While it is tempting to rip out all your old home electricals and gear to make way for the smart home era, most of us have quite a few valuable, antique or sentimental items around the home that we wouldn’t want to consign to the cellar. In every home, there’s bound to be an equivalent to an ornamental wedding present lamp, a crock pot cooker that gets dragged out for every big family meal or some old piece of stereo or entertainment equipment that one family member simply depends on. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could make them a bit smarter, like the rest of the home, so they are in keeping with our modern tech, and not ancient totems to a bygone age? The simplest answer to that question is to pick up the best smart plugs that will imbue these old electricals with the ability to be turned on or off from a smartphone or through your voice assistant.
It’s not much, but it can be more than enough, and a useful addition, to ensure that your trusty old home goods get an extra lease of life.
IMPORTANT NOTES: Most of these units are available only in white, support up to 1800 watts consumed by whatever is plugged into them. When installing them, check for firmware updates and ensure they are complete before starting to operate them!
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TP-Link Smart Plug
TP-Link is a Chinese networking firm and we’ve used their routers in the past to good effect. Their new smart plug range is controlled over WiFi, so there is no hub required, as a bit of a bonus it is Alexa compatible for voice control.
The plug comes on its own for $39.99 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) or in a bundle with a WiFi switch (for $69.99) allowing users to control it at the wall, via their phone or by talking to their Amazon Echo, which gives a decent range of control options.
App control comes via TP-Link’s own free Kasa app, this lets you name and select imagery for a range of different plugs, so you can control the Christmas tree lights, an electrical heater or other devices, all within one neat system. You can group items together by room or function to enable wider control and set schedules for activity to happen while you’re out as a security measure. About the only downside is that plug is rather wide and may obscure the other socket in a two-gang wall plug.
Wemo Mini Smart Plug
Wemo’s smart plug solution looks pretty radical with a long design. This enables users to connect two smart plugs into a standard double socket. It is another Wi-Fi-enabled unit that creates its own private WiFi network for the app to connect to. Once set up, it works with Amazon’s Alexa, IFTTT and Nest devices.
Using a smartphone loaded with the free Wemo app, you can take direct or remote control of lighting and other appliances. The app allows for scheduling and even random on and off to deter snoopers.
A little less costly than the TP-Link, its small form factor may make it the more practical choice, depending on how many plugs you need in a room. Wemo also offers a WiFi light switch and the more costly Insight Switch ($49.99 For the latest prices and discounts), check here that monitors energy consumption.
GE Lighting Control Duplex Receptacle
If you don’t like having plugs sticking out of your walls, and all the strange glowing WiFi indicator LEDs that other products offer, GE has a more substantial solution for DIYers or electricians to install. The receptacle fits in most standard wall recesses and provides support for most lights and smart home lighting up to 600 watts in power.
It requires a neutral wire for installation, and a wall plate is extra if you have an odd-sized recess. With any Z-Wave hub acting as the control point, it can provide an always-on pass-through AC outlet and a Z-Wave enabled outlet to control any device from your smartphone or under schedule from the Z-Wave.
iHome Control Smart Plug
If your home is driven by Apple’s HomeKit smart home solution, then the iHome appears to be one of the few smart plug solutions for you. With its quirky design, which keeps the second socket free for standard use, this single plug socket supports Amazon Alexa, WiFi as well as HomeKit.
There’s additional support for Nest, Wink and SmartThings platforms, making this one of the most flexible models out there. Using the Home app on an iOS 9.0 or higher device, you can talk to it using Siri, giving it a range of voice control options. The iHome app can also be used to control the plug’s schedule.
If you want more features, then the iHome iSP8 Wi-FISmartPlug costs $50 (For the latest prices and discounts, check here) and comes with power monitoring a remote control so you can turn things on and off without having to use your phone to talk at a virtual assistant.
|TP-Link Smart Plug||Yes||Yes||1||$39.99|
|Wemo Mini Smart Plug||Yes||Yes||1||$34.99|
|GE Lighting Control Duplex||Yes||Yes||2||$39|
|iHome Control Smart Plug||Yes||Yes||Yes||1||$42|
With a wide range of smart plugs available, there’s something to suit most smart home technologies. Most people will be happy with WiFi control, but those going the Apple or Z-Wave route should ensure they pick up a compatible product. Just make sure it is the right size and doesn’t obstruct other plugs.
The apps for these plugs all seem fairly foolproof and reliable, although do keep checking for firmware and app updates, as although there doesn’t seem to be much the makers could do with a plug, there is a regular stream of updates for them.
Finally, check the other models available, as for a few dollars more you can often pick up energy monitoring as a bonus.