Best Smart Plugs: What Is a Smart Plug, and Which Do I Need? | Digital Trends


Smart home devices have come a long way over the past few years. Walk into any home improvement store or supermarket, and you’re bound to find a wide variety of smart lights, smart locks, smart thermostats, and an assortment of other “smart” gadgets. But one often overlooked category is smart plugs – tiny devices that plug into your electrical outlet and give your “dumb” electronics the versatility of a modern smart home device.

Beyond giving you remote control of your outlets, many smart plugs allow you to set timers or monitor your electricity usage. This makes them surprisingly versatile while still carrying an affordable price tag. Plenty of big names (like Amazon and Wyze) are producing smart plugs, but they’re far from your only option. Here’s a closer look at the best smart plugs of 2023.

Note: This selection only covers smart plugs rated for indoor use. For smart plugs that can weather the conditions in your yard, check out our favorite outdoor smart plugs.

What is a Smart Plug?

There are plenty of exciting innovations in the world of home automation, between virtual assistants that can control your smart devices, connected appliances, or smart thermostats. You can also upgrade a regular appliance and add it to your smart home system by using a smart plug.

Smart Plugs take a wired home to a new level. They plug into your outlets and let you run small home appliances through Alexa, another intelligent home device, or the sound of your voice. A smart plug turns a “dumb” device, like a coffee maker, room fan, or table lamp, into a smart device. 

How Do Smart Plugs Work?

Using smart plugs is super simple. First, you plug a smart plug into an outlet. Then you plug something else (like a lamp or appliance) into it. Finally, you connect the plug to your favorite home assistant, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or the smart plug’s app. From there the smart plug turns the power supply to the item you plugged into it on and off using commands sent from an app or smart home hub and your Wi-Fi network.

What are Smart Plugs Used For?

There are dozens of uses for smart plugs. Here are just a few to get your imagination turned on to all of the possibilities:

  • Turn on your coffee pot while you’re still in bed.
  • Control your window unit air conditioner or space heater without getting out of your chair.
  • Turn on lamps while you’re away to deter would-be burglars.
  • Turn off the oven, curling iron, or hair straightener you left on from your desk at work.
  • Turn on your holiday lights using a voice command.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Smart Plug

There are several things to consider before getting a smart plug.

Voice assistant compatibility: First, make sure that the plug incorporates the type of command system you are more likely to use. For example, you shouldn’t get a plug that uses only its own app for commands if you strictly use Alexa. Not all plugs will be compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant either, so make sure it supports your voice command preference. Note that voice assistants and other platforms that support multiple smart devices can create “scenes” that

Energy monitoring: By plugging an appliance into this type of smart plug, you can learn just how much electricity your appliance uses, which can be particularly useful if you’re trying to decide on upgrading to a more energy-efficient model. The plug monitors how much electricity is routed through it to your appliance. Then, it sends a report to the plug’s app. Reports vary from app to app, but many let you see peak energy use hours and energy used over time. Quite a few smart plugs also give you the option to automatically turn on and off an appliance on a schedule so you can save electricity. Some good energy monitoring smart plugs include the WeMo Insight Switch, Elgato Eve and D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug.

Scheduling ahead of time: Most smart plugs have options to set schedules for turning devices on or off at certain times. It’s a common feature, but you should still make sure your plug has it for convenience.

Surge protection: At a desk or entertainment center, a smart power strip with surge protection may be a better choice for you. Check out our list of the best surge protectors for a few great smart power strips that you can use here.

Additional outlets: If you’re short on outlets around the house, a smart plug with the ability to expand the number of ports on your outlet is a helpful choice.

Outdoor vs. indoor use: For outdoor use, some of our favorites include Maxcio, Kasa, and Meross (we have a list of the best outdoor plugs here). For indoor use, the ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 provides the most flexibility in the smart plug world. It is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple’s HomeKit and Siri, and Google Assistant. If none of those options suit you, it can work without any smart hub at all.

Dimming: You can use voice commands or your smartphone to get precise with your dimming. It’s just a matter of pairing a dimmable lamp with a smart plug that supports dimming, like this Leviton model.

Best Smart Plugs 2023

Amazon Smart Plug

Best smart plug for Alexa

Pros

  • Easy setup
  • Supports routines and schedule
  • Energy saving tips

Cons

  • No support for HomeKit or Google Assistant

Amazon’s very own smart plug seamlessly works with Alexa, and its Certified for Humans ranking means setup is as simple as plugging it in and following a few basic directions. Its design is narrow, so it leaves the other outlet free for use. You can set up routines and schedules through the Alexa app, while the Alexa energy dashboard provides recommendations on how to save energy.

Amazon Smart Plug

Amazon Smart Plug

Best smart plug for Alexa

Wemo Smart Plug with Thread.

Wemo Smart Plug with Thread

Most compact smart plug

Pros

  • Monitors and reports on electricity usage
  • Doesn’t require a hub to work
  • Includes Thread support

Belkin’s latest smart plug is a big improvement from its last version. It’s a compact option that can fit nearly anywhere and sports built-in compatibility with Siri. Made with the Apple HomeKit in mind, this plug is a great pick for Apple fans and those who are already using the Apple Home app.

