Getting Started With Smart Outlets

Getting Started With Smart Outlets

Woman plugging in a smart outlet
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You visit your friend’s home and it seems like something straight out of Star Trek. From the home security and thermostat to the lighting and television, everything is smart-connected and instantly controllable.

Sure, it may look appealing, but diving headfirst into a 100% smart-connected home is not exactly cheap. Building the Smart Home of tomorrow can take you down a rabbit hole of connected devices, ranging from smart lighting and smart thermostats that adapt to your schedule to save energy all the way to automated blinds. To automate your entire home, it can get very complex (and very expensive) very quickly. For those who want to just dip a toe in the connected home waters before diving headfirst, or anyone looking to have a quick and easy add-on to an existing ecosystem, smart plugs are a great upgrade that anyone can do.

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With that said, this type of upgrade could be a wise investment with long-term dividends. After all, some things are worth the price, no matter how expensive. You just need to be 100% sure that such an investment is right for you.

We suggest dipping your toes into the smart-connectivity waters before doing a full-on cannonball. Start with one smart-connected device, which may help you determine if you should make a total transition. You might find that even just a single product strengthens your current home networking system, and you won’t need to go any further.

In any case, before investing significantly in smart home devices, a smart outlet is a useful and worthwhile upgrade to get your connectivity journey started.

What Exactly is a Smart Outlet?

To begin, it’s worth noting that in some cases smart outlets and Smart Plugs are synonymous, while other experts make a clear distinction between the two. Considering that products like the Amazon Smart Plug can actually become an outlet, we’ll discuss them as one and the same.

More specifically, you plug this item into a regular outlet, so smart devices can connect. Getting the outlet to work requires configuring the add-on plug using an app. Then, you must connect it to your network to control the plugged-in device.

With a compact design, the smart outlet won’t be cumbersome or interfere with other equipment. Plus, it frequently includes a voice assistant feature, allowing you to control it remotely from your mobile device.

This voice command responsiveness is convenient when you don’t have physical access to the tech you want to shut off. Depending on the Smart Plug’s make, it may also be compatible with Siri, Amazon Echo, or Google Assistant.

Smart outlets come as single-modules or multi-outlet power strips. Some models are even waterproof for outdoor use. We should also note that the power strips offer individual control for each outlet, giving you command over each device.

Being plug-and play, these devices can be relocated to any area in your home. Plus, there’s no need for installation. Generally, the most you’ll pay for these plugs is around $50, but there are many options at much lower prices.

Smart home compatibility, integration, and voice control

A common mistake made when shopping for smart outlets is buying devices from different brands. This should be avoided because the equipment will not operate properly. Stick with one manufacturer to keep everything seamlessly connected.

The aspect of compatibility extends to voice control integration. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are compatible with many Smart Plugs/Outlets. While not as popular, Siri is still widely available on the market. Those with Amazon Echo, Google Home, or Apple HomePod smart speakers can switch outlets on and off via voice command.

Voice control technology has never been more affordable. Ensure your Smart Plug is compatible with this technology to reap the full benefits. Even if you don’t have Google Home or Amazon Echo, you’re likely to eventually purchase either as they are becoming the norm. You want to be prepared to leverage those capabilities.

Features

You’ll find a wide variety of smart outlets on the market, each with their own specific capabilities. Some offer more than others—it comes down to what you’re willing to pay. It’s also important to consider your environment and how these devices can integrate into your surroundings to enhance your quality of life. Below, we discuss some features to consider before making your final decision.

Hub requirements

SmartThings, Wink, and other third-party hubs are alternative ways to control your device switch. Many vendors offer their own hubs, but these may not have as many capabilities and features. A hub makes multiple device interconnectivity more seamless. For instance, it allows you to turn on your overhead lights and lamps simultaneously at the press of a button.

Energy monitoring

One of the most effective ways to manage energy consumption is by monitoring how much you actually use. With smart outlets, you can access energy monitoring features via mobile app to track power consumption over time. You can even learn if the TV is being left on too long.

Indoor vs outdoor

Smart outlets can be weatherized for outdoor conditions, including being waterproof. These options will be pricier than indoor-only units. Usually, outdoor capability will be prominently indicated on the packaging since it’s a major selling point. Generally, though, smart outlets are designed for indoor use.

Dimmable

Many smart outlets are compatible with lamps, which can be dimmable if an onboard dimmer is present in the switches. There are hardware buttons on these switches, allowing you to directly control dimming. Conversely, you can set preferred dimming levels with your app.

Conclusion

Not quite ready to plunge into the smart-connectivity waters? Fair enough. It’s always worth staying in the proverbial shallow end to ensure the technology is right for you.

Smart outlets and Plugs allow you to see what the fuss is about without spending a fortune on a new ecosystem that might be unsuitable. Furthermore, they give you a chance to bolster your current technological ecosystem at an affordable price.

Use this blog to help guide you in selecting the appropriate smart outlet.

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