It may look like smart plugs have limited usage and I totally get the reason why. It is just another wall outlet that can be controlled optionally via voice assistants and smartphones, right?
It has more to offer. Things it can do are generally overlooked.
So in today’s blog, I am going to write some of the best uses for smart plugs off the top of my head. After reading this, I am pretty sure you will have a different opinion about it.
A big disclaimer: it could make you buy a few too so continue reading at your own discretion.
Here's what we cover:
- Clever Uses of Smart Plugs
- 1. Never Overcharge Electronic Devices Again
- 2. Turn Off Dumb Devices Automatically When You Leave Home
- 3. Turn Off The Annoying Standby LED on Your TV/Monitor When You Sleep
- 4. Save Energy (Even Though a Little) By Turning Off Standby Devices
- 5. Have Your Toast/Egg/Coffee Ready When You Wake Up
- 6. Turn On Security Cameras When It is Only Needed
- 7. Pre-Heat/Pre-Humidify Your Room Before You Arrive
- 8. Scare Bulgars Off When You are Not Home
- 9. Restart Electronic Devices via Voice that Require Frequent Restarting
- 10. Feed Your Pet Even When Your are Not Home
- 11. Make Any Non-Smart Device Smart
- Conclusion: Are Smart Plugs Worth It?
Clever Uses of Smart Plugs
There are hundreds of ways a smart plug can be used. It would be boring to read a long list so therefore, I have listed only 11 here that have a teensy wow factor in them.
1. Never Overcharge Electronic Devices Again
You could throw a question at me like modern electronic devices are smart enough to stop charging when it is full. There is no denying that. However, when a device is connected to a charge, a small amount of current still flows into the battery no matter it is full or not. This has been reported to worsen the capacity of batteries slowly.
People mostly plug their phones and laptops into the charger overnight because they need them fully charged for the next day. Some people cannot even do anything about it because this is the only time they get after a day-long job. Here is where a smart plug comes in handy.
Plug the charger on a smart plug and set a timer to make it go off after a certain amount of time. The time should be as long as it takes for your device to fully charge and this information can be found on your device manual.
2. Turn Off Dumb Devices Automatically When You Leave Home
How many times have you forgotten to unplug your hair dryer or your toaster because you were in a hurry? Not only that it possess a risk of fire, but you are also burning electricity for nothing. You can try to be more careful but still, you will forget about them once in a while.
An easier and more reliable solution is a smart plug. Connect the devices that you are prone to leaving on through a smart plug into the wall and set location-based automation on your phone to turn off all the plugs when you leave home.
3. Turn Off The Annoying Standby LED on Your TV/Monitor When You Sleep
You are sleepy. You reach for your remote and turn the tv off. Eyes are closed, but you suddenly feel there is a flare almost penetrating through your eyelids. You had to open your eyes to check and it’s the power LED on your tv.
There will be nothing more annoying than walking up to a tv or a monitor for turning it off when you are half asleep. Connect it through a smart plug and forget that you even have to turn it off. It will go off automatically at a certain time or a soft shout to your voice assistant would do as well.
4. Save Energy (Even Though a Little) By Turning Off Standby Devices
Sometimes it is hard to realize that even though you are not using a device, it will consume a little bit of power if it is plugged in. The electricity has to go to the mainboard so that the device can acknowledge there is power available.
If you have a smart plug, you can automate it to go off when you are finished. On one hand, it will save a little bit of electricity and on the other hand, you are keeping your device safer by disconnecting it from the main power source.
To give you an example scenario, just imagine there was a power surge in the whole town and the only things that got burned in your house are some cheap smart plugs, not your microwave, not your tv.
5. Have Your Toast/Egg/Coffee Ready When You Wake Up
How cool would that be if your morning coffee is ready as soon as you wake up? Maybe a toast and a boiled egg on the side too?
You can create schedules for your smart plugs to power up certain devices at certain times. It is also possible to create morning routines and active them by saying the good morning to your voice assistant.
If you are wondering how would these non-smart coffee machines or toasters work when they got physical switches, put coffee ingredients or toasts in the machines the night before with the switch at on state. So once they get started in the morning, they will go straight into cooking.
You can even take it further by setting up another automation to power them off after they are finished.
6. Turn On Security Cameras When It is Only Needed
Having a camera 24/7 does have more chances to catch incidents. But think again, does it actually have to be 24/7? Maybe it only makes sense when you are sleeping, away or somebody is coming close to your house.
You can use the smart plug to make your security cameras turn on and off smartly. If you need the camera when you are sleeping, include it in your sleeping routine. Or perhaps, you need it more when you are away. In that case, create a location-based automation rule.
