There's never been a better time to get started with smart plugs

Amazon smart plug
(Image credit: Amazon)

Those looking to build themselves the best smart home will probably have considered the benefits of smart plugs. Inexpensive and versatile, these humble devices can be enlisted to integrate any analog or "dumb" devices – such as lamps, speakers, kitchen appliances, and pretty much any items that's plugged in – into your existing routines and automation.

Smart plugs act as a bridge between your device and its power source, giving you greater control over when an item is powered on or off. This can be achieved remotely from your phone, tablet, or even via a smart speaker, or you can set useful timers to activate or deactivate a device at a scheduled time.

But, despite the many pros of bringing smart plugs into the home, you may have been hesitant up until now. Choosing the right smart plug for your needs can be tricky when there's so much choice; read our guide to the best smart plugs, if you're unsure of where to start.

Here we'll outline some of the reasons that now might be the ideal time to invest in some smart plugs and how they could make your life easier.

Smart plugs can help save money on energy bills

If there's one thing that unites almost all of us, it's wanting to save money on energy bills. One of the key ways to do this with regards to electrical items and appliances specifically, is to invest in smart plugs. It might seem counterintuitive to add even more devices to the mix, but smart plugs enable you to program items such as TVs and microwaves – that would often be left on standby mode – to switch off overnight, or while you're away. Every penny counts, after all!

Smart plugs are also often accompanied by apps that make it easy to check your energy usage in more granular detail. Rather than simply seeing the overall figure at the end of the month, you can open up the app on your phone and see exactly which appliances are consuming the most power.

For more information on this topic, you can take a look at our exploration on "Do smart plugs save energy?".

Belkin WeMo Insight Smart Plug

(Image credit: Belkin)

They can be programmed to work with your schedule

Even if you're someone who's schedule runs like a military operation, your routine has likely changed more than once over the past few years. The onset of hybrid working and changes in how we socialize, we've all had to adapt to a slightly more unpredictable way of life. Smart plugs are a brilliant way to automate things that we once had to remember to do manually.

It puts an end to the worry of accidentally leaving devices such as lamps or even – *gasp* – the hair curlers on after you've left the house. Many smart plugs have a geolocation feature that you can set to switch those sockets selected off and on, depending on whether you're home or out. If you want all of your lamps to turn off when you head out for dinner, or check that you did actually turn off your hair irons, you can.

Add security to your home

Smart plugs are an often overlooked element of the best home security systems, adding automation where there traditionally wouldn't be any. For example, if you have a security camera or smart doorbell, you can use its motion detection feature to trigger a nearby smart plug. This means you can get smart security lighting for a fraction of the cost, and it will be synced with your other devices for added safety.

Smart plugs can also be great for creating the illusion that someone is home when the house is actually vacant. So, when you're off on vacation, you no longer need to leave the hallway light on for the entire duration that you're away. You can schedule a smart plug to turn on at regular intervals instead, saving power and cash while ensuring burglars remain in the dark over your whereabouts.

The Amazon Smart Plug connected to a power outlet

(Image credit: Amazon)

Smart plugs are one of the most affordable smart home products

Unlike some smart home devices that can cost a packet to set up, you can buy smart plugs for as little as $20 / £17 / AUS$28. This makes them one of the most affordable, and incredibly versatile, devices available. They're great for transforming previously analog, or "dumb", appliances and gadgets into something more modern, integrating these items into existing schedules and automation that you may have set up.

The majority of smart plugs can be used via their app partner, but for best results, you'll want to consider purchasing a smart speaker. You need to ensure your chosen plugs are compatible with your smart assistant of choice – whether that's Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple's HomeKit.

Create routines to make your home life easier

We've already touched upon the ways smart plugs can integrated with other devices and be synced with a variable schedule, but they can also be programmed to perform more basic tasks. For example, you can set a rule that your living room lamp turns on when the sun sets, or once your wake-up alarm is turned off in the morning. No more sitting in the dark or struggling to wake up.

This extends to any task you don't want to do manually, such as turning on the coffee machine before you get out of bed, or having a fan switch on when the indoor temperature reaches a certain level.

Caroline Preece
Freelance Contributor

Caroline is a freelance contributor for TechRadar, working primarily across the smart home and appliances channels. Currently the smart home editor for Livingetc and other homes titles, she has a decade of experience in technology journalism and loves nothing more than using whatever knowledge she has gained to help herself and others make better decisions about what devices to bring into their home.