smart plug buyers guide

iDISRUPTED » lighting & power » smart plug buyers guide

There are so many smart plugs on the market; different features, different ratings, and different home automation systems, which one to buy can be a serious challenge.

Fear not, we've got your back!

Today we're breaking down the best smart plugs and what you should watch out for when deciding which one is right for you.

And if you are still on the fence about which lighting & power smart device is best for your requirements, you might want to check out our smart plugs vs smart switches before diving in!

  • about smart plugs

    So exactly what is a Smart Plug?

    Smart plugs are powerful and versatile devices, allowing you to intelligently and remotely control any device you plug into them.

    With smart plugs, you can remotely access and control kitchen appliances, making sure things are off when you aren't home, or turning them on when you need them.

    When used with other home automation systems like Alexa or Google Home, they are even more powerful and convenient.

Most people use smart plugs three ways:

  • using a countdown timer

    You can program devices to only operate for a set amount of time. This is useful when you have duration-specific needs

  • on a scheduled timer

    You can configure your plug to turn devices on or off automatically, on a timer. Many of them have calendar settings or sunrise/sunset settings. This is useful for recurring daily events

  • manually via remote control

    And of course, you can always manually turn things on or off, where ever you are, using the app

Many smart plugs have additional features. The two most common are:

AWAY SETTING

An “Away” setting. This setting is designed for lamps or radios and will turn them on and off at random while you are away to make it look like someone is home

POWER USAGE MONITOR

A power usage monitor. Many smart plugs will monitor power usage, and even report usage over time. This is useful to help preserve energy and save money

When integrated with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, HomeKit, or other home automation system, smart plugs become even more powerful and versatile.

VOICE CONTROL

You can use voice control with Siri or Alexa to control smart plug connected devices

CONNECT OTHER DEVICES

You can add smart plug connected devices to work with other smart devices, like an Apple TV or an Amazon Dash Wand, or smart lightbulbs, to control multiple settings at once

CONDITIONAL EVENTS

You can increase home automation by setting triggering or conditional events, so that your smart plug connected devices go on or off based on other factors, like your location, or the action of a motion sensor

before you buy a smart plug

Before you buy and setup a smart plug, it's helpful to think of some of your most frequently encountered problems that you might use a smart plug for.

These are some common reasons that people initially adopt smart plugs, and it's a good guideline for where you should start.

  • Do you not want to get out of bed at night to turn off the lights?
  • Do you find yourself at work wondering if you remembered to turn off the clothes iron or hair curler?
  • Do you find yourself at work remembering that you forgot to turn on your slow cooker as you had intended?
  • Do you want to remotely activate your coffee maker in the morning before you get out of bed?
  • Do you want to be able to restrict TV or gaming console in a child's room?
  • Do you want house lights or outdoor holiday displays to come on automatically at sunset?

After you have some ideas of what you will use a smart plug for, it's important to do some research and make sure you are choosing the right product for you.   Check for:

  • compatibility

    Compatibility with your existing technology

    • Will the recommended app work on your phone or other mobile device
    • Do you need zwave or zigbee - or just wifi

    Compatibility with your home and devices:

    • Smart Plugs require a grounded outlet, and many are only rated for a max of 10 AMPs. Make sure that your outlets and your appliances are compatible with how you want to use a smart plug.
    • Note that many smart plugs are large enough to block access to nearby outlets. If you anticipate crowding, choose a small smart plug, or consider using a smart plug with an extension cord or power strip instead.
  • future-proof

    Do you have a voice assistant or existing home automation controller, and will your plugs work with that ecosystem? If you don't, you may still want to future-proof your investment by making sure it's compatible with home management and digital assistant systems you might adopt in the future.

  • user ratings

    Check user ratings

    • Check user ratings for the smart plug device
    • Check user ratings for the recommended app
    • When connecting with Alexa, also check user reviews of the Alexa skill on Amazon.

Configure your Wi-Fi network ahead of time

Perhaps the most important thing you can do is configure your home Wi-Fi network ahead of time, before you add any smart devices to it.  Here's why:

2.4 GHz

Most smart plugs will only work on a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network

INTEGRATION

If you want to use a smart plug along with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or other home automation system, it will need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as the smart plug

CONFIGURATION

If you alter your Wi-Fi settings after you install the devices, you will need to re-add them. This is important because it's possible that your smart home ecosystem will grow over time.

If you start with 2 smart plugs, you may want to add more. And perhaps you want to add smart bulbs, home security, or other connected devices.

Setting up your network correctly ahead of time will prevent you from having to reconfigure all your devices as you increase automation over time.

