Pretty much every company that dabbles in smarthome technology sells their own smart plug. With so many choices, it can be hard to choose the best one to use with your lamps and other appliances.
Luckily, smart plugs are pretty simple devices—you plug stuff into them and control them remotely from your smartphone (or using a voice assistant). So, there are really only a few things you need to keep in mind when shopping around for one.
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Energy Usage Monitoring
Some smart plugs keep track of how much power your appliances use, and even automatically calculate how much that power costs you if you enter your electric company’s rates.
This kind of feature can be great if you’re plugging in something like a space heater or other appliance that uses up a lot of electricity—sometimes you don’t really know just how much these devices are costing you over the long run until you take a closer look.
However, if you’re just plugging in a lamp or even a small fan, energy usage monitoring isn’t all that important. In any case, you won’t really be paying more for the privilege of energy usage monitoring, but it will narrow down your choices.
Smart plugs come in all different shapes and sizes, but deciding how big or small you want your smart plug comes down to one thing, which is whether or not it will block the second outlet receptacle.
A lot of newer smart plugs are designed to be a bit smaller than older ones, making room for that other receptacle on an outlet. Of course, there are still ways around it if you end up getting a larger smart plug that takes over the whole outlet, but if you’re shopping around for a new smart plug, consider its size if you plan on plugging anything else into that same outlet.
Can It Link to Other Products & Services?
If you have a smarthome hub or use a voice assistant of some kind (say, Alexa or Google Assistant), you’ll want to make sure that the smart plug you’re getting can work with whatever you want to connect it to.
For example, Belkin WeMo switches don’t work with Wink’s smarthome hub. So if you were planning on including these plugs into your larger smarthome scheme via the hub, you’d be out of luck there. Similarly, Eufy’s smart plugs don’t work with IFTTT, which lets you do a whole lot of things with your various smarthome devices.
Most smart plugs that we’ve come across, though, do work with Alexa or Google Assistant. Of course, all of this is only important if don’t plan on using the smart plug’s app to control the device. Even if you do plan on using mostly the app, it’s still worthwhile to look at what else is supported, so you have more options if you change your mind.
The App Is Just As Important
It’s great if the smart plug itself works well, but the accompanying app that you control it with is just as important, if not more so.
All smart plugs are roughly the same—you plug something into them and you can control it remotely from your smartphone. That’s dandy and all, but a smart plug is only as good as its app interface, which varies wildly depending on the brands you’re looking at.
Most smart plug apps come with the basics, though, including setting on/off schedules, timers, away modes, and more. It mostly comes down to how easy the app is to use and whether or not it works well in the first place. For instance, Belkin’s WeMo app comes with all the features you’d want in a smart plug app, but it’s also a bit slow and laggy for our tastes.
So Which One Should You Buy?
Honestly, if you’re not too picky about features and just want a simple smart plug that works, you could literally just print off a list of smart plug models and throw a dart at it to choose one.
If energy usage monitoring is your jam, though, there are a few worth looking into, namely Belkin’s WeMo Insight Switch and Eufy’s Smart Plug Mini. TP-Link’s Kasa smart plug also comes with energy usage monitoring, but it doesn’t include automatic cost calculation, whereas Belkin and Eufy both offer this feature.
If you’re just looking for the cheapest smart plug out there, you’ll find a lot of low-cost options on Amazon from unknown brands, like this one from Gosund which is only $14. However, if you want to stick to name brands, Eufy’s smart plug is only $20. TP-Link’s model is $25, but you can get a two pack for $40 (which essentially lets you buy them for just $20 each).