Smart Plugs are a great and inexpensive way to start automating your home. Ranging from around €10-€30 you can quickly add a few of these versatile little devices to your house and really start to see the benefits of Home Automation without breaking the bank.
Set up is pretty straight forward (connect to the device, updates it’s Wi-Fi, and then discover the smart device in the Alexa App).
Once set up, the Smart Plug simply plugs into your wall socket, and you plug whatever device you want to control into it.
If you use your Smart Plugs on your lamps you can then make use of Alexa’s ability to set timed schedules and have your lights come on at sundown, or rotate while you are off on holidays to help put off burglars.
While they are well suited to lamps (that’s where most of mine are) they are also very versatile around the kitchen on coffee makers or toasters etc.
It is worth noting that the Smart Plugs are limited to just turning on or off the power going to the device. It can’t, for example, press the button on the kettle to boil it. You will need to have everything prepped the night before to have it automate for you in the morning.
They really come into their own when you add them to Alexa Routines. Routines allow you to set a number of different devices to perform actions based on a single command or time schedule.
If I say “Alexa, Good Morning” in my house, Alexa will turn on the kitchen lights, boil up the kettle for a cuppa, and start toasting the bread, all while making sure the radio is playing my favourite station in the kitchen.
Saying “Alexa, Goodnight” turns everything off and then turns on the hall lamps in case the kids wander out of bed at night.
If I’m leaving the house in a rush I just say “Alexa, Goodbye” and she will turn everything off. No more worrying about if you plugged out the iron half way to work and having to turn back.
So far, I have a mix of the Amazon, Woox and Teckin Smart Plugs. They are all very close in terms of functionality. The Amazon plugs, as you might expect, are far easier to set up and link directly to your Echo device, but they are much more expensive.
Keep an eye out if you are buying a new Echo device as they are very often bundled up with a nice discount, if you can get one for around a tenner snap it up.
The others take a little longer to set up as they required their own separate App to be downloaded, separate accounts to be set up, and separate skills to be added to get Alexa to control them.
However, you only do this once. And then they are fully discoverable and controllable via Alexa as Smart devices.
It’s not a huge inconvenience for what is a big saving, but if you can stick to one model it will make things easier.
Overall: Smart Plugs are a good Home Automation starting point. Their main selling points are that they are very easy to set up and are very mobile. if you get bored of it on a lamp in the hallway, you can just unplug it and move it to another spot.
If you can pick up an Echo Dot and 4 plugs you can Automate a lot for under €100. If you hold out for a sale you could get all that for €50-€60 and get a serious amount of Automation bang for your buck.