  • THE IDEAL HOME NETWORK SETUP FOR SMART PLUGS & HOME AUTOMATION

    • Have a dual-band router that operates on both 2.4 and 5 GHz
    • Set up a 5 GHz Wi-Fi network for computers, game consoles, streaming devices, and mobile devices, to give them the greatest speed and reliability
    • Set up a guest network on the 2.4 GHz band and use it for all your home automation and connected devices. Add range extenders if necessary for signal strength in all connected areas of the home
    • Set up a second guest network on the 2.4 GHz band for guests, repair people, and other visitors
    • Consider using wired, Ethernet connections for critical devices and services, because even the best Wi-Fi goes down sometimes. Some connected devices will restore themselves to your most recent settings in the event of an outage, but some need to be reconfigured all over again

  • HAVING 3 HOME NETWORKS GIVES YOU THE MOST POWER, CONTROL & SECURITY

    • Keeping your computers and mobile devices on a desperate network means that even if someone hacks your computer password, they still can't gain control of your home automation or security system
    • Keeping your home automation system separate and on the same network allows them to work together and not compete for bandwidth with your media devices
    • Having a third network for guests and visitors means that you can allow guests to access, for example, the lights or thermostat, but not the security cameras or door locks

  • PLANNING AHEAD

    The more features of your home you automate, the more of a security risk it becomes, so be mindful of choosing strong passwords and changing them often, not using public Wi-Fi networks to access your home automation system, use encryption on your network, and not using default ports, passwords, or security settings.

    Many reviewers are unhappy with their smart plugs not because of the plug itself, but because of issues setting up their Wi-Fi network and Wi-Fi signal issues. Your smart plug is only as good as your network, so being attentive ahead of time will save you a lot of headaches and trouble on the back end.

best 3 smart plugs

Etekcity 3 Pack Voltson Wi-Fi Smart Plug Mini Outlet 

 

The sleek design and affordable price of these Etekcity mini outlets is certainly appealing. They feature easy setup with the VeSync app, and offer timing and scheduling features, Wi-Fi connectivity, and allow you to track and report energy usage on connected devices.

The Etekcity plugs are also compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for a comprehensive smart home system. The VeSync app is available for iOS and Android devices. These smart plugs are not compatible with SmartThings, Homekit, or IFTTT.

on sale now
Etekcity WiFi Smart Plug, Energy Monitoring Wireless Mini Outlet with Timer, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa, Google Home and IFTTT, ETL Listed, White, 2 Years Warranty and Lifetime Support (3 Pack)
4,120 Reviews
Etekcity WiFi Smart Plug, Energy Monitoring Wireless Mini Outlet with Timer, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa, Google Home and IFTTT, ETL Listed, White, 2 Years Warranty and Lifetime Support (3 Pack)
  • Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control. Power your devices without lifting a finger. Does NOT currently support SmartThings and Homekit.
  • Track power usage for connected devices and figure out which devices use the most energy. You can effectively cut your usage so that you can save money on your next electric bill

Despite the attractive size and price, people report some difficulties with the Etekcity smart plugs. They will only work on a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network, so people often have to adjust their home Wi-Fi setup accordingly. Reviewers using the smart plugs with the VeSync app alone report that the scheduling feature is inconsistent, and different plugs on the same system may act as though they are in different time zones, and that the app may frequently “lose” devices and have to be re-added.

Users who have connected the plugs to Alexa and seek to control them that way report that Alexa may consistently show errors even if the system is working, or that Alexa and the VeSync apps show the devices in different states at the same time, making it difficult to remotely tell what is on or off. Connecting with Google Home is more difficult and there is little support from Etekcity for the process.

While many people are happy with the system, a large percentage report errors or problematic inconsistencies, particularly when using them along with Alexa.

LinkStyle Smart Wi-Fi Socket Plug

 

The LinkStyle smart plug system is compact, stylish, and affordable. The small size means that they don't block access to other outlets and fit neatly within a power strip or standard wall outlet. The plugs feature the ability to set timing and scheduling for your devices or randomize lighting so that it looks like someone is home. The plugs can be remotely controlled using the Tuya Smart App on iOS or Android devices and are compatible with Amazon Alexa. These plugs are not compatible with Google Home or IFTTT.

