- Smart plugs offer limited functionality compared to other smart devices, only providing scheduling and voice control features.
- Internet outages can render smart plugs useless, and they can also pose security concerns when connected to a home network.
- Technical difficulties with software, apps, and branding can make smart plugs frustrating to use.
- Alternative options include the Leviton Decora Smart Outlet, Amazon Basics Smart Surge Protector, and Mifaso Wall Outlet Extender.
If you want to add automation to certain devices in your home, smart plugs are an interesting alternative. They aren’t the only choice, however, so you may want to avoid a new smart plug depending on your needs. Their price point and energy savings make them attractive to homeowners, but here are four reasons they might not be a great fit for your home.
What’s a Smart Plug?
When shopping for smart plugs, you’re likely to encounter a dozen types of devices. There are power strips, surge protectors, and wall outlet extenders. They are all in the smart plug niche, but a traditional smart plug is designed with simplicity in mind.
These devices plug into any wall outlet. Once set up, users can plug any compatible device into the plug and control it in a variety of ways. They are synced to home Wi-Fi networks, which allows homeowners to turn things on and off that are connected to the smart plug.
Smart plugs don’t provide the same functionality as something like an Echo Dot or Chromecast. They are a great way to bring a brain to an outlet in your home, especially for homeowners looking to remain relatively low-tech.
The Best Reasons to Avoid a New Smart Plug
A smart plug is one of the easier ways to automate certain things in your home. While useful, you’ll want to consider things like design, features, and connectivity if you want to have a good experience.
We’ve seen a range of smart products arrive over the past decade. There are voice-controlled speakers, intelligent displays, video doorbells, and robots that can mow your yard. By comparison, most smart plugs are relatively dumb.
Want to turn your classic coffee pot on without getting out of bed? A smart plug can do that and can let you turn on a lamp in the evening when you’re away from home. In that sense, they are essentially high-tech versions of old-school mechanical and digital timers.
A smart plug may allow you to set things on a schedule, but the smartest feature they offer is voice control. Unfortunately, that’s something you can find on everything from streaming sticks to miniature speakers. Using Alexa to turn off a lamp is great, but not if you’re prone to internet outages.
One of the main reasons to avoid a new smart plug is also a negative with other intelligent gadgets. The internet is a wonderful tool and acts as the backbone for any connected device. When it works, it’s amazing, but that’s not always the case. If the internet goes out, your smart plug loses everything that makes it special.
While this is an area that may not be a concern in homes with a stable home network and steady connection, smart plugs can be a security concern. That’s an issue with anything connected to a home network, including simple smart plugs.
When you search for a Wi-Fi signal, do you come up with dozen devices? That can be an issue with smart plugs, despite the fact they don’t use much bandwidth. Anything added to a network already loaded down with gadgets can increase the potential for vulnerabilities.
Are you handy with tech or do you need to call for assistance whenever you purchase a new device? Tech problems can get the best of us, and they are a good reason to avoid a new smart plug today. That’s due in part to software, apps, and branding with these types of devices.
Every smart plug on the market is billed as “easy to use” and it’s something we actually agree with. It’s a blanket statement, however, as software can ruin an otherwise solid smart plug. The devices don’t need an operating system or RAM to function, but a poorly made app can leave homeowners with a huge headache.
There’s more than one type of plug, which can present problems with regular power outlets. Big, blocky plugs can take up an entire outlet or require the use of a power strip when you need access to both outlet plugs. Smart plug manufacturers have realized that, but their devices can cause the same type of issues.
We’ve seen many manufacturers transition to slim smart plugs with rectangular designs. That can allow homeowners to use two smart plugs in one outlet, but only “standard” sized plugs. A power block will still cause problems because of its size. Before buying a smart plug, you’ll want to think about what you’ll plug into it along with any other devices that need that wall outlet.
Alternatives to Smart Plugs
If you feel like smart plugs are a bit underwhelming, you don’t have to turn to traditional outlets. There are still some intelligent devices that are worth your time and can solve some of the issues found with many simple smart plugs today.
Leviton Decora Smart Outlet
Not impressed by a regular smart outlet or want something a bit more streamlined? If so, Leviton has something for you. The Decora smart outlet is designed to look like a traditional outlet but has a brain behind the plastic outlet panel.
The Decora smart outlet has a tamper-resistant design that lets parents and pet owners breathe easy. Nothing protrudes from the outlet and cosmetically, the only difference from a standard outlet is a recessed button in the middle. You can control anything plugged into the outlet remotely with Decora but you don’t need a wireless hub.
This system works with the My Leviton app for mobile devices. It can control multiple smart outlets in your home and provides access to features like scheduling and scenes if you have smart lighting. The Decora smart outlet also works with Alexa, Siri, and Google’s voice assistants if you already have a connected hub in your home.
While you will need a neutral wire to hook this smart outlet up, it’s one of the easier models to install and use. We love the fact it doesn’t scream “connected” and keeps the design simple, which allows it to blend in with any type of decor.
Amazon Basics Smart Surge Protector
It didn’t take long for manufacturers to realize that consumers would be interested in smart power strips. Given the wealth of connected gadgets that require power, they’ve become incredibly popular. This strip from Amazon provides far more utility than a standard smart plug.
This is another smart device with a classic design outside of three extra buttons. Those buttons are tied to each outlet on the plug. That gives users total control over the power strip, and what’s running, without having to switch the entire power strip off. There are also dual USB ports on the end to make mobile charging a breeze.
You can control each outlet on this smart surge protector through the Alexa app as long as you have access to a 2.4GHz network. Through the app, you can set routines and schedules so you can go about your life hands-free while the surge protector keeps your devices safe. This smart power strip has a three-foot cord with an angled plug.
The Amazon Basics smart plug power strip isn’t doesn’t have the most outlets, but it’s a great reason to avoid a new smart plug. It’s affordable, easy to use, has Alexa integration, and is just the perfect size to fit anywhere. Just keep the number of outlets you need in mind with this model.
Mifaso Wall Outlet Extender
Wall outlet extenders have always been a great way to give a wall outlet a few additional plugs. The designs have largely remained uninspired, but this gadget from Mifaso addresses that. Their wall outlet extender isn’t smart, but it provides more access than most and has an interesting feature that fans of mobile tech will appreciate.
The Mifaso wall outlet extender adds three additional plugs to any two plug outlets in your home. While it’s large, there are two angled outlets on the sides and one on the front. The approach gives users more options for placement and leaves the front open for USB charging. There are three standard USB ports along with a USB-C port for newer devices.
Due to the size of this wall outlet extender, it comes with a shelf that sits on top of the outlet. It’s small enough to not seem out of place, but just the right size to hold a smartphone while it charges. You could also use it to hold other small smart gadgets while they power up. As a bonus, a motion sensor on the front of the plug can activate a nightlight at the base.
This is one of those sneaky gadgets that doesn’t look like much, but it surprises users once they get it out of the box. A strong rating from more than 4,000 consumers is proof of that. The size will rule it out for some, but it’s hard to argue with the features or the price of the Mifaso wall outlet extender.
When you just want to be able to turn off a lamp or appliance with your smartphone, a smart plug is a great choice. They work well and are easy to use, but there are far better alternatives depending on your needs. The items we chose represent a small portion of what’s available for consumers today, and we expect this category to grow as consumers look for more ways to get the most out of every outlet.
|Alternatives to Smart Plugs|
|Leviton Decora Smart Outlet|
|Amazon Basics Smart Surge Protector|
|Mifaso Wall Outlet Extender|
|Reasons to Avoid a New Smart Plug|
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