Smart devices are popping up all over the place these days. From smartphones and smartwatches to smart fridges, smart thermostats, smart TVs, and smart ovens, our technology is gaining intelligence by the day. One smart device you may not have heard of yet is a smart outlet.
Smart outlets can be a great addition to your home for a whole variety of reasons. They can do everything from preventing burglaries to saving you energy. Read on to learn more about smart outlets and how you can use them in your home.
What Is a Smart Outlet?
Much like other smart devices, a smart outlet is an outlet that you can control with a remote app on your phone. In general, these apps turn the outlet on and off, and you can set schedules for them if you like. Some will let you set an “away” mode that turns various lights on and off at random intervals to make it look like someone’s home.
Smart outlets are a bit like surge protectors in that you plug them into a regular outlet and then plug your devices into that. They can help you track how much energy you’re using on various devices. They will give readouts about how much power they’re pulling, which can help you be more efficient in your energy usage.
How They Work
Regular plugs work by completing a circuit that provides electricity to whatever’s plugged into them. When you plug something in, power runs from one side of the outlet into one prong of the plug, up through the device’s wiring, back to the other prong, into the other side of the outlet, and back to your breaker box, completing the circuit. When you unplug it, that circuit is broken, and the device doesn’t receive power.
Smart plugs have a wifi chip inside them that connects to your home network. You can control the plug through an app on your phone which tells the outlet whether to provide power to the device plugged into it or not. Some plugs can be controlled by a physical switch, a smartphone, or Alexa or Google Home.
Perks of Smart Outlets
Smart plugs are great for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they’re about the only device that allows you to make dumb appliances smart. You don’t have to get a smart space heater – just your regular heater into a smart plug, set a schedule, and rock on.
In a world where we’re all trying to reduce our carbon footprint, smart plugs can be a great way to decrease your energy usage. Sure, they use a little bit of power when they’re on standby mode to continue to talk to the wifi network. But in many cases, the increased control they provide can help you be more efficient with how long various appliances get left on.
Automate Holiday Decorations
There’s nothing happier than driving up your street during the holiday season and seeing your yard lit up with holiday decorations. Whether you go all out on a haunted house or deck the halls with a million Christmas lights, smart plugs can help make your life easier.
No one likes having to remember to turn on their Christmas lights in the evening and unplug them again before they go to bed. But at the same time, you don’t want to leave them on all the time. With a smart plug, you can set a schedule for your lights to turn on and off when you want.
If you have a haunted house, you can also set your smart plug to turn on and off at short random intervals. This can create a very creepy lighting effect that will be sure to spook your visitors.
Find Energy Guzzlers
One of the great features of smart plugs is that they can help you track your energy uses. Most apps will give you a report month-to-month on how much power your smart outlet used. This can be a great way to increase your energy efficiency, but it can also be helpful in picking out the energy guzzlers in your house.
If you’re planning on doing a kitchen remodel, for example, you may be curious how much energy your microwave, stove, or coffee maker uses. Plug it into a smart plug, and you’ll start gathering data immediately. You can use that information to pick out a more efficient device when you do your remodel, which will save you money in the long run.
Eliminate Vampire Power
You’ve probably heard before that phone and computer chargers pull electricity all the time, even when they’re not being used. This is known as vampire power, and it’s horribly inefficient. It drives up your electric bills and increases your carbon footprint for no good reason.
Smart outlets can help you decrease vampire power without having to remember to unplug your phone charger every time you use it. You can set your smart outlet to only be on at night, or whenever you typically charge your phone. If you have to charge your phone during a different time, simply turn on the outlet from your phone.
Keep Your Home Safe
Forty-one percent of home burglars say that breaking into the house was an impulse decision. They see a house that looks vulnerable – one where it looks like no one is home and there’s no security system – and they take the opportunity. So if you’re planning on going out of town, this can leave your home vulnerable to break-ins.
Having your lights plugged into a smart outlet can help prevent your home from being burglarized while you’re away. You can set a schedule that turns your lights on and off at certain times throughout the day to make it look like you’re home. Some smart outlets even have an option to set an “away” mode that turns the lights on and off at random, natural-looking intervals.
Limit Screen Time
Kids these days are growing up in the era of technology when smartphones are as ubiquitous as table knives. They’re how most kids like to entertain themselves, but lots of parents are concerned their kids spend too much time staring at a screen. Smart outlets are your friend when it comes to making sure your kid unplugs every now and then.
