How to Automate Your Appliances with Smart Plugs
  • Category:
    Energy Efficiency
  • Published:
    October 15, 2018
  • Updated:
    June 18, 2020

The Best Smart Plug Ideas for Automating Your Home

Smart homes give homeowners control over everything from energy use to home security. But transitioning to an entirely automated home can be a little overwhelming. If you don’t already have a smart home hub, smart plugs might be the perfect compromise. Smart plugs (sometimes known as smart sockets or smart outlets) let homeowners turn any device into a smart device.

Smart plugs are an easy-to-use introduction to the world of home automation because they can function independently. But they can also easily integrate into home monitoring systems like Constellation Connect, which supports a number of Zigbee and Z-Wave smart outlets, including Constellation’s PowerPlug.

Once you discover the many common uses for smart plugs, you’ll get a feel for how making your home smarter can improve your life.

Pro Tip: Zigbee and Z-Wave are wireless technologies that can help your gadgets communicate with one another (instead of using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth) in a smart home.


What are smart plugs and what do they do?

So what are smart plugs, anyway? Looking a lot like travel adapters, these small devices turn any regular light or appliance into a smart appliance that can be controlled by an app or voice assistant. Some, like Constellation’s PowerPlug, can also monitor energy usage and control other smart devices. And the best part is how simple they are: All you do is plug any appliance into the smart plug and then plug the smart plug into the wall socket.

Smart plugs connect to an app on your smartphone via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, allowing you to control whatever appliance is connected to that plug, often without the need for a separate smart hub.

How to use a smart plug

Once connected to an appliance, smart plugs allow users to create “scenes.” Scenes are small IFTTT (If This Then That) programs that can adjust your lighting, coffee maker, washing machine and other appliances based on the time of day, the temperature or anything else your smartphone measures. The best smart plugs won’t sacrifice any wall outlets by taking up too much space, and different plug designs are available to accommodate different space requirements.


The Best Smart Plug Uses and Ideas

Best things to use smart plugs for
What are smart plugs for, exactly? Since smart plugs can control almost any device that uses electricity, they offer hundreds of possible solutions to the inventive homeowner. In fact, there are so many creative ways to use smart plugs that we bet you can add to this list of best things to use smart plugs for. Here are some of the best smart plug uses:

  • Lights. Try combining smart plugs with motion detectors to turn on lights when you enter a room. Or create scenes to adjust when outdoor or ornamental lights are in use. Or decrease the power consumption of your Christmas lights during the holidays. Pairing the PowerPlug with smart light bulbs saves you energy, conveniently allows you to control lights remotely and adds security by turning on lights when you’re away.
  • Smart thermostats. One of the benefits of a smart plug like the PowerPlug is that it can be used to control a compatible smart thermostat via its built-in hub. You can raise the temperature on a frosty morning without getting out of bed. Or you could schedule different temperatures when you’re out of the house to save energy.
  • Televisions and computers. One of the most common smart plug uses is to reduce energy consumption of power-hungry devices. Use scenes to monitor when computers and televisions receive power to create routines for children or to turn off devices at specific times.
  • Gaming systems. Gaming consoles are notorious for consuming energy even when turned off. Cutting off power at the plug can save you money.
  • Coffee makers. Connect your coffee maker to a smart plug and set a time for it to turn on, and you’ll wake up to fresh coffee every morning. Program your smart plug to decrease the coffee maker wattage or turn the pot off after a set amount of time.
  • Refrigerators. Monitor your freezer or refrigerator energy consumption. But be sure to check if the energy rating of your smart plug is safe to handle the energy needs of your refrigerator or freezer.
  • Washing machines. Receive notifications of when a cycle is finished and improve your washer’s energy usage by automating run times during off-peak hours.
  • Slow cookers. A common use for smart plugs is to have dinner ready when you get home by scheduling your slow cooker to turn on at a specific time of day. Check out these delicious Crock-Pot® recipes that save time and energy.
  • Battery chargers. Older battery rechargers don’t always have the most effective automatic shut-off features. Use a smart plug to turn off power after a set amount of time.
  • Space heaters. Smart plugs make a lot of sense for portable heaters. Aside from the convenience of turning them on remotely to warm a room before entering, you’ll also be able to monitor their energy use.
  • Sound systems. Controlling the music around your home is a wonderful convenience. But being able to turn on and off your sound system from anywhere can also add an element of security. You can deter break-ins by creating the illusion that someone’s home even if they aren’t.
  • Leak detectors. One of the top home insurance claims in the United States is water damage from a leak, which can cost thousands of dollars to fix. Among the best uses for a smart plug like Constellation’s PowerPlug is pairing it with a smart leak detector via its built-in hub. When the device detects standing water, you’ll receive an alert so you can take action right away.

