In recent years, smart plugs have become more and more popular, and this is for a couple of reasons. We’re going to talk about these reasons, but before we can do that, we’re going to need to define what a smart plug actually is, what it does, and the distinct advantages and benefits that owning a good smart plug can give you.
Today, in this buying guide, we’re going to be looking at smart plugs. You’re going to learn all about smart plugs, and what they do, and why, exactly, you should own a good smart plug. You’re going to learn all about them, and then you’re going to learn what to look for when searching for the best smart plug. Smart plugs for both indoor spaces, and outdoor spaces, because the technology between those two differs in a couple of key ways.
Now, before we dive into what a smart plug actually is, it’s important to make one thing clear. We are living in an age where almost every piece of technology is connected, in one way or another, to the internet, to the other technologies that surround it. In many ways, this is a major trend that a wide variety of different technology manufacturers are embracing, because it leads to a significant amount of convenience and simplicity, on the part of the user. As a result of this, we are seeing a tremendous amount of development and general advancement, within this area, and this has lead to some pretty interesting things. Smart plugs are, by and large, a product of this general level of development, and they are one of the more unique and fascinating technologies out there.
With that being said, let’s dive into what smart plugs are, what they do, and what exactly makes them so “smart”.
What Is A Smart Plug?
When people talk about “smart technologies” they are referring to technologies that are connected to the internet, and that offer a certain level of control and access that very few other technologies offer. This leads to many interesting and unique things, while also giving you, the user, more control over your technologies, and more access to the data and information that they are actually producing and putting together.
More and more devices are being designed around the concept of a “Smart Home”. What is a Smart Home? A Smart Home is a home that uses modern technologies to automate many of the traditional processes that operate within your home. These are things like the heating and the air conditioning, the different lighting in your home, and even things like your garage door.
Smart Homes are homes that have those basic elements – such as heating and air conditioning, for example – connected to some kind of singular device. Most of the time, Smart Homes consist of multiple basic elements connected to a single device. So, you might have your heating and air conditioning, and then your lighting, your garage door, and even a robot vacuum connected to a single Smart Home device. From this device, you have constant and immediate access to the data that those individual home elements are producing, and access to the features that those elements bring. So, if you have a smartphone, you can access the Smart Home device that is connected to all of those elements, and you will be able to adjust the heating and air conditioning, or which lights are currently on and which ones are off, among many other features that you can access.
Smart plugs are a continuation of the trends set forth by Smart Homes, and they are directly aligned with the general design philosophy and principles that underline Smart Homes, and there basic features and attributes.
With a smart plug, all you do is plug it into some kind of electrical outlet, and then the smart plug will emit some kind of signal. Usually, this is a Wi-Fi signal, but some of the smart plugs emit Bluetooth signals. With this signal, your smartphone can then connect to the smart plug itself, and this gives you access to the network of the device that is running. More specifically, whatever outlet you plug the smart plug into, using your smartphone, you can then access the different devices that are plugged into that same outlet. For this reason, many people prefer using smart plugs on larger outlets or power strips, since it gives them more access to those other devices.
To give you an example of a “smart plug” in action, let’s say that you have a power strip, and you plug your smart plug into this power strip. On this power strip, there are three other devices that are plugged in. The first device is a small lamp, the second device is an alarm clock, and the third device is a coffee maker. When you plug in the smart plug into this power strip, the Wi-Fi (or Bluetooth) signal is emitted, and then you can access this signal with your smartphone.
Once you have accessed that signal from your smartphone, a few things happen. First off, with most smart plugs, you are able to learn what those devices are – not that you needed to learn what they actually are – and then you are able to see things like the amount of electricity that they are using, as well as if they are on or off, among other, equally relevant, data points, that ensure you are able to get a thorough understanding of the devices and tools that are plugged into that power strip.
Then, you can do a few other things. You can turn those devices on or off, restricting the power that is going into them. You can create a schedule for the individual devices plugged into the power strip. If you want the lamp to run for three hours, and three-hours only, then you can easily do so, by telling the smart plug when to turn the lamp off. And, the same goes for all of the other devices as well. You can tell the smart plug to send you notifications if something goes wrong with the power strip, or if there is a surge in power usage. You can tell the smart plug to restrict the power usage for certain devices on the power strip. And, you can also use a Smart Home device, such as Amazon Echo, to control those features, simply by speaking a voice command aloud.
