A high-tech home doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Smart plugs (and power outlets) are an easy and affordable way to upgrade ordinary appliances, lighting, and any other electronics into smart home devices that you can control straight from your smartphone. While installing and using these plugs is relatively simple, choosing which one is right for you is no easy task. To help you out, we’ve rounded up the best smart plugs and power outlets we’ve tested, along with a few tips to consider when automating your home.
What Is a Smart Plug?
Let’s make this clear: Whether they’re marketed as smart switches, smart outlets, or any variation thereof, smart plugs are ultimately plug-in outlets (or power strips). They plug directly into a wall outlet or traditional power strip, and have their own outlet you then plug into with the device you want to automate. You’re not gaining or losing any outlets by plugging one in—you’re simply making an existing outlet smart by connecting it to your home Wi-Fi network.
With that in mind, the first thing to consider is where you want to place your smart plug. While most are svelte enough to fit next to one another in your typical wall outlet, not all of them are, and power strips are a different story entirely. If you have a crowded power strip, it’s important to consider where the plug’s outlet is located. Some feature outlets on the side. Layouts like this can be easier or more difficult to access depending on the type of power strip you’re using and where it’s located.
What Does a Smart Plug Do?
Once you’re sure a smart plug will fit properly in your home, it’s important to consider what it can do. Every plug we’ve tested lets you use your phone to turn control power—so if you’ve plugged in a lamp, for instance, you can turn it on or off no matter where you are. And most smart plugs also offer some form of scheduling. If you simply want to turn your connected coffee machine on at the same time every weekday morning, you can do that with any of the plugs on this list.
Scenes (this is the term most often used, but it might vary) let you program several devices to interact with each other. Some let you program scenes based on conditions such as temperature, humidity, and sunrise or sunset times. Others have preset “away” scenes for when you’re on vacation, that turn connected devices on and off to make it look like someone is home. Scene options vary from plug to plug, so it’s good to keep in mind what automation options fit your lifestyle.
If you’re concerned about the environment or hoping to save a few bucks, look for a plug that supports energy monitoring. Just keep in mind that the energy data collected isn’t uniform across all plugs. Some provide a detailed breakdown of how long your device has been on over the entire day, your daily average “on” time, your (estimated) monthly and daily power costs, and your average power usage in watts. Others simply give a cursory overview of hours used over a period of time. And many don’t report power usage at all.
Features aside, installation and app design are also major factors. Luckily, pretty much all the plugs we’ve tested are easy to install—you basically just plug them in and connect them to an app on your phone. App quality, on the other hand, varies. We take a close look at each plug’s companion app in our reviews, and consider its usability in our rating.
What Is the Best Smart Plug to Buy?
Ultimately, the best smart plug for you is the one that easily interacts with the products you already have, especially any smart speakers and smart displays. For example, if you like Siri or are an avid iPhone user, you’ll get the best experience from a plug that supports Apple’s HomeKit protocol. Similarly, if you already use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, make sure to get a plug that supports your voice assistant of choice.
Some plugs feature native support for a particular brand of smart home products, while others can interact with nearly anything via IFTTT. We’ve noted which features are supported by each plug in the chart below to help determine which one best fits your needs.
So if you can’t settle on a family of smart light bulbs, or you don’t want to shell out big bucks for a set of new connected kitchen appliances, consider connecting the products you already own with a smart plug. Whether you’re just dipping a toe into smart home tech, or you’re a pro at writing your own IFTTT applets, smart plugs make it simple and affordable to automate just about anything in your home.