Smart Wifi Plug Outlet Compatible with Alexa, LinkStyle 2 Packs Mini Smart Wifi Socket Plug Timing Function No Hub Required Control Your Appliances from Anywhere for iOS Android Smartphones Tablets
446 Reviews
Smart Wifi Plug Outlet Compatible with Alexa, LinkStyle 2 Packs Mini Smart Wifi Socket Plug Timing Function No Hub Required Control Your Appliances from Anywhere for iOS Android Smartphones Tablets
  • SUPPORT AMAZON ALEXA VOICE CONTROL : Control your home with the power of your voice. Use simple voice command to turn On/Off your lights and appliances.
  • WiFi SMART PLUG: Smart outlet with wifi connection, enables you to remote control your electronics anywhere and anytime from your smartphone or tablet, life become easier.

Reviewers really enjoy the fast and easy setup of these smart plugs, as reflected in high ratings for both the LinkStyle plugs and the Tuya Smart App. They require a 2.4 GHz home Wi-Fi network, but once connected, they tend to work easily, reliably, and consistently either through the app or with Alexa.

A few people report that they aren't very durable and stop working after a few days or weeks, but they are in the minority. To avoid issues, check to make sure that your outlets and appliances are below the maximum 10 AMP rating.

While the LinkStyle smart plugs may not boast all the features of some other plugs, they are an excellent choice for Alexa due to their stability and reliability.

TP-Link HS100 Smart Plug (2-Pack)

 

TP-Link is the premiere name in smart plugs, and this two-pack is a great entry into their smart home system. Like other smart plugs, they require a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network, and are compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. These plugs support devices up to 15 AMPs.

The Kasa app works with iOS and Android devices, allowing users to set devices to run on a timer or remotely control them from anywhere. These plugs also feature an “away mode” that will turn lights on and off to make it seem as though someone is home, for added security.

Kasa Smart Plug Outlet by TP-Link (2-Pack) - Reliable WiFi Connection, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa Echo & Google Assistant (HS100 KIT)
1,539 Reviews
Kasa Smart Plug Outlet by TP-Link (2-Pack) - Reliable WiFi Connection, No Hub Required, Works with Alexa Echo & Google Assistant (HS100 KIT)
  • CONTROL FROM ANYWHERE - Turn electronics on or off from anywhere with your smartphone using the Kasa app (Compatible w/ Android & iOS)
  • VOICE CONTROL - Works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana supported devices for a hands-free experience

Most reviewers love the stability and consistency of this system but wish for more finesse in scheduling options and tracking features. Some people report that the plugs drop Wi-Fi connection randomly, but they are in the minority.

The biggest drawback of these TP-Link plugs is their large size. he bigger profile means that they may block access to nearby outlets and take up more room than other smart plugs on the marketplace. But the ease of use and setup, and the simple, reliable compatibility with Alexa, and the security of the TP-Link brand name make these a great entry into a smart home ecosphere. These are also the only smart plugs on this list that support 15 AMP devices, for use with more powerful appliances.

best 3 smart plugs

PECHAM 2 Pack Wi-Fi Smart Plug

 

The PECHAM smart plugs are compact and useful, compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT. The Smart Life app allows for easy scheduling of devices, or remotely turning devices on and off. In addition, the PECHAM smart plugs will automatically shut off when voltage exceeds 10 AMPs. The automatic shutoff feature and the fireproof shell provide additional safety for your home when you are away. The countdown feature also allows you to set a time duration for the operation of a device.

on sale now
PECHAM WP5 Gaming Headset with Mic for Xbox One, PS4, PC,Smart Phone, Laptops, Computer, White
157 Reviews
PECHAM WP5 Gaming Headset with Mic for Xbox One, PS4, PC,Smart Phone, Laptops, Computer, White
  • Durable Quality - Robust design, high strength headhand, adjustable mic and durable braided wire with one key mute switch and sound controls optimized for professional gaming
  • Advanced Compatibility - The gaming headset compatible with Xbox one, PS4, mobile,PC,computer,laptop and other device that features with a 3.5mm jack connector. Extra Microsoft adapter (Not Included) is needed when connect with old version Xbox One controller

The PECHAM system requires a 2.4 GHz home Wi-Fi network, and the app is compatible with iOS and Android devices. It works best in the Amazon Alexa home system.

This product fails Fakespot review, and casts doubts upon reviews for the app as well. Given the price point, it might be a better choice to go with a more reliable brand of smart plug.

Tonbux Smart Plug 2 Pack Wi-Fi Enabled Mini Smart Switch

 

These Tonbux smart plugs look identical to the PECHAM product and uses the same Smart Life app, as well as having the same features and marketing language.

