Asmart plug is a device that installs between your electrical outlet and just about any other device. Once installed, you can turn devices on and off via your smartphone, or with voice assistants like Alexa and Siri. You can also schedule on or off times with associated apps, like starting the coffee while still in bed or turning on the porch lights at sunset.

At their most basic level, smart plugs (also referred to as smart outlets) are switches that you control wirelessly. More advanced plugs add additional smart-home features like energy usage monitoring, built-in nightlights, and more home automation perks via your WiFi network.

What can smart plugs do?

Smart plugs can work lights, fans, and appliances by voice and app command, from within the home or from remote locations. They also deliver expanded convenience to let you set up zones that control multiple devices at once as part of your smart-home setup.

1. Control any device

Just about any plug-in electronic device can gain “smart” capabilities with the addition of a smart plug. Floor lamps and table lamps are a popular choice, as are coffee makers, TVs, computers, gaming systems, washer/dryers, and slow cookers. If you can turn it on and off and it’s not a hard-wired wall outlet, you can add a smart plug.

2. Add voice or app control

Once set up, you can control your smart-plugged device via voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple iOS’s Siri. One of the biggest benefits of smart plugs is grouping devices together. For instance, you could connect all the lights in one room to one voice command, and just say something like “Alexa, turn on the living room.”

Some people set schedules for movie night, dinner time, bedtime, or morning. The biggest ease-of-use boost comes when you replace five or six wall and device switches with WiFi smart plugs.

3. Increase home security

Most smart plugs, like the TP-Link HS105 Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini, let you set timers and schedules. You can turn on your porch and living room lights at sunset, or make it seem like someone is home when you’re out of town to thwart potential burglars. Some smart-home devices, like the Etekcity Voltson Smart Wi-Fi Outlet, have built-in nightlights for added convenience.

4. Shrink your carbon footprint

Some smart plugs and apps, like the Oomi Z-Wave Smart Plug-In Outlet and the Topgreener Heavy-Duty Smart Wi-Fi Plug-In Outlet, add energy monitoring. This lets you track how much power a device uses over days or weeks, giving you ideas for how to save money on energy bills. These gadgets can also give access to hard-to-reach switches. Just think of how great it could be to automate that basement light you leave on all the time because the switch isn’t easily accessible, or holiday lights you forget to unplug during that special time of year.

5. Keep you connected

Some specialty smart plugs, like the Ubiquiti Networks UniFi SmartPower Plug, can sense a break in your home’s internet connection and restart your WiFi router. That saves you a troubleshooting step every time your connection drops.

What’s the best smart plug?

The best smart plug is the one that fits your specific needs. They come in all sizes and feature sets. Some, like the Eve Energy Strip, offer multiple smart plugs in one smart power strip, which also boasts surge protection.

One of the first things to consider is compatibility with voice assistants.

  • For iPhone families, look for devices compatible with Apple HomeKit.
  • If you have mostly Google (Android) devices, you want to check for Google Assistant compatibility.
  • If you own any of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled devices, like Amazon Echo Show or Echo Dot, you’re in luck, because they’re compatible with the vast majority of smart plugs. 

Another important consideration is if the smart plug connects to your home’s WiFi directly, or if it needs a “home hub.” That’s a small device that works as a go-between, talking to both your WiFi router and any compatible smart devices. Most smart plugs won’t need a hub, but it’s worth looking into.