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Smart plugs are one of the most popular smart home devices because of how cheap they are to buy and are a great first step into building a smart home.
Many people will use them for simply turning on and off a lamp through the app or by using their voice, but they have so much more potential that isn’t being recognized.
They allow you to remotely control pretty much anything that plugs into a mains outlet so with a bit of imagination and perhaps some trial and error, you’ll find lots of useful automations you can set up that make life more convenient as well as saving time and money.
Here are 23 creative uses for smart plugs you may not have considered that I hope will give you some ideas on how you can make better use of your own smart plugs.
1. Stop Overcharging Your Smartphone
Many people get into the habit of plugging their smartphone in and leaving it to charge overnight, but will keeping the phone charging when it is already at 100% affect its lifespan?
Your phone is capable of knowing when it is fully charged and stop the incoming current but charging your phone as little as possible is going to provide the battery with a longer lifespan.
The general recommendation is to keep your phone’s battery between 20% and 80% for longevity, so you could use a smart plug on a schedule to automate your phone charger being off or on.
A couple of test runs will give you a good idea of generally how long it takes to charge your phone, so you can account for this when setting up your smart plug schedule.
2. Show Energy Usage
Some smart plugs can monitor the energy usage of the device plugged into it.
This could be a great way to narrow down whether there are any devices you use on a regular basis that are contributing towards a higher energy bill than you would like.
Knowing this, you can decide whether a particular appliance is worth replacing with a more energy efficient one or know which appliance to keep connected to the smart plug so you can easily turn it off when it isn’t being to reduce its standby power consumption.
3. Time for Homework
The TV can be a huge distraction for kids, especially when it is time to do their homework.
Connect your TV to a smart plug to give you more control over when the TV is available to them. If the kids have to do their homework or chores at a certain time of day, you could setup a schedule to automatically power off the TV for a certain length of time during the weekdays.
You could setup a similar routine to power off the TV when it is time for bed and keep it powered off throughout the night.
4. Deter Intruders
A good way to deter burglars from entering your home when you are away is to make them think that someone is inside.
This is simple to setup with just a single smart plug and a lamp near one of the windows at the front of the house.
Connect the lamp to the smart plug and then set timers for when the lamp will come on automatically at night. This creates the illusion that someone is there and will likely make the burglar re-think whether it is worth trying to enter your home.
5. Get Dinner Ready Whilst at Work
Slow cookers are great, but they sure can be confusing.
Some meals take 8 hours to cook on a low setting, but only 4 on high.
If you wanted your dinner ready for you when you get home from work, the slow cooker would need turning on part way through the day when you are already at the office.
If you know how long the slow cooker will take to cook your meal and when you want to eat it, connect it up to a smart plug and set a reminder to remotely power it on. This way your meal will be perfectly cooked just in time for you to get home.
6. Stop That Beeping Microwave
If you have one of those microwaves that won’t stop beeping every 30 seconds after it has finished heating or defrosting, a smart plug can help by cutting the power it to when it is done.
Yes, the best way to stop the beeping may be to just get the food out and power the microwave off manually, but that’s no fun.
Instead with a smart plug you can tell your voice assistance to shut the microwave up and collect your food when you’re good and ready.
7. Turn on Your Home Office
Anyone with a home office likely has a lot of mains powered devices that all need turning on. This doesn’t take a particularly long time but can still be made much quicker using a smart plug.
It’s as easy as plugging everything into a power strip and then plugging the power strip into a smart plug.
Using the app or a voice command, you can have everything you need turn on together and be ready for you to start using.
A couple of ways to improve on this automation further would be to have everything power on and off in accordance with your working hours or to have everything power itself off when you leave the house using IFTTT and geo-fencing.
8. Washing is Done
If you have a smart plug with power monitoring built-in, you can have it send a notification to your phone when the power usage falls below a pre-set point.
Connect your washer or dryer to one of these smart plugs and you’ll be notified as soon as it is finished. You can go and collect the laundry whilst knowing that you aren’t wasting electricity on an appliance being left on unnecessarily.
As well as sending a simple notification to your phone, you could also integrate this with some of your other smart home devices. For example, you could have your smart lights blink a certain color to indicate that the washing is done and ready to collect.
9. Automate Your Greenhouse
Having a greenhouse requires lots of maintenance and making sure everything is set perfectly otherwise plants can literally die.
Heaters, vents and misting all need to be controlled according to the temperature and humidity inside the greenhouse, whilst certain plants are also very fussy. Some will die if they the temperature falls or rises too much whilst others need to be moist enough otherwise, they too will die.
Using smart thermometers, you can easily monitor the greenhouses’ temperature and humidity. Combine this with smart plugs to automatically adjust the temperature and humidity to provide the plants with the best conditions they need to survive.
10. Eggs Ready For Breakfast
This will require you to put your eggs in the egg cooker the night before, but it will still save you valuable time in the morning when it comes to cooking your breakfast.
Connect your electric egg cooker to a smart plug to have it power itself on when you start your morning routine by issuing a command to your voice assistant.
You can then let the eggs cook themselves whilst you jump in the shower so they are perfectly cooked for you when you get out.
11. Better Garage Lighting
Garage lighting is often quite harsh and there are very few smart lights available in the baton shape you would typically find a garage.
I use my garage as a home gym and often don’t want the bright light on when I am working out, so a solution could be to run a light strip around the garage and have it connected by a smart plug.