If your kid is too young to get to plugs on their own, you can use a smart plug on their TV or video game. Set a schedule so that the device only has power during certain times of the day when it’s okay for your kid to use them.
Cook on the Go
Slow cooker meals are a godsend – there’s nothing better than coming home to a dinner that’s hot and waiting for you. But a lot of recipes call for cooking the dish for four hours, and if you work a full day away from home, that may not be possible. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about buying a programmable crock pot.
Plug your crock pot into a smart outlet, and set an alarm for the time the dish needs to start cooking. When the time comes, turn on your smart outlet from your phone. Dinner will be ready and waiting for you when you get home.
Improve Electrical Safety
According to the ESFi, home electrical fires account for more than 51,000 fires, 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage each year. A lot of these happen because appliances get left on accidentally or run for too long. Smart plugs can help keep your family and your home safe from electrical fires.
Plug clothes irons, hair straighteners, curling irons, and other similar appliances into a smart outlet with a timer that turns them off after a certain amount of time. Use a smart plug to turn off space heaters and electric blankets at certain times during the night so you don’t have to get up to do it. And plug your tumble dryer into a smart outlet to keep it from running all night – the cause of a surprising number of home fires.
Never Crawl Under a Desk Again
We all have that one outlet in our house that it is just impossible to get to. Maybe it’s behind a couch, under a desk, or behind the headboard of a bed. It’s a pain to try to reach that outlet every time we need to plug something in, and smart outlets can save you that hassle.
Rather than trying to contort yourself to reach the outlet behind your dresser whenever you need to straighten your hair, plug your flat iron into a smart outlet. When you need to use the iron, you can just turn on the outlet from your phone. This can also work well for device chargers, lamps, and other similar devices.
Save Time Booting Up
On the subject of hair straighteners, take a second and think about how much time you’ve wasted waiting for your curling iron or straightener to heat up. If you don’t use those, think about booting up a smart TV, a clothes iron, or a printer. We spend a lot of time waiting for our devices to get ready for use, and smart outlets can cut down on that time.
If you have a smart outlet on your slow-moving device, you can turn it on ahead of time and give it time to get warmed up before you ever get there. If it’s something you use at the same time every day, you can even set a schedule to turn it on to be ready when you need it.
Light Your Fish Tank
Fish tanks can be a beautiful addition to your home, and one of the best perks of a fish tank is the lighting. Some fish fluoresce under black light, and others look best when shown off in purple or blue lights. If you have multiple lighting options or tanks, smart outlets can help you take your fish tank display to a whole new level.
Plug each light source for your fish tanks into a different smart outlet. Then you can set schedules for each to create timed displays of your fish. Maybe in the morning, you want bright daylight LED filtering through your tank of yellow tangs, while at night you want a black light on your tank of GloFish.
If you’re a homebrewer, you know that temperature regulation is a huge part of making a successful beer. Not only does everything need to mash at the right temperature, but you need to ferment the beer at just the right temperature range to get the product you want. Fermentation chambers can be expensive, but with an old fridge and a smart outlet, you can create your own.
Get a smart thermometer, and network it to your smart outlet. Set your system up so that when your fridge gets outside a certain temperature range, the outlet will turn on or off as needed. You can keep your beer in that perfect temperature range without having to constantly worry or babysit it.
One of the big perks of smart outlets is that some of them connect to Amazon Alexa or Google Home. This means they’re voice enabled. Whether you hate getting out of bed to turn off the light or are juggling kids while trying to make dinner, you’ll love this feature of your smart outlet.
Plug your coffee pot into a smart outlet and get your morning brew going with a simple, “Alexa, turn on the coffee pot.” If you want to go for a wintertime dip in the hot tub, tell Google to get the jets going so you don’t have to venture into the cold more than once.
Make Your Home Smarter
We live in the future, and nowhere is this more evident than in our home technology. Smart homes are the name of the game, and smart outlets are a great way to upgrade your appliances without paying an arm and a leg. A good pair of smart outlets costs about $30, and they can turn anything into a smart appliance.
If you’d like to learn more about smart home automation, check out the rest of our site at A Connected Home. We have information about every smart device on the market, from lighting and thermostats to door locks and security. Check out the rest of our articles about smart outlets today.