Smart Plug

Common Uses for Smart Plugs

Recently, my Dad bought a pack of Smart Plugs. At the time he only wanted one, but found a pack of four that was cheap. Thinking he would have plenty of uses for them, he pulled the trigger.

After he got the plugs, he quickly put one of them to use with his Christmas tree. That left him with 3 other Smart Plugs. After he spent some time thinking, he came to me and asked, “what do people do with Smart Plugs?”

This is a common scenario for many people, as you can jump on Amazon right now and buy a 4-pack that works with Alexa for under 30 bucks. But usually after purchasing them, you start asking yourself what do you actually do with them? Leading you here.

So Welcome! Before we jump into brainstorming uses for your shiny new Smart Plugs, let’s first take a step back. Are we asking the right question? 

There is a way to think about Smart Home improvements that will net you a better quality of life. But it requires you to pivot your thinking and avoid brainstorming after making the purchase. Instead, think about it this way:  

What do I interact with, control, or ask often, and how can I make that interaction easier?

I know this is a bit abstract, but try to start with this question first. It will also help you avoid wasting money on other smart devices than just Smart Plugs. By asking yourself this question instead, you’ll uncover for yourself if another Smart Plug is really worth your time and money–regardless of how much a deal it is to buy in bulk. 

My dad had it right at the starting of his experience. He wanted a Smart Plug to specifically make controlling the Christmas tree lights easier via Alexa. But like most of us, he got sidetracked once he saw 4-packs of Smart Plugs are a better deal than buying just one. So he got more than what he needed before coming up with good uses for them.

That being said, now that he (and likely you) already have your pack of Smart Plugs, let’s see what we can do with them. To give you some inspiration, I collected a bunch of ideas from my own uses, Reddit, and a few other sites. I then categorized them below into common primary uses with a few examples for each.

Common Uses for Smart Plugs

Smart Plugs are generally used for five common categories. The first and most common category is using a Smart Plug to control lights. The second is having users move to other simple devices that have an on/off power switch. The third and more techie category connects Smart Plugs to climate control devices. The last two categories involve more advanced uses for Smart Plugs, involving power monitoring features and as a trigger for other Home Automation Rules.

To find out which of these categories is right for you, check out the examples below. 

Lights

desk lamp

You can use Smart Plugs to make controlling your lights even easier. You simply connect a Smart Plug to one of these devices (examples listed below) and control it via Voice. Overall, I think the Smart Plug really becomes powerful when setting up schedules for the light to turn on and off. I especially like the idea of setting up a schedule for something like a fish tank lamp, that’s harder to reach for manually turning on/off

  • Simple lamps
  • Christmas lights 
  • Christmas tree lights (as you can tell, a favorite use in my family)
  • Landscape lights
  • Fish tank lamp
  • Outside flood lights

Watch out for odd pairings, like connecting Smart Lights to your Smart Plug. The whole purpose of a Smart Plug is to control simple devices remotely. 

Simple On/Off Devices

Another route to take is using Smart Plugs to make simple devices in your home smarter and easier to control. Think of simple household appliances that only have an on/off switch. A good test to see if the device would work well with a Smart Plug is to turn on the device itself, but unplug and plug it back into the wall. For example, turn on an old TV and unplug it from the wall. When you plug it back into the wall again, does the TV turn back on? If it does, your TV could benefit from having a Smart Plug. With the Smart Plug connected, you can control the TV in new ways and potentially set up new Home Automation Rules with it, too.

A note of caution: many of these devices can be dangerous if left on for too long. Be careful that these devices don’t stay powered on for lengthy durations.

  • Coffee makers
  • Electric kettles
  • Bottle warmer
  • Old TVs
  • White noise machines (alexa might be your better option)
  • Electric blankets
  • Hair straightener
  • Wax melter (strangest example I’ve seen so far)

Climate Control

Table Fan
Table fan

A slightly more advanced use for Smart Plugs is to make your climate-controlled appliances easier to control. This category is very similar to the ‘Simple On/Off Devices’ category, but the main difference is these devices tend to draw more power than say lights, which may be more than what your Smart Plug can handle. Before you use a Smart Plug with these appliances listed below, check the power rating of the connected device to and compare it to what your Smart Plug lists that it can handle.

  • Fans
  • Space heaters
  • Air purifiers
  • Humidifiers
  • Window ACs

Power Monitoring

power usage screenshot
Power usage screenshot from the Eve App

Taking a step further into more advanced uses, you can also use the power monitoring feature of Smart Plugs to lower your power bill. I think this is one of the nicer features for Smart Plugs. However, Power Monitoring isn’t a feature all Smart Plugs have. Make sure you have a Smart Plug with this feature before using the below ideas.

Personally, I use Smart Plugs to monitor the power usage of my computer and my entertainment system. I use these same Smart Plugs to schedule on and off times, as well, in an attempt to save power. During research, I found a few sites referring to vampire draw, which is where your device is still drawing power even when it’s not turned on. A Smart Plug is a great way to mitigate this. 

Monitoring the power usage of: 

  • Washer/Dryer machines
  • Entertainment systems
  • Network printers
  • Computers (desktop or laptop)
  • Phone chargers 

The last bullet deserves a bit more explanation. Turning off a phone charger after a specific amount of time may actually improve the battery life on your phone. This is because overcharging the battery can have negative effects on its lifespan.

Home Automation Rule Trigger

Once you dive into Home Automation, using Smart Plugs as a condition to start up other automations can be really powerful.

  • “Movie Time” scene setup

For example, when the Smart Plug is on, you could change the light colors. You can pair this with an entertainment system or a TV to change the surrounding lights to a color more suitable for watching the movies. And magically, when the TV turns on, the lights change to the right colors, along with other scene triggers, like doors lock and blinds close.

More on this in a future post, stay tuned. 

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