This smart plug also includes support for Thread, part of the smart home Matter standard, which helps establish a more secure connection. That feature is useful for those who may be worried about hacking or who want the most reliable connection.

Belkin Wemo Smart Plug with Thread

Wemo Smart Plug with Thread

Most compact smart plug

connectsense in wall outlet ces 2018

ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2

Most versatile smart plug

Pros

  • Supports Apple HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Assistant
  • Doesn’t require a hub to work
  • Scheduling features

The ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 is one of the most versatile energy-monitoring smart plugs we’ve seen. It can be used with Apple HomeKit as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, or you can use it without any hub at all. It monitors your device’s energy usage in real time and displays reports on its app. It also has scheduling features so your fans, lights, heaters, and appliances are only on when you need them.

ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2

ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2

Most versatile smart plug

amazon discounts best seller smart home deals even more wemo mini plug

Wemo Mini Smart Plug

Best smart plug for security

Pros

  • Slim profile
  • Away Mode feature
  • Works with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant
  • Smart hub not required

Many smart plugs tend to block outlets with their bulky size. The Wemo Mini Smart Plug’s slim design is so trim, though, that you can plug two into one outlet. It also has some other handy features that you’ll enjoy, like its Away Mode which turns your lights, fans, and other items on and off at random times when you’re away to outsmart potential burglars. It also has a scheduling feature. The Mini is compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Home Kit, but as with the Insight Smart Plug, you can use it without an assistant or hub by just using its app.

Wemo Mini Smart Plug Single

Wemo Mini Smart Plug

Best smart plug for security

kasa wifi smart plug

Kasa

TP-Link — Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

Best budget smart plug

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Supports Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Use the app to create weekly schedules

Cons

  • Not compatible with Apple HomeKit

At about half the price of some of the other smart plugs on this list, the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug is a solid choice if you’re on a budget. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, or you can just use the app. Use the app to create schedules for powering your devices on and off for up to a full week.

TP-Link - Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

TP-Link — Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

Best budget smart plug

best google home smart plugs wyze plug 1


Wyze Smart Plug

Best smart plug ecosystem

Pros

  • Supports Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Vacation Mode
  • You can use IFTTT to link up the Wyze Smart Plug to other devices

Cons

  • Not compatible with Apple HomeKit

The Wyze Smart Plug is just slightly more expensive than the TP-Link WiFi Smart Plug, with a two-pack for just $20. On its own, the plug is just $12. It works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allows custom scheduling, and offers a Vacation Mode that imitates the presence of people in the home by randomly turning lights on and off. The Wyze Sense feature means you can control appliances based on motion, and you can link up the Wyze Smart Plug to other devices through IFTTT.

Wyze Smart Plug

Wyze Smart Plug

Best smart plug ecosystem

lutron caseta lifestyle

Lutron

Lutron Caseta Plug-In Lamp Dimmer Switch

Best smart plug for lamps

Pros

  • Supports Serena shades, Sonos, Alexa, and Google Assistant
  • Set schedules and create routines
  • Adjusts to seasonal changes

Cons

  • Little bulky
  • Lacks Apple HomeKit support

The Lutron Caseta Plug-In Lamp Switch is great for keeping your electric bill low and home security high. Controllable with Alexa, Google Assistant, Serena shades, and Sonos, you can dim lights, set schedules, and create lighting routines with voice commands or the Lutron app. The switch is also seasonally savvy, meaning as the days grow shorter or longer, the switch adjusts lamp light based on how much sun a room is getting. The unit itself is a little bulky, so you’ll want to make sure it’s not going to interfere with power brick items.

Lutron Caseta Smart Plug-In Lamp Dimmer Switch

Lutron Caseta Plug-In Lamp Dimmer Switch

Best smart plug for lamps

TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Strip

TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip

Best smart plug for charging devices

Pros

  • Alexa and Google Home compatibility
  • Six outlets for multiple devices
  • USB ports included

Of course, some people need more than just one or two smart plugs, especially if they want to monitor and control a larger system like a home theater or a computer desk. For these situations, the Kasa power strip is a must-have. Not only is it a surge protector, but each socket allows you to monitor energy uses or turn sockets on or off as needed. It’s even compatible with voice commands from assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant. Plus, the extra USB ports allow you to charge nearby devices. It’s the complete package for more complicated setups.

TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Strip 6 Outlet Surge Protector

TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip

Best smart plug for charging devices

emporia smart plug review plugs

Jon Bitner / Digital Trends

Emporia Smart Plugs

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Highly detailed energy reports
  • Easy-to-use smartphone app

If you’re looking for an affordable smart plug that makes it easy to monitor your electricity usage, look no further than the Emporia Smart Plugs. A four-pack can be purchased for just $35, and they offer a sleek design paired with heaps of functionality and an intuitive smartphone app. The best part of the app is its ability to generate all sorts of charts, which give you a comprehensive view of how each outlet in your home is drawing power. The biggest downside is a lack of HomeKit support – but that’s a minor drawback for an otherwise impressive device.

Emporia Smart Plug

Editors’ Recommendations






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