In recent years, smart home devices like smart speakers, security cameras, thermostats, and lightbulbs have exploded in popularity. One smart home product that hasn't gotten as much attention but can still provide a lot of convenience and utility is the smart outlet. In this blog post, we'll take an in-depth look at smart outlets-what they are, their key features and benefits, and whether they're ultimately worth investing in for your home.
What Are Smart Outlets?
Smart outlets are WiFi-enabled outlets that can be controlled remotely through a smartphone app or by using voice commands with a virtual assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant. Just like standard "dumb" outlets, you plug lamps, appliances, or other electronic devices into a smart outlet to supply power. But unlike regular outlets, you can turn connected devices on or off even when you're away from home or control them on schedules and routines.
Some key features and capabilities of smart outlets include:
- Remote control – Turn devices on/off from anywhere using a smartphone app
- Voice control – Use voice commands to control devices through Alexa, Google Assistant, etc.
- Schedules/timers – Set devices to turn on/off at certain times or days
- Usage monitoring – View real-time energy usage data for connected devices
- Smart actions – Trigger automatic actions based on other connected devices
- Safety features – Get notifications of unexpected device activity indicating hazards
Many smart outlet models work over WiFi, but others use protocols like Zigbee or Z-Wave that are compatible with smart home hubs. They come in both plug-in and hardwired options. Some even offer multiple outlets in one unit for controlling several devices from a single smart outlet.
Benefits of Smart Outlets
- Remote Control – The ability to turn lights and appliances on or off from anywhere using your smartphone is extremely convenient, whether you're at work, on vacation, or running errands. You don't have to worry if you leave devices on or off.
- Energy Savings – Smart outlets make it easy to schedule connected devices to turn off automatically at certain times. This can help reduce energy waste from phantom loads or standby power from devices left plugged in.
- Home Automation – Smart outlets provide a simple way to start automating your home. Using schedules, routines, and triggers, you can make devices turn on/off automatically in different situations.
- Safety & Security – Get notifications of unexpected device activity when you're away from home that could indicate a hazard or intruder. You can also use them to make lights turn on/off randomly to give the appearance of someone being at home.
- Voice Control – Controlling outlets with voice commands through a smart speaker provides convenient hands-free power to turn devices on/off.
Best Uses of Smart Outlets
- Lamps – Remotely control accent, reading, or bedside lamps. Easily automate them on routines.
- Small kitchen appliances – Remotely turn on/off coffee makers, toasters, etc. Never worry about leaving them on.
- Electronics – Devices like TVs, speakers, game consoles, and chargers benefit from remote power control and smart automation.
- Holiday lights – Easily turn holiday lighting on/off as needed. Schedule them to turn on at dusk and off later.
- Fans & heaters – Remotely ensure fans and space heaters are off when not needed.
- Aquariums & pet devices – Automate aquarium equipment and pet feeders/waterers when away.
- Diffusers & humidifiers – Don't over-run these devices. Schedule them to run when needed.
- Smart actions – Trigger lights on with motion detection or alert you when a device turns on unexpectedly.
Factors to Consider Before Buying Smart Outlets
- Price – Smart outlets range in cost from $10-$40 or more. Higher-end options usually offer more capabilities. Consider how many you need and your budget.
- Installation – Most plug directly into a standard wall outlet without wiring. However, some hardwired and higher-end models do require electrical knowledge.
- Compatibility – If you want voice control, ensure the outlet works with your smart speaker's virtual assistant. Also, check compatibility with any smart home systems you already have.
- Number of outlets – Do you need a single outlet to control one device or multiple outlets to control several appliances?
- App control/automation – App features and smart capabilities vary, so check the outlet has the specific options you want.
- Energy monitoring – Some models track real-time usage data. Decide if this feature is important to you.
Are Smart Outlets Worth Buying?
For most homes today, smart outlets provide an easy way to start automating your home and add remote control at a relatively low cost and effort compared to other smart devices. The ability to turn lights and appliances on/off from anywhere, set schedules, and control them hands-free with voice commands provides tangible convenience and utility.
If you're already invested in a smart home ecosystem or want an easy entry point, smart outlets are typically worth investing in. Just be sure to compare different options and consider how many you need and which features would be most useful. The right smart outlets can make your home safer, more energy efficient, and give you more control-excellent benefits that make them worth buying for most homeowners.