Even if it was a “dumb” light strip, I could still automate it coming on through the smart plug. Setting up a motion sensor in the garage would also allow me to have the light strip turn itself on whenever I am in there and then turn itself off when I leave.
12. Control the Christmas Lights
One of the most common uses for smart plugs, but a creative one nonetheless, is to have them power on all your Christmas lights.
Whether you have lights on the Christmas tree or lights outside to brighten up your house, you could have them all power on automatically with a simple voice command or by using the app.
If you have a habit of forgetting to turn them off at night when you go to bed, setup a schedule to automatically cut the power at a certain time in the day so you aren’t wasting electricity.
13. Remote Access to Your PC
There could come a time where you find yourself needing remote access to your PC and there is no else at home to power it on for you.
By connecting your PC to a smart plug, you could have it power on through the app where it will soon become available for you to connect to remotely.
14. Fish Tank Lighting
Having lighting setup within your fish tank is a great way of making it a point of interest in the room and can be a great conversation starter when you have guests round.
Connect the lighting system to a smart plug and have it come on according to a schedule saves you having to remember to do it.
Have the schedule also turn the lights off at night to save you wasting money on electricity when there won’t be anyone up to look at the fish anyway.
15. Limit Internet Access for the Kids
You’ll need a separate network set aside for the kids with the use of a Wi-Fi extender in order to set this up. That is, of course, unless you want to limit Internet access for yourself too.
You need to plug the extender into the smart plug to gain control over when the kids can access the Internet. It’s as simple as providing power to the smart plug when you want to allow them access.
Just remember that you will need to make sure that all the devices the kids use are connected to this separate network for this to work.
16. Hard to Reach Outlets
I know that in the grand scheme of things it isn’t that much hassle but having to get on your hands and knees and stretch your arm behind a cupboard to switch on an outlet does soon become a chore.
Plugging a smart plug in those hard to reach outlets makes it easy for everyone, especially those that wouldn’t normally be able to reach it and have to keep asking you to do it for them!
17. Automatic Pet Feeder
I know from experience that it is hard enough to go to work leaving your pets at home on their own all day long, but it is made even worse when you don’t think you will be home on time to feed them.
There are timed pet feeders available, but you can take this one step further by having a pressure triggered feeder connected to smart plug.
You could setup a schedule to automatically dispense the food at certain times whilst also having the option to manually turn it on wherever you may be at the time.
18. Warm up Cold Spaces
Smart thermostats do a fantastic job at letting you control your home’s heating system, but what about spaces that need to be heated by a portable heater? You could have a shed or an attic space where you like to spend time, but the cold can put you off from using it.
Connect a small heater to a smart plug and remotely give it power in advance. This way the space should be nice and warm ready for when you arrive.
Space heaters can consume quite a lot of power, so do make sure that the smart plug you are using can cope with the wattage of the heater. It would also be worth not setting the heater temperature too high and not leaving it on for too long; just long enough to heat up the room would be best.
19. Electric Toothbrush Charging
I’m notorious for letting my electric toothbrush run out of charge and must resort to using a manual one; this is where a smart plug can come in handy.
Connect your toothbrush charging station to a smart plug and setup a schedule to have it automatically power on overnight so it is ready for you in the morning.
Electric toothbrushes don’t typically take too long to charge, so just remember to have the schedule stop providing the charging station with power after a few hours.
20. Automate Air Fresheners
If you have some mains powered air fresheners, having them be triggered at certain times of the day through a smart plug schedule is a great way of helping keep your home smelling fresh.
Combine this with a fan that is also powered by a smart plug to help move the scent around the room.
This is definitely one of those “set it and forget it” automations and one of my favorite uses for a smart plug.
21. Schedule the White Noise Generator
If you use a white noise generator to help you fall asleep at night, you could use a smart plug to have it automatically turn on when you got bed and turn off when you wake up.
If you are using your voice assistant as an alarm clock, you could set up a routine to power on the white noise machine when you start your wind down routine in the evening and then power it off when the alarm clock goes off in the morning.
22. Control Your Cameras
Having a few smart security cameras around your home is an excellent way to improve home security and gives you the opportunity to monitor your home from wherever you are.
They aren’t always the easiest to control whether they are recording, though.
A smart plug is the solution as it will allow you to cut the power when you don’t want it recording it but also power it back on when you do need it to keep an eye on things.
Although a simple way to achieve this would be to manually use the app to turn the plug on or off, you could also setup a command with your voice assistance.
Other options are to have the camera turn itself on when the smart door lock on your front door is locked or use IFTTT and geo-fencing to turn it on when you leave the house and off again when you return home.
23. Automate the Lawn Sprinklers
Another case where IFTTT can save time and money is by having a smart plug control your lawn sprinklers, with them only coming on if certain conditions are met.
A useful automation to setup would be for the smart plug that is connected to your sprinkler system to only be given power when the weather forecast shows that it is not due to rain that day.
Of course, if the forecast is wrong, you can still turn on and off the sprinkler system through the app or through a simple voice command.
I hope these uses for smart plugs sparked some inspiration for you on how you can start to make better use of your smart plugs.
Some of my personal favorite uses are receiving a notification when the clothes washing is done, having all my home office equipment power on through a single voice command, and monitoring the energy usage of certain devices to help decrease my electricity bills.