In times like these, even the cheapest electricity rates can add up. Luckily, we’re living in the age of advanced technology. By making your home “smarter,” you can better take control of your energy usage. And whether you’re dipping your toe into home automation or creating a total “smart home,” smart plugs are a cheap energy device that can help you conserve electricity use — and do so much more.
What is a smart plug?
A smart plug is a small piece of equipment that you plug into an electrical outlet. You then plug your electrical item into the smart plug. Using your home’s Wi-Fi connection, it gives you the ability to throttle power on and off, even when you’re not physically there.
For example, say you want to install a smart plug on a living room lamp. Simply insert the smart plug into the outlet. Then, plug the lamp into the holes on the smart plug and you’re ready to go. Yep, it’s that easy!
The main benefits of smart plugs are greater control over energy usage, potential energy savings and convenience.
How do smart plugs work as a cheap energy device to control electricity usage?
Smart plugs connect to your home Wi-Fi. You can then control them remotely via an app or by voice command. You can even set up a schedule for each plug.
The smart plugs you purchase will come with instructions that tell you exactly which app(s) can be used to control it and how to set it up. If you already have home automation equipment, it’s best to make sure the smart plug(s) you purchase are compatible with the app(s) you currently use.
Perhaps this sounds daunting if you’re new to home automation. However, using a smart plug offers great convenience. Plus, these small, cheap energy devices give you control over how you use electricity.
And best of all, you don’t need to worry about tools, electrical wiring or complex installation tasks.
What happens if my Wi-Fi goes out?
If your internet cuts out, your smart plug won’t be able to respond to your voice commands or any adjustments you make in the app. However, there should be a button on the side of most smart plugs. Pressing this button keeps items operational even without Wi-Fi.
If you’re on vacation or otherwise have an important task scheduled for one or more of your smart plugs while you’re away, you may worry that your Wi-Fi will let you down. To know for sure, many internet providers let you monitor your home Wi-Fi status and reset your connection remotely via an app.
How much do these cheap energy devices cost?
Pricing depends on the brand and type of smart plug you choose. You can usually find high-quality, single plugs for less than $10 online or in retail stores. Packs with two or four of the devices can net you a better price per plug.
How can I use smart plugs around my home as a cheap energy control option?
- Device charging
Laptops and cell phones charge faster these days than they did a decade ago. Plus, some devices can actually overcharge (damaging the battery) or overheat (creating a fire hazard). And there’s always sneaky phantom load to contend with — using energy unnecessarily when a device is in standby mode. So, charging your laptop or smartphone overnight or for extended periods of time is not efficient. A smart plug can be used and automatically shut off after a set amount of time.
- Crockpot scheduling
Many Crockpots do not include the option to turn on or off at pre-set times. For those appliances, a smart plug can be used to start or stop the cooking when needed.
- Coffee brewing
Likewise, a smart plug can transform a non-programmable coffee maker. By scheduling your machine to start brewing when your alarm goes off, you’ll always wake up to a hot cup of Joe.
- Lamp operating
We all have that one lamp that always seems to be left on for way too long. Attached to a smart plug, that lamp is now under your control. Schedule it to turn on to comfort pets at night, to deter intruders when traveling or even to help get you out of bed. Then, turn it off remotely via your smartphone, or set up an automatic shut-off time.
- Holiday lighting
Strands of lights make for a festive atmosphere. But they also consume electricity. Smart plugs, like traditional light programmers, allow you to put your lights on a schedule. But you also gain the ability to turn them on or off from your smartphone.
- Cheap energy peace of mind
Are you the type to leave for vacation without turning off the curling (or regular) iron? A smart plug will save the day. Instead of being consumed by worry, you can simply turn off the smart plug from your phone.
How many smart plugs do I need for my home?
The choice of how many smart plugs to own is yours! There’s no “correct” number. Some people like to start with one and see how they like it. Others love the convenience of on-the-go control so much that they use smart plugs all over their home.
No matter how “smart” you decide to make your home with these handy, cheap energy devices, know that you’re not alone. In 2021, the smart plug market was valued at $5.29 billion. But it is expected to balloon to $99.84 billion by 2030 according to a recent market report by The Brainy Insights.
It looks like the smart plug is here to stay!
Will I see a return on my investment using this cheap energy efficiency solution?
While smart plugs are a cheap energy device, they do still represent a small investment. In some cases, they could eventually save you money by helping you use electronics less frequently and only when needed.
Some scenarios will probably not net you large energy and monetary savings. For instance, using a smart plug for a coffee maker or lamp will provide added convenience (and peace of mind during travel). But these items consume such a small amount of energy that it could take a while to see a return on your investment (ROI).
However, in other scenarios, a smart plug could start paying for itself quickly. Try using your smart plug with an item that:
- Is turned on many hours a day when it doesn’t need to be;
- Doesn’t have an internal automatic shut-off mechanism; and
- Uses more than a trivial amount of kilowatt hours when active
In short, to see an ROI, you should be strategic in your smart plug use.
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