What Is a Smart Plug and How to Choose the Right One

Featured Smart Plugs

Adaptable, inexpensive and easy to use, smart plugs and outlets are becoming a regular feature of the modern home. They can be used to remotely manage your appliances, connect with smartphone apps and monitor your household electricity consumption.

The best part is you don’t need to dismantle your walls, as smart plugs can easily connect to existing power plugs. Here we will discuss the considerations you must have in choosing the right smart plugs for your needs.

Smart Devices Connected Smart Plugs

What Smart Plugs Do

Smart plugs are the ultimate plug-in outlets which connect to a home’s Wi-Fi conections. They display on the apps of Apple HomeKit, Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings and others. This helps in providing wireless control of lamps, electronic appliances, heaters, fans and thermostats.

You only have to download the app and control the gadgets directly from it. Most smart plugs advertise themselves as voice-command operated with support for Alexa and Google Home. There are also smart plugs specific to Apple ecosystems that use Siri voice commands from your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, or HomePod.

Smart Home Wi Fi Plug Homekit

Most smart plugs have a small form factor and can be held in the palm of your hand. But despite that, they pack a powerful circuitry inside the assembly. There are generally three interfaces encased within any smart plug which include:

  • Touch board: contains the LEDs, touch guards and touch pads mounted that form the exterior of the smart plug.
  • Microcontroller (MCU) board: the bulk of the circuitry is placed in the MCU board. Within it, there is a low-power Wi-Fi-certified module connecting to a microcontroller, sensors, relay controls and timers. The touch board and MCU boards are connected through multiple headers.
  • Power board: contains a plug and socket and power-measurement circuits to calculate electricity consumed.

Smart Plug Components

How to Choose the Right Smart Plug Online?

While you can find them at a local electrical store, most smart plugs are readily available online. The first thing you must watch for is which plug and socket specifications are right for your home. These plugs are built for US, EU and Chinese standards. Many countries have EU household voltage at 220V while the US utilizes 110-120V. Whether your household plugs require two flat prongs or very thick pins, there is usually a smart plug built for it.

Of course, there are universal smart plugs such as the one by Taope supporting an output from 100V to 240V. You should also check “maximum power.” As the one below reads 2200 W, it may not support a few heavy-duty appliances. Also, you must look for which third-party apps are supported. A few smart plugs are exclusive to one or the other smart home apps and may not be compatible with the one you use.

Taope Smart Plug

Do you want to connect multiple gadgets in one smart plug? Then you must go for a multi-outlet device such as this one by KMC which has one always-on outlet. You can identify and name each one of the four individual jacks on Alexa or Google Home.

Kmc Four Outlets Wifi Smart Plug

Most smart outlets are flame-resistant and automatically shut down when overheated, but it is better to go for one which follows FCC recommendations on heat resistance. Some of the outlets are waterproof, so you should choose them if you are placing them in a kitchen area.

Smart plugs are available really cheap with some single jack models going for as less as $7.99. You really don’t have to overspend on them.

In Conclusion

With a few tweaks, you can even harness smart plugs to convert your dumb appliances to smart ones. They are incredibly useful in transforming your homes. If you’re not using them already, you should consider that connected homes will represent the future. Plus, they are also designed to help you monitor and save on energy bills.

Do you have smart plugs in your home? Are you considering buy one? Let us know in the comments.

7 comments

  1. How about a chart of available sockets with specs, maybe where to buy.

    1. We’ll try to have a comparison table for specs but the same company is having separate models and pins for different markets worldwide. All these examples were taken from Amazon (US) but you can easily find them on BestBuy, NewEgg, AliExpress and more.

      It might be convenient to consider the smart plugs recommended on the marketplaces of Apple HomeKit, Google Home and Alexa.

      Here we recommended KooGreek for Apple HomeKit, Taope and KMC for Google Home/Alexa. The recommendation really starts from the ecosystem you’re in. Samsung devices have their own outlet which they call “SmartThings.” Nothing else might work with it except Samsung devices.

      https://www.smartthings.com/products/smartthings-outlet

      We’re still in the beginners stage of connected devices. There’s no such thing as a “universal outlet.” Even Bosch has its own marketplace and a smart plug. There are so many more worth a mention.

      https://www.bosch-smarthome.com/en/products/smart-system-solutions/smart-plug

      IN SUMMARY

      Before buying a smart plug, check:
      1- The connected devices marketplace/ecosystem you’re planning to use
      2- Voltage specifications (110/120V or 220/240V)
      3. Check the pins and headers and whether it is right for your home. Usually there is a high resolution image.
      4- Check maximum power. Some smart plugs are only 150W or so. That won’t even control your split AC.

      I think that’s about it from a smart plug buyers perspective.

  2. Just an FYI:

    I’m not sure what “magic” is going on, but the link you provide for the KMC smart plug on Amazon.com redirects me, accessing from Canada, to a Tripp Lite hospital-grade UPS on Amazon .ca!!

    Note that I don’t think this is a “you” problem…looking at the actual URL for the link, it looks proper and I can’t see any reason why this should be happening. I suspect it’s either something that Amazon is doing or an “Internet weirdness” in action.

    (anyone got the Twilight Zone theme handy??!!)

    1. All these suggestions are for Amazon (US). You can easily visit its US website from other countries. And then note down the specifications to check if the same model is available in your home country.

      You will need the following specifications:
      1- Ecosystems supported – Alexa/Google Home/Apple HomeKit etc.
      2- Voltage
      3- Max power
      4- Pins and headers appearance
      5- waterproof depending on use. In kitchen and bathroom you’d need one.

  3. I do have smart plugs at home but not enough devices to connect them with except amazon alexa. How exactly do I convert the dumb appliances to smart ones as you suggest? The television set is from the 1990s you know cathode ray tubes?

  4. what about other products like WEMO i have been reading about
    probably still new wireless power plug in products are coming out thx

    1. Wemo smart plugs are well-known and a good recommendation.

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