The most efficient way of handling security cameras, I believe, is by pairing a smart plug with a motion sensor. The plug will turn the camera on when there is motion within a certain radius and turn it back off when no motion is detected in a specified time.
Bonus Tip: If you think buying a security camera and combining it with a smart plug and a motion sensor is a hassle, they are already some floodlights with built-in security cameras and motion sensors.
7. Pre-Heat/Pre-Humidify Your Room Before You Arrive
Just imagine yourself on a cold winter day. You return home and find that your rooms are already preheated for you. Or perhaps some fresh humidified air all over your home.
To be able to do that, you don’t have to buy expensive smart electronics. But instead, you can get yourself some cheap smart plugs and hook your existing devices into them.
You can create an automation to start those heaters or humidifiers 30 minutes before you usually arrive home and you are all set.
8. Scare Bulgars Off When You are Not Home
Smart plugs are also able to help secure your house when you are traveling. Smart devices, nowadays, have this wonderful feature called vacation mode where it will turn itself on and off randomly to create the impression that somebody is at home.
Well, your device doesn’t have to be smart to able to do this. You can plug your normal lights, lamps, or fans via a smart plug and set vacation mode (could have a different name in different systems) on your home app.
9. Restart Electronic Devices via Voice that Require Frequent Restarting
This is by far one of the best usages for a smart plug, in my opinion. Do you have any device that requires a restart once in a while to make it function properly? In my case, it is most of the time the router and the voice assistants.
My router sometimes gets exhausted and a simple restart fixes it. So instead of walking to the router, unplugging it, and plugging it back, now I can simply ask my home assistant to restart it in the comfort of my bed. Same with my HomePod Minis. When one of them is unable to connect to the internet, I ask the other to restart it.
10. Feed Your Pet Even When Your are Not Home
We often cancel night stays at friends’ places or shorten our travel because we have an innocent pet at home to feed. One option is that you get an automatic pet feeder with wireless connectivity.
Those smart wireless pet feeders are slightly on the expensive end. As an alternative, you might consider getting a smart plug and a cheap electronic pet feeder. That would do exactly the same for you without going too hard on your wallet.
11. Make Any Non-Smart Device Smart
Last but not least, you can turn almost any non-smart and typical AC-powered electronic device into a smart one with the help of a little smart plug.
When someone first wants to make his home smart, he has two options. He can either buy smart replacements for everything which will be expensive or can simply use a few smart plugs to make existing devices smart.
Of course, buying new smart replacements would be a better choice in the long term, but our wallet does not always allow that. In that case, we can easily get away with a smart plug.
Are smart plugs safe?
Smart plugs can have breakdowns like any other electronic device on the planet. However, they do have to comply with the safety standards before they can be sold on the market (at least the good ones). So if you choose a well-known company, you are relatively safer against those fire hazards or chances of getting hacked.
Can smart plugs turn on tv?
Smart plugs can turn TVs on and off. All you have to do is to plug your tv via the smart plug into the wall outlet and control it from your smartphone or your voice assistant.
Can smart plugs dim lights?
Although smart plugs are intended for only turning something on and off, there are some unique ones (ex. Leviton Decora Smart Plug-in Dimmer) that are able to dim lights.
How much energy do smart plugs use?
The Wi-Fi-based smart plugs roughly use 1-2 watt of power. To stay connected to the internet and to keep an ear out for commands, they will draw this power regardless of the plugged device being on or off.
Can smart plugs work without internet?
Wi-Fi-based smart plugs paired with a home hub can work even when there is no active internet connection. But the requirement is that all of the devices have to be on the same Wi-Fi network. An example is setting up a Zuli smartplug with Homekit.
Can smart plugs be used outside?
There are some smart plugs particularly designed for outdoor use with water resistance and weather protection that can be used outside without any problem.
Conclusion: Are Smart Plugs Worth It?
If you have scanned through the usages we mentioned here, you might already have grown some temptation. I would personally say it is a good temptation but I would also tell you when it is not.
It is good when you are just starting out to make your home smart. Usually, in the beginning, you will feel like you need a lot of replacements which will also add up to a large amount of money. Instead of buying replacements for everything, you can probably use some of good your existing devices with a smart plug.
Also, truth be told, smart plugs are prone to breakdowns and they definitely don’t last as long as the smart bulbs. They don’t possess as many features as smart devices either. So proper uses for smart plugs, in my opinion, would be creating a balanced mix of smart devices and plugs in your home.