Benefits of Smart Plugs

Benefits of using a smart plug

We’ve looked at some of the common uses for smart plugs, including energy monitoring and easy control of appliances. But there are many benefits of smart plugs:

  • Improve your home network connectivity. A smart plug can turn any of your existing appliances and electrical devices into smart objects that can communicate with other smart products in your home.
  • Turn appliances on and off remotely. Using the plug’s app, you can turn appliances on and off remotely and even check to see if you left an appliance running after you’ve left your home.
  • Monitor your energy use from anywhere in the world. You can monitor how much energy you’re using directly from your smartphone. Smart plugs will even notify you if a device suddenly starts using unusual amounts of energy.
  • Manage your energy use with easy scheduling. By creating scenes for your appliances, you can schedule when devices should shut down or start up. For example, you can use a scene as a smart home routine for children by only letting them use gaming consoles and televisions at certain times of day.
  • Eliminate vampire draw from your house. One of the best things to use smart plugs for is controlling “vampire draw.” Vampire draw, or phantom load, is the energy your devices suck up even when they’re not in use. Smart plugs can help you identify devices guilty of phantom load so you can save on your energy usage.
  • Appear at home while you’re away. Burglars often target homes by watching for signs that a home is empty. Smart plugs can be used to improve home security by turning lights and appliances on and off while you’re on vacation, making smart plugs a safe and effective way to look like you’re home while you’re away.
  • Control your devices with voice commands. One of the best smart plug uses is the ability to turn on hard-to-reach devices remotely. Smart plugs are among the many devices that work with Amazon Echo, Google Home and other smart hubs, so you can operate connected appliances by voice command.
  • Keep your home safe with smart plug temperature control. Are smart plugs safe to use, or will they cause wall sockets to overheat in homes with older wiring? The plugs themselves won’t increase the chance of overheating, and some smart plug models even monitor wall socket temperatures and will send you an alert if it gets too hot. You can even have the smart plug turn off the appliances automatically to decrease the risk of electrical fires.

Do smart plugs save energy?

So do smart plugs save energy, or are they responsible for their own energy load? It’s true that smart plugs draw a small current when they’re in standby mode, but it’s a very small amount of energy — only about 1 watt. And that means the overall effect on your energy consumption is negligible.

Also, the savings you gain by controlling devices known for high levels of phantom load, such as gaming consoles, more than make up for that. Used correctly, smart plugs can reduce your energy consumption by between 1% and 4.58%.

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The Best Smart Plug for Your Home

Best smart plug for your home

When choosing the best smart outlet for your home, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions. Is the smart socket easy to use? Can you add other devices to it? How will the smart plug save energy? You’ll also want to consider the price.

Constellation Connect PowerPlug

Constellation Connect’s PowerPlug is a two-in-one device: a smart plug and a smart home hub. The smart socket works with your home’s Wi-Fi so it can be controlled by the Constellation Connect app. But the PowerPlug also works as a control hub for other compatible Z-Wave smart devices in your home. It monitors energy use, it’s simple to use, you can add up to 30 compatible smart devices to it — and all at a very accessible price.

If you want to save energy, improve your lifestyle and live more securely, the PowerPlug is the most affordable, easy-to-use smart plug with a built-in hub on the market.

The benefits of using Constellation’s smart plug

What makes the PowerPlug the best smart outlet for homeowners is the wide range of benefits it provides at a low cost:

  • Save energy. By monitoring electricity usage on the app and creating settings to reduce energy use by connected smart devices, you can cut energy consumption.
  • Get real-time energy reports. You’ll get a report on the Constellation Connect app showing how much electricity a device is using in that moment.
  • Set it up in just a few simple steps. It couldn’t be easier. You plug the PowerPlug into the wall, download the Constellation Connect app and then plug whatever device you want into the PowerPlug. After that, you can pair it with as many compatible smart devices as you want via the app.
  • Control connected devices with your voice. You can connect your PowerPlug to your Amazon Echo or Google Home for voice control of your smart devices.
  • Make your life more convenient. Turn up the heat without getting out of bed. Dim the lights from the couch on movie night. The possibilities are limitless.
  • Use the PowerPlug anywhere there’s an AC outlet. The beauty of this smart socket is its flexibility. You can use it all over your home.
  • Keep from blocking the other opening in the wall outlet. The PowerPlug fits in the palm of your hand and is compact enough that you’ll still be able to use the other opening in the wall outlet.
  • Add up to 30 devices per PowerPlug. The PowerPlug is expandable technology. You can add up to 30 compatible devices from a selection of hundreds. Connect it to lights, door locks, sensors, thermostats and more. And it allows you to create an extended mesh network around your home for even more control.

Installing your PowerPlug

Setting up your PowerPlug is very simple and takes only a few minutes:

  1. Insert your PowerPlug into any AC outlet.
  2. Download the Constellation Connect smartphone app and follow the instructions for adding a new hub.
  3. Plug an appliance or device into the PowerPlug and see its energy usage immediately in the app.
  4. Start pairing devices to your smart plug, like smart light bulbs and appliances, via the smartphone app. The more you add, the bigger your network — and the more opportunities you have to control your home and save energy.

