Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

What are smart plugs?

There are plenty of exciting innovations in the world of home automation, between virtual assistants that can control your smart devices, connected appliances, or smart thermostats. You can also upgrade a regular appliance and add it to your smart home system by using a smart plug.

Smart Plugs take a wired home to a new level. They plug into your outlets and let you run small home appliances through Alexa, another intelligent home device, or the sound of your voice. A smart plug turns a “dumb” device, like a coffee maker, room fan, or table lamp, into a smart device. 

If you are interested in improving your energy usage and adding more convenience to your time at home, then take a look at our list of smart plugs.

Further reading

How smart plugs work

Using smart plugs is super simple. First, you plug a smart plug into an outlet. Then you plug something else (like a lamp or appliance) into it. Finally, you connect the plug to your favorite home assistant, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or the smart plug’s app. From there the smart plug turns the power supply to the item you plugged into it on and off using commands sent from an app or smart home hub and your Wi-Fi network.

What are smart plugs used for?

There are dozens of uses for smart plugs. Here are just a few to get your imagination turned on to all of the possibilities:

  • Turn on your coffee pot while you’re still in bed.
  • Control your window unit air conditioner or space heater without getting out of your chair.
  • Turn on lamps while you’re away to deter would-be burglars.
  • Turn off the oven, curling iron, or hair straightener you left on from your desk at work.
  • Turn on your holiday lights using a voice command.

Things to consider before buying a smart plug

Wasserstein Smart Indoor:Outdoor Plug

There are several things to consider before getting a smart plug.

Voice assistant compatibility: First, make sure that the plug incorporates the type of command system you are more likely to use. For example, you shouldn’t get a plug that uses only its own app for commands if you strictly use Alexa. Not all plugs will be compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant either, so make sure it supports your voice command preference. Note that voice assistants and other platforms that support multiple smart devices can create “scenes” that

Energy monitoring: By plugging an appliance into this type of smart plug, you can learn just how much electricity your appliance uses, which can be particularly useful if you’re trying to decide on upgrading to a more energy-efficient model. The plug monitors how much electricity is routed through it to your appliance. Then, it sends a report to the plug’s app. Reports vary from app to app, but many let you see peak energy use hours and energy used over time. Quite a few smart plugs also give you the option to automatically turn on and off an appliance on a schedule so you can save electricity. Some good energy monitoring smart plugs include the WeMo Insight Switch, Elgato Eve and D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug.

Scheduling ahead of time: Most smart plugs have options to set schedules for turning devices on or off at certain times. It’s a common feature, but you should still make sure your plug has it for convenience.

Surge protection: At a desk or entertainment center, a smart power strip with surge protection may be a better choice for you. Check out our list of the best surge protectors for a few great smart strips that you can use here.

Additional outlets: Some If you’re short on outlets around the house, a smart plug with the ability to expand the number of ports on your outlet is a smart choice too.

Outdoor vs. indoor use: For outdoor use, some of our favorites include Maxcio, Kasa, and Meross (we have a list of the best outdoor plugs here). For indoor use, the ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 provides the most flexibility in the smart plug world. It can be used with Amazon Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit and Siri, and Google Assistant. Or, if you don’t like any of those options, it can work without any smart hub at all.

Dimming: If you have a lamp that supports dimming, you can look for a smart plug like this Leviton model that also supports dimming, so you can dim very precisely from your phone or use dimming voice commands.

Size considerations

Smart plugs do take up some room, to the point where it may be difficult to use both ports on the average outlet, especially if your other plug is also a bit larger than normal (like chargers). If this is a particular concern for you, look for plugs that are more horizontal than vertical, or plugs that have the word “mini” in them, as these are specifically designed to let you use both ports on an outlet. Our example above is for the Wemo Mini.

Smart plug costs

So, how much is one of these smart plugs going to set you back? Most smart plugs cost between $20 and $50. More feature-rich plugs may go higher than this, and budget plugs will be a bit lower. The good news is that as smart plugs become more common prices are slowly falling, and even budget models have some great features!

Editors' Recommendations