What is a smart plug? Here’s all you need to know

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The smart home sector is taking off, with all kinds of brands putting forth their own devices that promise to help you save time, electricity, maintain better home security, and get off the couch less often. Turning your “dumb” home into a smart one isn’t difficult if you have the right devices. In fact, there’s one device that can make your entire home smarter, or at least help you control your otherwise “dumb” devices more effectively and easily.

What is this magical device, you say? It’s a smart plug, and it can transform the way you interact with the devices and appliances in your home. If you’re just dipping your toe into the world of smart home technology, or you can only afford a couple smart home products, smart plugs are a great place to start, as they’re inexpensive (you can find some for as little as $15 on Amazon). Plus, many brands work with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit. Here’s everything you need to know about smart plugs.

What is a smart plug?

A smart plug plugs into your regular old wall outlet but usually comes with a corresponding app, so that you can control whatever you plug into it remotely. You plug the smart plug directly into an outlet, then plug any device into the smart plug. You will then be able to control whatever device you plugged in even when you’re not in the room or even the house. Using an app, you’ll be able to do things like turn off your living room floor lamp even from across town. You’ll also be able to get the coffee maker started without leaving the comfort of your bed, or check that the slow-cooker is on while you’re still at work.

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Can I create schedules?

You sure can. Just like other smart home devices that can be programmed to turn on and off at specific times. You can schedule the smart plug to do the same for your “dumb” appliances. With schedules, you can program lamps to automatically turn on when it’s time for you to get out of bed, and you can instruct the coffee maker to start brewing coffee at the same time every morning. Many smart plugs also come with an Away mode, which will make your lights plug on and off at random intervals, making it look like someone’s at home when the house is actually empty. This could help to ward off would-be intruders and improve your home security. Many plugs are compatible with Amazon Alexa or other voice assistants so that you can turn on devices with just your voice.

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Can plugs only be used indoors?

There are certain plugs on the market designed specifically for outdoor use. The iHome ISP100, for example, is $40 and is marketed for use outside. That makes it the perfect plug to use for controlling things such as your porch lights or elaborate holiday displays. Weather-resistant outdoor smart plugs are designed to withstand the elements, whether that’s pouring rain or frigid snow, so be sure to look for smart plugs that are specifically designed for use outside the home.

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How many devices can I plug into one of these?

Keep in mind that some smart plugs only allow for one device to be plugged in at a time, so if you’re powering something that uses a lot of energy, you might have to pick up multiple plugs. There are also smart plugs on the market that do come with multiple outlets, including the Geeni Surge, which is $40 and features four outlets and four USB portals. With a power strip like this one, you can power up to eight devices at a time. If you have a lot of “dumb” devices in close quarters and want to control them all from your smart plug, an option like this is one to consider.

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Can a smart plug lower my electricity bill?

Yes. One of the reasons more people are adopting smart home devices is so they can save on electricity bills. With lights that automatically shut off when you leave the house, you’re bound to lower your energy bill. Some smart plugs, such as Belkin’s $45 WeMo Insight, will take things a step further and provide you with information about your energy consumption. You can use the companion app to see a running total of how much energy your devices are using. This way, you can see which lamps should probably be installed with energy-saving lightbulbs, and which appliances just aren’t worth the amount of electricity they use.

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