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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.


    Shopping Guide for Best Smart Plugs

    Many people like the idea of smart devices, but no one wants to go out and buy all new appliances. If you’re looking for a means of adding smart capabilities to some of your existing electronics, you’ve come to the right place.

    In many scenarios, a smart plug can provide the functionality you want, without replacing everything in the house. Plug a device into the smart plug, and it’s now connected to your WiFi network, allowing you to control it with an app, and sometimes even with voice commands.

    If you need to know more about your your options for buying smart plugs, BestReviews is here to help. We delve deep into multiple product categories, including tech gadgets like smart plugs. We perform extensive research and testing to give you the information you need for a smart purchase. You can always trust our recommendations and product information, because we don’t accept free samples from manufacturers. Read on for our guide to smart plugs.

    Smart plugs will not plug into very old outlets; they require a three-prong, grounded outlet.

    Check the Switch

    Smart plugs greatly simplify home automation, and at a cheaper price than replacing all your devices, but they only give you partial control over certain appliances. The primary function of a smart plug is to simply turn the electricity on and off — a great feature for lamps, but not what you need to make your refrigerator “smarter.”

    Once you connect a device to the smart plug, the type of switch on the device determines how much control you’ll have.

    Types

    Mechanical Switch

    If you have a device that makes use of a mechanical switch, it will work fully with a smart plug. The mechanical switch can be a physical toggle switch with an “on” side and an “off” side, just like a light switch. Or a mechanical switch can be a knob that you turn like on a floor lamp.

    If you’re unsure what you have, try plugging in and turning on the device. Then unplug it for few seconds before plugging it back into the outlet. If it turns on again without you touching the switch when you plug it in, the switch is mechanical.

    This means you’ll be able to turn it on and off with with your smart plug app. Just plug the device into your smart plug, leave the device on, and control the power via the smart plug app.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Most smart plugs have an indicator light to let you know whether they’re powered on.

    Types

    Electronic Switch

    An electronic switch is usually a single button that you press to both turn on and off the device. To test a device, follow the same steps we outlined earlier. If the device does not turn back on when you plug it in again, it has an electronic switch.

    The electronic switch always reverts to the off position whenever it loses power. So, when it’s plugged into a smart plug, and the smart plug cuts the power to it, the device with the electronic switch reverts back to the off position. This means you’d have to manually press the button on the device to turn it on again.

    You can use this device with a smart plug, as you can turn it off with a smart plug app. However, you cannot turn it back on later with the app.

    EXPERT TIP

    Look for a smart plug with a USB port on the side, if you’d like to control the charging of mobile devices.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Features

    Smart plugs do offer a few features in addition to their basic on and off functionality.

    • “Away” Mode

    Smart plugs with “away” mode offer a bit of extra home security by providing the illusion that someone is home. When set to this mode, the plug turns on and off at different times throughout the day. If the plug controls a light, from the outside it appears that your house is occupied, which may deter intruders.

    • Energy Monitoring

    Ever wonder how much electricity a certain appliance is using during the day? Many smart plug apps can help track the power usage.

    • Scheduling

    Through the app that controls the smart plug, you may be able to schedule the smart plug to turn on and off at exact times.

    Some smart plugs are really large, covering up both slots in your wall outlet. To save space, look for smart plugs designed to be low profile.

    Smart Plugs FAQ

    Q. What makes a plug “smart”?

    A. The smart plug connects to your WiFi network, allowing you to control the connected device remotely, and schedule it to meet your daily patterns.

    Q. How does the smart plug control my device’s power switch?

    A. The smart plug doesn’t actually control the power switch itself. When you plug an electrical appliance into a smart plug, you also switch the appliance to the “on” position. That switch is actually on all the time. To control the device, you turn the smart plug on and off through the smartphone app, rather than turning the actual appliance on and off.

    Q. How important is compatibility?

    A. If you already use some smart home devices or a networking system, check for compatibility with your smart plug options. If all your devices work through the same system, you’ll only have to manage scheduling in one app.

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