getting started with smart plugs

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If you’ve decided to explore automating your home with smart plugs, congratulations! Smart plugs are easy to install and set up and add a powerful level of control and convenience to your everyday life. There are so many uses for a smart plug, and you’ll be thinking of more all the time as you live with these intelligent devices every day.

Smart Plug Setup

Smart plug setup is fast and easy, although the specific details differ a bit from model to model. Generally speaking, here is how you will set up a smart plug:

  • Plug it into an electrical outlet and turn it on
  • Download the manufacturer’s recommended app
  • Using the app, navigate to your plug and add it to the app
  • Using the app, connect the plug to your home Wi-Fi network
  • You can now use the app to control your smart plug and whatever device you have plugged into it

If you want to go a step further and connect your smart plug to your existing home system, like Google Home or Alexa, it’s not that hard to do.

  • Make sure that your automated home system and your smart plug are on the same Wi-Fi network
  • Open the Google Home App or the Alexa app
  • Navigate to your smart plug and add it to your list of connected devices
  • You can now use your home automation system to control your smart plug

Helpful tip: Rename your plug something specific and memorable, based on what it controls, to make voice commands easier. Names like “master bedroom lights” or “kitchen speakers” work best.

Again, the specific instructions will vary a bit depending on the plug and your system, but most smart plugs are easy to install and set up.

How to Use a Smart Plug

Basically, you will use a smart plug to turn on or off whatever device is plugged in to it, using the manufacturer’s app or your home system.

Most people use smart plugs three ways:

  • On a scheduled timer. You can configure your plug to turn devices on or off automatically, on a timer. This is useful for recurring daily events
  • Using a countdown timer. You can program devices to only operate for a set amount of time. This is useful for duration-specific needs
  • When activated by a triggering event. You can set up rules that activate a smart plug when a second condition is met

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

Smart Plug Uses

These three ways of using a smart plug lend themselves to a variety of uses, and the possibilities are endless.

With automatic timing, you could:

  • Set your coffeemaker to turn itself on in the morning
  • Configure lights to turn on in the evening and off in the daytime
  • Activate a towel warmer so you always have warm towels when you get out of your daily shower

With triggered timing, you could:

  • Have house lights come on when a home alarm system is triggered
  • Have a garage door open automatically when you pull into the driveway
  • Turn on a home security camera when someone rings the doorbell

With a countdown timer, you could:

  • Set a slow cooker to operate for a set period of time and then shut off
  • Allocate only an hour of TV or game time for kids
  • Set lights or radios to turn off after you have fallen asleep

And manual control is also useful in a variety of situations. You might:

  • Turn off a forgotten clothes iron from the office
  • Adjust your home audio system from the couch
  • Start your laundry from the bedroom so the clothes will be clean in the morning

Smart Plug Ideas

Those are just some of the ways you could use a smart plug, and once you start enjoying this level of customization and control, you will think of hundreds more. But here are a few more ideas to get you started.

  • Restrict device usage. You may decide to disable a gaming console until homework is done
  • Heat up your hair appliances. Have curlers or a flat iron ready to go when you are
  • Control kitchen appliances. Turn on a coffeemaker, bread maker, or slow cooker, from anywhere
  • Preheat an oven or hot water heater before you need to use it
  • Save energy. Many devices and appliances in the home draw energy in standby mode, even when you aren’t using them. Turn televisions and connected devices completely off to reduce energy usage
  • Recharge batteries and devices. If your lawn equipment or tools will need to be ready-to-go later in the day, a smart plug will let you charge them up in advance
  • Control the temperature. If you plug a radiator into a smart plug, you can remotely control the temperature. This can be a useful feature in, say, a basement during a winter cold snap, to keep pipes from freezing, or warm up a cold bathroom before you get out of bed
  • Set a party atmosphere. A smart plug can control holiday lights or lawn displays or manage outdoor speakers and lighting during a barbecue
  • Operate a space heater, air conditioner, or dehumidifier for only a set period of time. If you need to manage climate control remotely due to sudden changes in weather, you can do so

Conclusion

Smart plugs are easy to use and convenient, even for simple issues like declining mobility or hard-to-reach outlets. In your home, you will find dozens of ways to simplify and customize your life, while saving you money and gaining peace-of-mind in the process.

Smart plugs are also inexpensive, making it easy to start with one or two, and adopt more over time as you discover more ways to use them. And integrating smart plugs with Amazon Alexa, Google Home, HomeKit, and other home systems adds power and versatility to those systems, making them even more useful and efficient. Controlling your home with simple voice commands is the wave of the future, and smart plugs make it easy to get there.

To help you make the right decision, we've put together the ultimate guide to the best smart plugs available.  

The resource is updated regularly to include all the latest models, detailed buyers guide and tips, tricks and troubleshooting advice.

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