatever the season, if there’s a cold spell or you live in cooler climes, an electric blanket is wise. It’s doubly important if you’re older and feel the cold more than you used to.
Electric blankets are clearly not the greenest devices, which is why it’s sensible to use a smart plug. With a timer or timed app program, you can instruct the electric blanket to switch on and heat the bed. Similarly, you can time the blanket to switch off before you make the journey to your bedroom.
After all, you don’t want your bed to be too warm!
12. Switch Everything Off When You Fall Asleep
We’ve already looked at the pitfalls of having appliances running while you’re asleep. But how can we ensure that they are switched off? What if we forget one of them?
Using a smartwatch or a fitness band is the way forward here. The Jawbone Up integrates with IFTTT and integrating this with a smart plug lets you shut down appliances automatically.
Your tumble dryer, TV, Blu-ray player, whatever—when you shut down for the night, they will too! You might also consider complementing them with some Wi-Fi light switches.
12 Smart Plug Uses You Should Try!
By now you should have recognized the advantages of smart plugs. They’re multipurpose and can be used with almost any hardware.
To recap, we’ve looked at 12 creative ways to use smart plugs in your home:
- Prompt your tech to wake you up
- Pre-heat hair style devices
- Prevent burglars
- Start dinner while you’re at work
- Feed your pet while working late
- Switch off your tumble dryer
- Control children’s TV and console time
- Remotely recharge batteries
- Manage home heating
- Save money on purchases
- Warm your bed up
- Switch off appliances at night
Want more reasons to try smart plugs? Here’s how using smart plugs can make your life easier and safer.