These smart plugs are compatible with devices up to 10 AMPs and can work with either a 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz home Wi-Fi network, making them the only dual-band smart plug on this list. They are compatible with Amazon Alexa and with Google Home Assistant. They are not compatible with SmartThings, Homekit, or Wink hubs. The Smart Life app is compatible with both iOS and Android devices.

on sale now
Tonbux Smart Plug 2 Pack WiFi Enabled Mini Smart Switch Compatible with Amazon Alexa & Google Home, No Hub Required, Remote Control Your Devices from Anywhere, ETL Listed [Upgraded Version]
335 Reviews
Tonbux Smart Plug 2 Pack WiFi Enabled Mini Smart Switch Compatible with Amazon Alexa & Google Home, No Hub Required, Remote Control Your Devices from Anywhere, ETL Listed [Upgraded Version]
  • Make home appliances intelligent:Supports setting up many timing tasks.The smart socket can be used for any household appliances.Turn on/off the light, air-conditioner, power charger or Water heaters automatically after setting the specific time. You can effectively cut your power usage so that you can save money on your next electric bill
  • Safe and economical:Tonbux Smart Plug can help you control your home appliances,eliminate wasteful standby power and reduce energy use,save on your electric bills and extend product life.when your device needs to be used for a while ,to prenvent forgetting to close the device,you can use the Count-down function to make the device more secure

These smart plugs feature automatic scheduling, remote operation of devices, or a countdown timer to keep devices running for only set periods of time. They are made from a fire-resistant shell to protect your devices and your home.

The eerie similarity to the PECHAM product is cause for concern here, and the reviews are only slightly more reliable. Negative reviewers typically report that the plugs work when controlled with the Smart Life app, but not when connected to Alexa or the Google Home assistant. These plugs might be a good choice for simple control via Wi-Fi with the Smart Life app, but probably aren't a good choice for use with an AI assistant system.

Wi-Fi Smart Plug, Maxcio Mini Wireless Mini Remote Control Outlet

 

The Maxcio mini has a compact, attractive design, at a great price for a 4-pack of smart plugs. They work on a 2.4 GHz home Wi-Fi network, and are compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home Assistant, and IFTTT enabled. These plugs are also controlled through the Smart Life app, available for iOS and Android devices.

With these plugs, you can schedule devices, remotely turn them on or off, or use a countdown timer to have devices operate for a set period of time. The small size means that they won't block other nearby outlets. Family sharing on the app means that all family members have access to the devices, and they have automatic shutdown as a safety feature should usage exceed 10 AMPs.

on sale now
WiFi Smart Plug, Maxcio Mini Wireless Mini Remote Control Outlet with Timing Function, Compatible with Alexa and Google Home, No Hub Required - 4 Packs
668 Reviews
WiFi Smart Plug, Maxcio Mini Wireless Mini Remote Control Outlet with Timing Function, Compatible with Alexa and Google Home, No Hub Required - 4 Packs
  • 【Voice Control】 Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. IFTTT enabled. FCC/CE/ETL/RoHS certified. 【Tech support: support@maxcio.com】
  • 【APP Control】Control your appliances wherever you are at any time by Smartlife App. All devices controlled in one App.

Reviews are generally positive, both when using these plugs with the Smart Life app or when used along with Amazon Alexa or with Google Home Assistant. A few reviewers report a failure to connect with a network, or that they fail after a short time, but they are in the minority.

Many reviewers claim to be unable to find contact information for tech support, but that information is in the Amazon listing itself, making negative reviews slightly less credible. Overall, these plugs have a good size, desirable features, and solid compatibility.

of the rest - mini plugs and more!

The ISelector mini is specifically designed to not block nearby outlets when plugged in to a wall but may be awkward when used in a power strip. These smart plugs are operated by the Jinvoo Smart app, available for iOS and Android devices. These plugs are compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant. They featured scheduling and timing for devices, remote operation of devices, and have an “away mode” that will turn lights on and off at random.

While the manufacturer claims that these plugs work with Google Home assistant, reviewers report that they do not, and that Google support confirms that they are incompatible.

Although Amazon star ratings for the plugs are high, only 62% of the reviewers are reliable sources. Reviews on the app and on the associated Amazon skill are very low. Many reviewers are concerned about the extensive permissions required by the app and feel it to be invasive. And some people report that the app causes performance issues with their phone, which is an additional drawback.

Given the concern about phone performance, device compatibility and stability, and the claim of features the device doesn't have, these ISelector plugs could be better but they do what they are intended to do.

The CrazyLynX smart plug is compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home Assistant. Like the ISelector, it uses the Jinvoo Smart app to control the plug, which is available on both iOS and Android, and the Jinvoo app should be used when configured with Amazon Alexa. However, the Smart Life app is recommended for use with Google Home Assistant.

