5 Smart Plug Tips That Could Save You A Ton Of Money

If you've been hanging around the smart home world, you've probably heard a lot of buzz about smart plugs, or you might already own some. These nifty devices are easily one of the cheapest ways to convert your living space into a smart home. For as low as $8 apiece, you can turn any of your 'dumb' devices into devices that connect to the internet. 

For instance, if you have an old electric fan, plug it into a smart plug, and voila! You can start controlling it without having to go near it at all. Space heaters, coffee pots, toasters, and many more devices can be controlled from your smartphone or scheduled to power on at a specific time.

But more than just making your life easier, these smart devices are beneficial for another critical reason: energy conservation. We'll walk through five tips you can apply to your smart plugs to conserve energy use and save money.

Create a schedule for your appliances

Nothing can send your power bill through the roof more than appliances left on longer than needed. Say you turn the AC on to cool your room at night, but a regular fan would already be enough in the cold wee hours of the morning. Does that mean you have to get up at 2 a.m. to turn off your AC?

Of course not. Your smart plugs can do that for you. Just create a schedule for automatically turning your unit on and off, and you're good to go. The same is true for your other appliances. You can set schedules for phone chargers, space heaters, humidifiers, and air purifiers to turn off after a specific time. Since these are appliances you typically leave on longer than necessary, using them with smart plugs and schedules can be a significant game changer in your energy consumption.

Another practical use of schedules is if your energy provider uses a dynamic pricing policy. This means the price of your energy use depends on what time of day it is. For example, you might experience a higher rate during the peak hours of 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. and a lower rate from 12 midnight to 4 a.m. It will save a lot to schedule your appliances to turn off during peak hours.

Set a timer for your appliances

Setting a schedule for your appliances is great, but if you're looking for a more flexible method of saving energy, you might want to check out timers instead. Timers are perfect for situations when you want to cut your energy use but don't exactly need your appliances to turn on/off at the same time every day. Say you want to limit your TV usage to only 45 minutes. Schedules can be tricky since you don't know the exact time you'll watch TV, so instead, you can just set a timer for your duration of choice.

Timers will also be helpful for appliances that don't follow a strict use schedule, such as electric fans, phone chargers, and sound systems or speakers. Most smart plugs come with the timer feature right in their specific apps. But if yours doesn't, you can still create a timer by connecting your smart plug to your Google Home or Amazon Echo speaker, then asking your voice assistant to turn off the plug after a particular amount of time.

Automate your appliances

If you want a more advanced way of turning your smart plugs on and off, you can use automation instead of scheduling. This means your smart gadgets will automatically respond according to set triggers. For instance, a smart plug connected to your lights will turn on at sunset and off at sunrise. A trigger can also come from another smart device like your phone, so when you dismiss your alarm in the morning, the smart plug connected to your coffee maker will automatically switch on.

There are several methods to set up automation with your smart plugs. One of the easiest is with your Google Home or Amazon Echo smart speakers/displays. Both come with a Routines feature that activates actions (e.g., turning on/off your plug) based on the triggers you set (e.g., time, an action from another device, voice command). If you don't have a smart speaker/display, you can use If This Then That (IFTTT) instead. Connect your plugs to IFTTT directly and choose an applet (similar to Routines) that fits your needs.

Watch your energy consumption

So your home is packed with energy-hungry appliances, and you want to minimize the usage of the ones that consume the most electricity. Unfortunately, you don't know exactly which particular appliances those are. Usually, you'd have to resort to estimated calculation (like the one you can find on the US Department of Energy website) or, worse, guesswork. But with smart plugs, monitoring each appliance's energy use is a breeze. Some already come with energy monitoring capabilities, allowing you to check your consumption with just a few taps on your phone.

Connect your appliance of interest to the smart plug and leave it on for as long as usual. If you typically have your portable heater on for four hours a day, use it with the plug for the same duration. Afterward, check your app to see how many kilowatts the appliance has consumed. You can then repeat this process for the other appliances until you find your energy-hungry culprits. From there, you can plan how to lessen your use of these devices.

Energy consumption monitoring will also come in handy when you want to purchase more energy-efficient appliances for your home. Knowing which devices eat the most electricity, you'll quickly pinpoint which ones to replace.

Control your appliances remotely

How often have you gone to work or school and realized that you left your curling iron plugged in or your toaster turned on? When left unattended, this type of appliance would drive up your electric bill and potentially start a fire.

Thankfully, with the help of smart plugs, you can quickly turn them off from essentially anywhere. Whether you're visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris or just on the bus to work, all you need to do is open up the app and check if the plug you're worried about is on or off. Then, with a quick push of a button, you can save money and energy while avoiding potential disasters. This is useful for fire hazards and other things you usually forget to turn off, such as lights, the TV, and phone chargers.

Aside from saving you money, being able to control your smart plugs remotely comes with a bunch of other benefits. You can use it to turn on your coffee maker while still in bed, so you already have a freshly brewed cup when you come to the kitchen. It's also handy for tricking burglars and intruders into thinking you're home when you're really on vacation. Go to the app and turn on a speaker or lights to make it seem like someone's inside.