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Smart Outlets and Plugs: A Guide For Homes

By Kelly Isley Rise Writer
Apr 5, 2021

Adding smart functionality to your home is easy when you have the right products. But with a crowded marketplace, how do you know what to pick? Smart outlets are a cost-effective solution if you are ready to convert everything from your connected television to your phone charger. Smart plugs are a brilliant first step to take when updating your personal space. They can be used by just about anyone — homeowners or renters. Ready to learn more? Follow along as we take a closer look at the best smart outlets and plugs for today, new products, and their benefits.

Table of Contents

  1. What Are Smart Outlets and Plugs?
  2. How Do You Install Smart Outlets and Plugs?
  3. Do Smart Outlets and Plugs Save Energy?
  4. What Are the Best Brands of Smart Outlets and Plugs?
  5. Looking Ahead and New Smart Products 
  6. What Are the Benefits of Smart Plugs and Outlets?
  7. What Are the Cons of Smart Outlets and Plugs?
  8. Bringing It All Together
Kasa Wifi Plug Amazon
Kasa Wifi Plug. Photo Credit: Amazon

What Are Smart Outlets and Plugs?

Smart outlets are an inexpensive way to turn your everyday appliances and fixtures into smart devices. With a smart outlet, you can turn your appliances off and on from your phone or (in certain situations) your voice by using: Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Home Pod, or a host of other devices. If you are searching for something less complicated, there is another way to make dozens of your electronics a little more intelligent, and that's smart plugs.

Smart plugs give you capable control over your home appliances while connected to a power outlet. Like standard smart home devices, they give you remote control from almost anywhere in the world, but they are more affordable than purpose-built smart home products.

Emporia Outlet
Emporia Smart Plug

How Do You Install Smart Outlets and Plugs?

For smart plugs, set up is easy. You insert your smart plug into any standard electrical outlet and add a fan, lamp, or other devices. Then just set it up with an app, and everything is ready to go.

If you install smart outlets, you do not need to take a programming class or have a professional electrician on speed dial to set them up. They come instantly enabled with little effort, cut the power to the desired outlet, remove the old one by disconnecting the wires, and swap in the new one.

Iris Smart Plug Lowes
Iris Smart Plug. Photo Credit: Lowes

Do Smart Outlets and Plugs Save Energy?

A positive aspect of using smart plugs is cutting energy costs. When appliances use smart plugs, you can set their schedule to turn off and on to fit your needs. For example, a household may program one smart plug to switch on their clothes dryer or pool filter only at low peak times, when electricity is less expensive to purchase.

Another instance could be someone who uses a small heater in their home during the winter months. Space heaters typically warm up a room quickly — but many older models don't have effective thermostatic control or energy efficiency. So once the room reaches the desired temperature, the heater needs to be turned off to avoid becoming too warm.

Using a smart plug can automatically switch the heater off after a certain amount of time. Smart outlets and plugs can control lights, televisions, air conditioners, fans, water heaters, electric blankets, and many other appliances. This ensures that devices only work when needed to reduce energy consumption when not in use.

Phantom Power

Slashing Phantom Power

Do you know that many of your devices and appliances are still using energy even when they are off?

When they are 'off,' the power electronics use while in standby mode is called 'vampire or phantom power.' Based on NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) research, this can account for up to 25 percent of the power used by electronics in your home.

When it comes to phantom power, the worst energy thieves: electronics like televisions, streaming devices, DVD players, game consoles, computers, monitors, printers, WiFi modems, phone chargers, speakers, air conditioning units, blenders, microwaves, and other appliances.

How can smart plugs help? By plugging devices into a smart plug, your household can make sure your appliances switch off altogether when not in use, rather than going into standby mode—because the power is off.

What Are the Best Brands of Smart Outlets and Plugs?

Here is a shortlist of the best smart plugs on the market today:

  • Kasa's Smart Plug, Smart Power Strip and Outdoor Plug, and
  • Emporia Smart Plugs
  • Wyze Smart Plug
  • GE Z-Wave

Read about each one below.

