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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.