Smart plug with curling iron

If there is one gadget that I always have extras on hand, it’s Smart Plugs. It’s one of those tech items that you need on standby, just in case. If you have a smart home—or looking to build one—smart plugs are one of the most versatile gadgets you can have. Let’s explore all the different ways you can expand your home with smart plugs. 

Turning on your coffee machine from bed

Smart plugs changed my life—literally. It made me switch from being a morning chai tea drinker to a coffee drinker. All because of convenience. In the past, I would wake up, and boil water to make tea. Often, I would go back to bed for 10 minutes while the water was boiling. Once I slept in and all the water boiled away and left burning tea bags on the bottom of the pot. It was then I knew I needed to make a change. 

I bought myself a $25 coffee maker with a dedicated button switch. Next, I left it in the “on” position and connected it to a smart plug. I assigned the smart switch with the name “Coffee Maker” in the app. Before bed, I fill the coffee maker with water, a filter, and coffee grounds. Now while in bed, I turn to my bedside Echo smart speaker and say, “Alexa, turn the coffee maker on”. When I reach the kitchen, a fresh pot of coffee is made and ready for me. I’m not exaggerating when I say this has been life changing. 

Smart plug with growing light

Controlling indoor garden lights with smart plugs

I love gardening. Each year, I get more and more into gardening. One thing I’ve started to do is start plants from seeds indoors. With a simple grow light and a smart plug, this is incredibly easy. It’s the perfect combination for indoor gardeners like myself. For seed germination, I fill trays with potting soil and place them under grow lights. With the smart switch, I set a 18/6 light schedule. The light stays on for 18 hours, and turns off for 6 hours. This replicates the amount of sun plants would get outdoors in the summer.

A good gardening trick is to change the light cycle to 12/12. This will put many plants into the flowering stage as it replicates the light schedule in the Fall. This allows indoor gardeners the ability to completely grow plants indoors—from seed to harvest. This winter, I’m going to try to grow peppers indoors using this smart plug trick. 

Smart plug with heater

Saving money on heating bills

My home has electrical baseboard heating. Each room has its own thermostat for zone heating. Thus, I’m the type who wants to save money by not heating rooms I’m not using. However, I also want to be comfortable in the room I’m in. Before I upgraded to smart thermostats, I used smart plugs for years to heat my bedroom. 

I connected a smart plug to a portable electric radiator heater in my bedroom. When I was not home for the entire day, I kept the heat off to save money. However, about an hour before I would return home, I would remotely turn the heater on with my smartphone. By the time I got home, my room was warm and ready. This trick helped me save a lot of money on heating, especially when I was not home for long periods of the day. 

Monitoring the cost of electronics with smart plugs

Another benefit of smart plugs is monitoring the cost of keeping electronics on. For example, I have a beer fridge in my kitchen full of beverages. It’s always on, but I barely consume the drinks inside there. It’s full of pop and I don’t drink pop. Beer doesn’t seem to last long inside there either. One day I wondered if it was even worth it to keep it on. 

I connected it to a smart switch and started to measure the energy consumption. I determined it didn’t take up too much energy so I kept it on. Soon after, the fridge would start randomly beeping. The only way to stop the beeping was to turn it off and on. I now use the smart switch to turn the fridge on and off with my voice if it starts beeping. Fridges don’t have a power button so having it connected to a smart plug came in handy. 

Using smart switches for parental control 

Parents today struggle with kids who spend too much time behind screens. Smart plugs can be excellent tools for parents. For example, connect a smart plug to a gaming console. If the kids spend too much time gaming, turn it off with your voice. Most times just having that ability is enough. Parents can also set schedules, or windows when devices are powered and permitted. At the end of the day, we all want kids to have healthy relationships with technology. Smart switches give parents control when devices are permitted and when they are not. 

Smart home with smart plugs

Smart plugs are a key part of any smart home

Having plugs on hand is a great tip for any smart home user. You never know when you might use it. If a device connects to a wall outlet and turns on when plugged in, it can be used with a smart plug. This includes some TVs, lamps, hair straighteners, fans, and kitchen appliances. Look for devices that have a dedicated power on/off button. You need to be able to keep it in the “on” position to use with a smart plug. For example, I use a smart plug with a fan in the summer. It helps me fall asleep but I set a schedule for it to turn off at midnight.  

While smart plugs can be controlled from an app, they really add value when connected with Smart Speakers. This lets you control devices using your voice. Parents will love this feature because smart speakers can also identify each family member. So only mom and dad can turn the PlayStation on and off with their voice. That’s the kind of parental controls parents acquire with smart plugs. 

If you’re new to smart homes, read this smart plug and switches buying guide. It will tell you all you need to know to get the most out of Smart Plugs in your home. Just buy an extra to have on standby just in case. 

Andy Baryer
Andy Baryer aka “Handy Andy” is a technology journalist, gadget reviewer, and DIY/how-to content creator. Known as the handyman of tech, Andy enjoys fixing poor wireless networks, building smart homes, and cooking with the latest kitchen gadgets. He’s a competitive whistler, a budding woodworker, and loves gardening in his home-built smart garden.