Compatible with 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi networks, this smart plug has timing and remote control features. This plug also features a 12 month warranty, and CrazyLynX commits to replying to support requests within 24 hours. It is specifically designed to only use one outlet, leaving the other free, but the unusual shape may work better in wall sockets than power strips.

This is another product with suspect reviews that do not pass Fakespot analysis. Unhappy reviewers claim that the plugs do not work with Alexa or Google Home Assistant because they cannot be discovered, or that the plug abruptly stops working after a few hours. As above, people are concerned about the poorly-rated Jinvoo smart app and its invasive permission requirements.

The GoSound smart plug has a small shape and low profile. It is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Home Assistant, and IFTTT. It requires a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network and operates devices up to 10 AMPs. It is managed with the Smart Life app, available for both iOS and Android devices.

The GoSound smart plug enables scheduling of the operation of devices, as well as remote control of connected devices using the app or with Alexa or Google Home Assistant. It has a 90 day money-back guarantee and a 12-month limited warranty.

About 30% of the reviews on this product are unreliable, and negative reviewers report that the plugs are inconsistent, with repeated connection losses and sudden loss of function. However, getting hold of support and GoSound honoring the warranty is positive, so it may be worth the risk.

The Conico mini smart plug is compatible with Amazon Alexa and operates on a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network. It accommodates 10 AMPs maximum and can also be controlled via the Jinvoo Smart app, available for iOS and Android.

It features scheduling and timing of operation, remote control of devices, and a countdown timer to have devices only operate for a set period of time. It has a one year warranty.

Although not mentioned in the instructions, this device is also compatible with Google Home Assistant. As previously mentioned, the Jinvoo app is questionable and is a severe drawback to using devices that require it. There have been reports of typical consistency issues with repeated dropping off the network, or Alexa being unable to detect the device.

Some people use the Smart Life app instead, which appears to work for the Conico smart plug and resolves some of the concerns with the Jinvoo app. If this smart plug can be operated without the questionable Jinvoo app, then the plug itself is probably functional and reliable.

The Potensic smart plug operates on a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi network, and is controlled by the Tuya app, available for iOS and Android. It is fully compatible with Amazon Alexa, and, if other reviewers are correct, compatible with Google Home/Assistant when operated instead through the Smart Life app.

With the Potensic smart plugs, you can schedule devices to operate at certain times, or remotely control them to turn on or off.

These smart plugs have not only been widely accepted by people, but they are considered one of the best on the market, making this a great choice for a smart plug. Some people report that the smart plugs stop working after a short time, but Potensic offers a 3-month warranty and service has been responsive. The compact size and high quality of these smart plugs make them an excellent choice for operation through the Tuya app with Amazon Alexa, or the Smart Life app for Google Home services.

frequently asked questions

 

can I use a smart plug with a power strip?
can i use a smart plug with my TV and turn it back on with Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant?
how many app-enabled devices can control a smart plug?
can I manually operate a smart plug?
can I use a smart plug with a power strip?

Yes, you can plug a smart plug into a power strip.

You can also plug a power strip into a smart plug and control all the devices plugged into the strip with a single setting.

However, the total draw and wattage of devices plugged into the power strip should not exceed the rating of the smart plug.

can i use a smart plug with my TV and turn it back on with Alexa/Siri/Google Assistant?

Most TVs do not turn all the way off when you power them down; they go into standby mode.

A smart plug will turn them off completely, which can be useful for saving unneeded power.

However, once power is restored with a smart plug, most TVs will also need to be manually turned on again before your digital home assistant can control them.

how many app-enabled devices can control a smart plug?

If you live in a multifamily household and everyone has multiple devices, this can become a limitation.

The exact number of devices that can be configured to control a smart plug varies from manufacturer to manufacturer.

If you are concerned about this particular issue, it is good to ask product support before you purchase.

can I manually operate a smart plug?

Yes, smart plugs also have an on/off button on the plug itself that can be used to turn the plug and connected devices on or off.

These buttons are also sometimes necessary for restarting or power cycling the smart plug if there are issues.

conclusions

The number of smart plugs available keeps growing, and these devices are continually improving in functionality and reliability. Because all these smart plugs are in a very similar price range, it's worth it to choose the best brand and support available and try a smart plug or two for simple convenience. Over time, if you choose to expand the scope of your home automation, or change your system entirely, your initial investment in a couple smart plugs won't be a great loss.

Smart plugs are a simple and inexpensive way to give you convenience and control of your home environment. They can add safety and security, giving you peace of mind when you are away, and increase your comfort and save time and energy when you are at home. With all these advantages, there's no reason to not explore these technologies today and see where they will lead you in the future.