Kasa Smart Plug
Kasa Smart Plug. Photo Credit: Kasa


Kasa makes several products that we have found to be very reliable, including:

  1. Kasa Smart WiFi Plug Mini (HS105) - this plug is another popular product. Similar to the Wyze Plug, this one lets you monitor usage. It has been rated as reliable when using the app. Unlike the Wyze Plug, this model offers the ability to schedule sunrise/sunset, but it is more expensive.
  2. TP-Link Kasa Smart WiFi Power Strip. As a reminder, many smart plugs are not as secure as advertised, so there is something to be said for TP-Link's consistency. For example, the Kasa Smart WiFi Power Strip is six smart plugs built into one (with three USB ports to boot). You can control each connected device individually using the perfectly organized Kasa app, Alexa or Google Assistant, or buttons on the device itself. In addition, the Kasa Smart WiFi Power Strip has a surge protector built-in, which most individual smart plugs lack.
  3. Th eTP-Link Kasa Smart WiFi KP303 is a new power strip family member with three outlets versus six and two USB charging ports versus three for smaller office spaces and budgets.
  4. Kasa Smart WiFi Outdoor Plug (KP400) - is built to withstand weather and the great outdoors, and it is easy to set up. This recognized product can quickly turn things such as patio lights and pool pumps into smart devices. Simple design and affordability have helped it capture outdoor smart plug awards.
Emporia Smart Plug
Emporia Smart Plug

Emporia Smart Plug

Emporia Smart Plugs allow you to monitor energy use, control most home appliances, and schedule timers from wherever you happen to be with the Emporia App. These plugs enable you to turn fans, lights, dehumidifiers, and other electronics up to 15A, on and off quickly from your smartphone. Prices for Emporia Smart Plugs range between $8.99 and $29.99 (USD) in the US, and $34.99 and $69.99 (CAD) in Canada, depending on the bundle you choose.

Wyze Smart Plug Amazon
Wyze Smart Plug. Photo Credit: Amazon


The Wyze Plug works reliably, has an app that is easy to use, and can track the power usage of the device you plug into it. You can even schedule the plug to go off based on the time of day, but it does not offer scheduling based on local sunrise and sunset times, as some models do. On a positive note and from a security standpoint, it offers two-factor authentication.

GE Enbrighten Amazon
GE Enbrighten. Photo Credit: Amazon

GE Z-Wave

The GE Z-Wave Enbrighten's benefits include a familiar design, voice control, and an outdoor option. As with all outlets, this product requires installation. The most significant difference between the GE Enbrighten and the others in this roundup is that it will require some electrical know-how. You will need to replace your old outlet with the Enbrighten. That means working with wires in your walls, which might require an electrician if you are not comfortable doing so.

Ring Smart Solar Floodlight
Smart Solar Floodlight. Photo Credit: Ring

Looking Ahead and New Smart Products 

This month, (Amazon-owned) Ring has debuted a new outdoor smart floodlight. It is solar-powered, with a smart plug plus an outdoor siren that can alert homeowners to possible intruders when connected to a Ring Alarm. For all of us getting ready for the spring and summer weather ahead, preorders started March 2021 for these three new gadgets in the US and Canada.

Staples TP Link Smart Plug
TP Link Outdoor Smart Plug. Photo Credit: Staples

What Are the Benefits of Smart Plugs and Outlets?

In addition to the energy savings, smart plugs can make your life a little easier. They are essential for anyone who has difficulty reaching light switches or turning inline rotary light switches.

Connecting just one smart plug to your ordinary table lamp, for example, ensures that you will never need to enter a completely dark living space. Do you have mobility or dexterity issues? If so, a smart plug can make it much easier to set up fans, speakers, lights, crock pots, and air conditioners on a schedule or control them with the sound of your voice.

What Are the Cons of Smart Outlets and Plugs?

Because not all appliances will work with smart outlets, limitations do exist. Although many lamps or light fixtures use a digital switch these days, you can still find space heaters, air conditioners, and other newer appliances that still use mechanical switches. You will need to check before purchasing them, as more devices are using electronic controls. 

Here is an easy way to make sure your appliance has the right kind of switch: turning it on, unplugging it while still on, and then plugging it back in. If it does not automatically turn back on, then it will not work with a smart outlet.

Kasa Smart Power Bar Amazon
Kasa Smart Power Bar. Photo Credit: Amazon

Bringing It All Together

Making your home smarter with the right products is more accessible and affordable than ever before. Here are two more ideas of how smart outlets and plugs can help keep your batteries charged and secure your home.

First, if you have cordless tools for home maintenance or the garden, then chances are they need charging when you must use them. A smart plug can help you prepare in advance for the next project. All you need to do is plug the charger into one and leave it turned off. When you know that you will need the tool, turn on the smart plug a few hours before, and then you will have charged battery for the tools you need to use.

Looking through a security lens, if you are heading out of town, putting your lamps or television on a timer to trick potential burglars into thinking you are home is a great strategy. Today's smart plugs make it easy to create a safe atmosphere and vary the schedule while you are away.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2022-01-19T02:49:21+0000
Kelly Isley

Article by:

Kelly Isley

Kelly Isley is a writer, author of four books and ASJA member. She has also been renovating homes for 12+ years, is an engineer, pilot, football fan, and lover of ice cream.