What's better than automating your appliances? How about giving the gift of automating your appliances. A smart plug is going to make a great gift this holiday season, for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is that everyone is able to use them. Whether they live in an apartment, a condo or a house. Which makes it one of the more popular items in the smart home world, since other items like a smart thermostat can't be installed in most apartments due to it being against their lease agreement. On top of that, a smart plug is cheap and works with everything.
A smart plug can be very versatile. You can use it to make an old lamp smart, and control it with your phone. Or you could use it to turn on/off the Christmas tree this holiday season, even use it to control your microwave and unplug it when you don't need it, so that you are saving some energy and some cash. It can really be used for anything.
Now there are two different smart plugs you should look at. Some of the older ones like the TP-Link HS100 are larger, and will cover up your second outlet, basically limiting you to just one outlet. But there are newer ones like the Wemo Smart Plug Mini, which doesn't cover up both, so you can still use both of your outlets. Definitely something to pay attention too, whether you are buying them for yourself or for someone on your list this holiday season. These do both work the same, but are constructed different, so the Wemo Smart Plug Mini is longer while the TP-Link HS100 is taller. So you do still get all of the same functionality out of both models.
Most of the smart plugs out there work with Alexa and Google Assistant, while some will work with one over the other. This means you can use your voice to control these products. So say you have a living room lamp plugged in, you can ask Alexa to "turn off the living room lamp" and she'll turn it off for you. While the smart plug is pretty versatile, the functionality of Alexa or Google Assistant with the smart plugs are actually not that versatile. You basically have the option of turning the item on or off, and that's about it. But you can do it with your voice, which is pretty convenient, especially if you don't want to fumble with your phone to get into the app and turn it off.
Many smart plugs also have energy monitoring available. What this means is that you can see how much energy the item that is plugged in is using. That will also translate into how much you are spending per day, month or year. So you can see whether you should turn off your gaming console at night, instead of leaving it in standby, and save some more cash. And to take this a bit further, you can also set a schedule or a timer, on these smart plugs. So you can set them to automatically turn on at a certain time, or turn off at a certain time. This is again, very useful for a lamp. You can set it to turn on at 5pm when the sun goes down, so that your home isn't completely dark when the sun goes down in the afternoon. This will help you save some energy, while also keeping the lights on at home.
A number of smart plugs out there namely the Wemo smart plugs, also have a Home/Away mode. What this does is, when you are away, it will automatically turn on whatever is plugged in, at random times throughout the day. So it simulates someone being home. This is a good thing to have when you are on vacation and don't want would-be robbers coming out and potentially robbing your home while you are away. Wemo's Smart Plug Mini does this by syncing with your Nest Thermostat, which can turn off the heat or AC (depending on the time of year) and also save you some energy while you're out of town).
While a smart plug may be a pretty small gift to give this holiday season, it is going to be a great one to give out. And there are a ton of options out there to choose from. One of the more interesting ones available is the Greeni SURGE. This is actually a smart surge protector, it includes four AC outlets as well as four USB outlets. And it works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for under $40. That's a great price really, considering a regular smart plug with one outlet, will cost about that much. Now some other choices include the iDevices Switch. It is a smart plug, but also has a light on it, which can work as a nightlight. So it's a great smart plug to put into a child's room, in case they are still afraid of the dark. The light on the plug can be turned off, but it can also be changed to different colors. One more option includes the TP-Link Smart Plug Mini. It's similar to the Wemo model we talked about earlier, but it's a bit smaller, and it is also offered in a two-pack for a pretty decent price. That way you can outfit that entire outlet with some WiFi and be all set.
Of course, these are really only a few of the many, many smart plugs that are on the market right now. There are literally hundreds of different models out there right now, at different price points, different sizes and even different features. But the feature-set that almost all of them share is the fact that they work with Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as monitoring energy usage. Which is a pretty nice feature to have, especially if you or you know someone, that might be looking to go green.