Devices for Your Goals Smart Plugs & Outlets
What It Is
A smart plug is one of the quickest and simplest ways to make your home smarter. Simply plug this device into an ordinary wall outlet, then plug the power cord of any electrical device or appliance into it. You can then control and automate that device (a lamp, for instance) using the plug’s mobile app or by pairing the plug with a smart speaker/display for voice control and integration with other smart devices and events.
A smart outlet functions like a smart plug, but it is hardwired into your home’s electrical system to replace a traditional wall outlet.
In most cases a smart plug will be the better choice – they provide the same functionality, and plugs are cheaper and easier to install (simply plug it in! No electrician required).
Some appliances have electronic controls which make them impossible to use with a smart plug. A smart plug simply controls whether electricity is supplied to an appliance or not, but cannot control any of its other functions.
Simple appliances with a toggle on/off switch can be left in the on position and powered on and off through the smart plug. But appliances with electronic controls may have a feature where, when they lose power (such as when a smart plug cuts power to the appliance) they cannot turn back on when power is restored unless someone manually presses the on/off button and resets the settings.
How It Helps
A smart plug or outlet makes it possible to turn on and off any number of “unintelligent” electrical devices and appliances. Below are some examples of what you may be able to do with smart plugs and outlets.
*Please note, for any of the below examples to work successfully, the appliance (lamp, door opener, radio, TV, fan, heater, etc.) must be an old-fashioned, non-electronic appliance (see Important Note above for more detail).
- Turn on and off a plug-in, conventional lamp using your voice or the mobile app, or by setting up an automation:
- At certain times of day – For example, every morning at 6:00 a.m.
- When a motion sensor is triggered – For example, when you enter a hallway at night, or when an outdoor camera detects movement.
- As part of an automation where multiple actions happen with one command – For example, you might say “Movie Time” to your smart speaker to turn on the TV, cue up a streaming service, dim overhead lights, and turn on the side table lamp.
- Open or close a plug-in door opener using your voice or remotely using the mobile app.
- Turn on and off the radio or TV by voice.
With an old-fashioned/non-electronic radio or TV, you may be able to set it to your favorite station or channel and leave the power switch on, then use the smart plug to control whether it’s on or off.
- Turn on and off a box fan or space heater by voice, at certain times of day, triggered by other actions, or as part of an automation.
- Turn on a coffeemaker to make coffee every morning at a certain time of day, or as part of an automation.
- Control a calming fountain in your home by engaging your smart speaker to “send a signal” to the smart plug.
- Turn on and off a sound machine prior to resting for the night using your voice or mobile app.
- Automate strands of lights around the holidays from any remote location, whether in your home or somewhere else.
- Turn on a slow cooker to start making dinner prior to getting home.
- Turn on and off a humidifier or dehumidifier when the air in your home is becoming uncomfortable.
Choosing Your Device
Choosing the right device for you depends on many factors, including:
- What you want to do with the device
- How you want to do it
- Your accessibility needs
- The layout of your home
- Your internet connection
- What devices you would like to integrate together
Once you have a good idea of what you want and need, research which products can help. Reviews can be very useful to understand each product’s strengths and limitations.
The following guides from Wirecutter review a number of smart home devices, including smart plugs:
- These Smart Home Devices Can Enhance Independence for People With Disabilities and Mobility Needs
- The Best Smart Home Devices to Help Seniors Age in Place
Below are some of our favorite review websites. Many of them have “best of” lists for smart devices, as well as in-depth reviews of specific products. Try performing a search online using the name of the website plus the device type and the year. For example: The Strategist best smart plug 2021.