Which to Choose: Smart Plugs vs. Smart Switches

When considering smart lighting, you have to weigh the strengths of smart plugs versus smart switches and bulbs. Each device has its own pros and cons. Plugs and bulbs offer easy installation in contrast to smart dimmer switches, which must be wired into your home’s electrical system. On the other hand, smart switches offer more flexibility in your choice of light bulbs because they can control any kind, not just smart bulbs.

Smart plugs vs. smart bulbs

Smart LED lights can be used for both lamps and ceiling lights, but they may not come in the style you need for your light fixture. Additionally, installing smart bulbs in all your fixtures can be more expensive than using smart plugs or switches.

Smart plugs are best used with lamps and other lighting requiring a wall outlet. But the PowerPlug is also a control hub and can be used to control smart light bulbs that are connected to it.

Pro Tip: Don’t want to choose between smart plugs versus smart switches? You don’t need to! You can buy smart switches and plugs bundled together.

Smart plugs vs. smart dimmers

Smart dimmers are most often associated with smart switches, but smart plugs can also be used to dim and brighten lights. The PowerPlug, for instance, can wirelessly control the brightness of lights while also monitoring energy use.


Best Smart Plug Buying Tips

With multiple smart plugs on the market, how do you choose the best smart outlet for your needs? Here are some things to keep in mind!

  • Select a smart plug that works with your home. Smart plugs can function without a home automation hub, but if you have an existing home network, it makes sense to purchase plugs that are compatible with your system. If you’re planning on adding a smart home hub in the future but are unsure which type you want, choose smart plugs that integrate with multiple automation networks. Constellation’s PowerPlug works as both a smart plug and a home hub, but it can also be paired with an Amazon Echo or Google Home.
  • Look at smart plug specs and capacity. Have some idea what function your smart plugs will serve and understand the load capacity you need. For instance, homeowners often want smart plugs to control air conditioners, but air conditioners usually draw more power than the plugs can handle. Always check smart plug specs before buying. The PowerPlug can service large window AC units, providing up to a 110 volt supply (resistive: 15 amps, or 1,800 watts, maximum; 120 VAC).
  • Look for smart design. One of the best things to use smart plugs for is controlling devices from hard-to-reach outlets. As a result, plugs come in a variety of styles and shapes. Poorly designed plugs can block other outlets, so consider the shape of the plug you need, and look for smart plugs from trusted manufacturers. The PowerPlug sports a compact design that won’t block the other opening in your wall outlet.
  • Use smart plugs with devices already in your routine. What devices are part of your regular home routine? Are you a person who needs coffee within 10 seconds of waking up? Do you turn on the dishwasher in the morning or at night? The best smart plug uses can be determined by identifying the devices you use the most.
  • Consider UL-certified models. Are smart plugs safe? The answer is yes — provided you use models that are marked safe by nationally recognized testing laboratories like Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Like most products, some smart plugs can be made by untrustworthy brands, and these models may cause safety issues. You’ll be fine if you stick with UL-certified smart plugs. The PowerPlug is UL-certified and approved by the Better Business Bureau.

When it comes to convenience and energy efficiency, smart plugs are an important part of any home automation system. And with the PowerPlug, you can have the best of both worlds — a compact, portable smart outlet and a control hub, all in one. But whether you want to start simple with a smart plug or go all-in with a full smart home system like Constellation Connect, you’ll be able to take control of your home’s many electronic devices while reducing your energy consumption. And with the affordable options currently available, it’s never been a better time to make your house into a smart home.

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Comments ( 8 )

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Marlo - 1/3/2019

Very comprehensive.
I like smart plugs for safety benefits. Having a way to turn off devices with heating elements etc. while not at home, is a handy feature.

    Constellation Community Team - 3/8/2019

    Hi Marlo, we agree! Smart plugs are great for safety, in addition to their energy efficiency benefits.

Mary Sears - 11/29/2018

I WOULD OF BEEN NICE TO SEE THE PRICE RANGE SOMEWHERE IN THE BEGINNING OF THIS ARTICLE
IT GOOD IDEA TO MANAGE MY ELECTRICITY BUT PRICE NEEDS TO BE KNOWN FIRST

    Constellation Community Team - 1/23/2019

    Hi Mary, We’re sorry about the lack of cost analysis in our post. We understand the cost of the device compared to the total $ saved from using them might not fit with some energy budgets! We’ll be sure to address this in future posts, so that all readers will know what investment these home automation ideas involve.

James Herd - 11/29/2018

What thermostat can be controlled with your phone

    Constellation Community Team - 1/23/2019

    Hi James, there are many thermostats that can be controlled by your phone (called smart thermostats). Feel free to visit our resource on Smart Thermostats here!

Joe Mortensen - 11/29/2018

How do I find out the cost of the plugs?

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