One of the easiest ways to make your home smart is by using a so-called "smart plug," which lets you control various small appliances without needing to be in the room — or the country, for that matter. Because smart plugs are easy to use and very affordable, starting at less than $30 per switch, anyone with a smartphone can get in on the convenience (and, dare we say, fun) of smart home technology.At their most basic, smart plugs let you control otherwise "dumb" devices, such as floor lamps and coffee makers, using your smartphone.
After testing a dozen plugs, we chose the TP-Link HS105 as our top pick. It typically costs around $35, is small enough so that you can fit two of them in an outlet, and has useful features such as an Away mode, which turns your lights on and off to make it look like you're home. Our best value pick is the iHome iSP6X; it costs less than $30, yet works with a huge range of smart home devices, and is fairly compact, too.
TP-Link's HS105 smart plug has a compact design, which makes it possible to add two to an outlet. We liked the Kasa app, which was easy to use and has a robust set of features, such as the ability to create schedules and an Away mode that turns your lights on and off at random intervals while you're out of your house.
While iHome's smart plug doesn't have the Away feature we like so much in the TP-Link app, the iSP6X works with many more smart home systems, including Nest, Wink and Samsung SmartThings. Plus, it usually sells for about $7 to $8 less than the HS105.
iHome's outdoor plug can withstand the elements, which makes it great for powering all those tree lights and outdoor displays you put up every December. It only has one plug, though, so you may need several to get juice to all of your lights.
Although it's the most expensive of the plugs we tested, the Lutron Caseta kits offers something the others don't: the ability to dim your lights. Plus, Lutron's app has some great scheduling features, and it works with a lot of other smart home systems. This kit also comes with a Wi-Fi-bridge (a necessity) and a remote control.
Other Smart Plugs Tested
Belkin's WeMo Insight not only lets you turn your devices on and off but also provides information on your usage and electricity consumption, and even shows a running total of how much that device costs to run. All of this is wrapped up in a beautiful, user-friendly app. It works with Nest, Amazon Alexa and IFTTT.
The WeMo Mini is thin enough so that you can fit two of them per outlet. While it doesn't have energy monitoring like the Insight, the Mini does work with the same smart home systems, and has a helpful switch on the plug itself.
Leviton's plug-in dimmer is large, so you can use only one per outlet. The one limitation of Leviton's Z-Wave model is that you first need to connect it to a compatible hub, such as the Samsung SmartThings or Wink 2. If you want to go hub-free, you can get Leviton's smart plug with Wi-Fi, which sells for $39.
The Apple HomeKit-only Elgato Eve Energy Switch and Power Meter uses Bluetooth, rather than Wi-Fi, which limits the "smarts" of this device to a small bubble around your home. You have to wirelessly connect the Eve Switch to an Apple TV if you want to remotely control the plug from your iPhone. The shape of the Eve switch also means you can use only one per outlet.
How We Test Smart Home Plugs
Reviewing a smart plug isn't as simple as plugging it in. Well, it almost is. In addition to making sure the plug actually turns on the thing that's plugged into it, we also evaluate the plugs on several factors:
- Design: Can you fit more than one plug into an outlet? Does it have a physical on/off switch or indicator lights?
- Setup: How easy is it to connect the plug to your Wi-Fi network, and to its app?
- Scheduling: How robust is the scheduling feature in the app?
- Smart Home Connectivity: How many other smart home systems does the plug work with? Alexa and Google Assistant should be givens.
Smart Plugs vs. Smart Switches vs. Smart Lights
When does it make sense to get a smart plug versus a smart wall switch or a smart light bulb? For one, most smart plugs can be used to control more than just lights. For example, you could plug a coffee maker or floor fan into a smart plug, and have it turn that device on at a given time.
If you're using a smart plug primarily for lighting, it's best for floor and table lamps because you can use less-expensive bulbs. However, if you want bulbs that can change color or color temperature, then a smart bulb may be a better way to go. If all your lights are controlled by a wall switch, then you'll want a smart switch.