Why Should I Buy A Smart Plug?
Buying a smart plug gives you a few distinct benefits. Benefits that, really, you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else, with any other type of smart device.
By owning a smart plug, you get a much greater sense of what devices are using what amount of electricity. This data can be very useful, especially if you intend to lessen your energy usage.
Using a smart plug gives you significantly more control over your energy usage, as well. With a good smart plug, you can regulate the amount of energy that a device is using, as well as regulating when it is running, and using electricity, and when it is not. This can be very useful if you intend to save a bit of money on electricity costs.
Ultimately, a smart plug gives you control and access. It gives you control over your devices when they are running, and the amount of electricity they are using. And, it gives you access to all of this information, allowing you to easily find and figure out the energy usage for your devices.
What Do I Need To Look For?
Indoor smart plugs are definitely the more common type of smart plug, simply due to the prevalence of people plugging devices inside their homes, rather than outside of their homes. More importantly, however, is the fact that outdoor smart plugs are a little different from indoor smart plugs.
With a smart outdoor plug, you are more likely to be using it for lights, and regulating when those lights are on, and when they are off, rather than with other devices. So, as we dive into this part of the guide, keep that in mind.
What Type Of Connectivity Does It Offer?
Here’s the thing, this isn’t exclusive to outdoor smart plugs, or indoor ones. This is a very general concept that applies to every smart plug that you can buy. Each and every smart plug that is available has some type of connectivity, and this connectivity is central to your overall experience with the smart plug.
Generally speaking, there are two types of connectivity you will find. Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Bluetooth is popular, but it’s not as efficient or as useful as Wi-Fi, for one reason, in particular.
With Bluetooth connectivity, you aren’t able to actually access the smart plug, or the devices it is connected to unless you are within a certain proximity of the smart plug. You need to be in the same building/space.
Now, with Wi-Fi connectivity, this isn’t the case. Using a Wi-Fi connection, you are able to access the smart plug wherever you are, as long as your smartphone is connected to the internet, and as long as the smart plug is connected to a Wi-Fi signal. From that, you can choose which devices to turn on, and which devices to turn off. You can see the energy usage of those devices, and you have access to the other features, as well.
Does It Work With Any Smart Home Devices?
If you don’t have any Smart Home devices, then this doesn’t really matter. But, if you own, say, a Google Home or an Amazon Echo, then it might be useful to consider this.
With a Smart Home device, you will be able to simply speak a few words aloud, and from that, you’re going to be able to access the features that the smart plug offers. By speaking a few words aloud into the Amazon Echo, you may be able to turn on, or off, the devices you choose or getting a read-out, that is spoken aloud by the Smart Home device, of the energy usage. Or, adjusting the schedule for the smart plug and the devices connected to it.
Does It Offer Any Hazard Or Environmental Protection?
If you are using your smart plug outdoors, then these are especially important things to consider, since the outdoor environment can make things a little more difficult than it needs to be.
For an outdoor smart plug, it’s important that it has some kind of environmental protection. This might be something as simple as a waterproof enclosure – very important if you live in a place where it often rains – but it doesn’t need to be too complex, it just needs to be functional.
When it comes to hazard protection, surge protection is an absolute necessity. Without surge protection, things can become a bit more dangerous, and the smart plug may not be the most durable or useful.
What Features Does The Smart Plug Offer?
Most smart plugs offer a pretty similar array of features. Features such as being able to look at the electrical data those devices are producing, being able to turn the devices on or off, and being able to schedule when those devices are running.
If you buy a smart plug, make sure it has, at the very least, those features. Those features are very important, and they give you the control and accessibility that you need.
Along with that, make sure that you can access these features with your smartphone, and not just a remote because this will make things a lot more convenient.
If you are willing to spend the extra money, you can find smart plugs that give you access to features that enable you to directly restrict the amount of electricity that is being used by one device.
Smart plugs are exceptionally useful devices. And, they’re simple devices, too. Finding the right one won’t take much time or effort, just make sure to consider the considerations we’ve outlined, and you’ll have no problems finding a great smart plug!