One of the simplest and easiest ways to integrate smart home tech into your life is via a smart plug.
A smart plug can turn ‘dumb’ tech, such as your favourite vintage lamp, into programmable smart tech that you can schedule or switch on via voice command.
It can also act as a safety net: plug in your hair straighteners or crockpot via a smart plug and you can switch them off remotely, giving you peace of mind if you’re out later than expected, or simply can’t remember whether you left them on.
As well as remote access, voice control, countdown timers and scheduling, you can, in many cases, see how much energy the plugged-in device is using. That’s useful now, more than ever, when we’re all trying to keep a closer eye on how much electricity our appliances and devices are using.
We’ve rounded up some of the market leaders and tested them out, to help make sure you buy the best smart plug, with the right features, at the best price. If you want to find out more about smart plugs, there’s further information after the chart.
Humax Wi-Fi Smart Plug – Real-time power monitoring
None to note, although we couldn’t test Alexa skill
Humax is better known for its Freeview set-top boxes, but has branched out into smart home devices, starting with this smart plug.
Where some are enormous, Humax’s is surprisingly compact, and won’t obscure adjacent sockets. It has one button on the left-hand side to manually turn on and off the connected device, which is useful if you have it on a strip.
Setting up the plug in Humax’s new Smart Living app is simple: press the button on the plug for five seconds, tell the app the blue light is flashing and it pairs over Bluetooth, asks for your Wi-Fi password and a minute later it’s ready to go.
As you might expect, there’s integration with Alexa and Google Assistant so you can control power to the connected device using your voice instead of opening up the app each time. It also works with IFTTT.
At the time of review, the Alexa skill had not yet been approved so we were unable to test it. The app has one killer feature though: it tells you how much power is being consumed in real time, as well the total amount of energy used ‘today’ and overall.
You can use this to find out how much power any electrical device uses and check, for example, if your washing machine’s eco mode really saves you money or not.
It also allows you to set up schedules for turning power on and off. These can also be countdown timers and – most usefully for lights – schedules based on sunset and sunrise which you can customise to your heart’s content.
At this price, it’s excellent value and easy to recommend.
Hey! smart plug – Best gift option
Great features including power monitoring
Wi-Fi needs to be strong during set-up
The Hey! smart plug is affordable, practical and easy to use, with no hub required.
Set-up is quick and straightforward (although you’ll need to make sure you have a decent Wi-Fi signal during the process). Once the plug is connected, the well-designed app makes it easy to switch your plug on and off or schedule days and times to do so. You can also see at a glance the amount of power used by the device you have plugged in, broken down by day.
You also have the option to automate by weather conditions and device status or to set up a one-tap system that has your plug switch on at the same time as other smart products (so you can, for example, turn on all your lights at once).
It’s compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use voice commands for basic functions if you prefer.
The plug itself has a compact design, meaning you should be able to fit it into any socket (including one on a power bar) and it won’t cover up the spot next to it, or cause problems if your socket is flush with your skirting board. It also features an on/off switch and status light.
Hey! products come with a set-up guide and are beautifully packaged, so they’d make a good gift – even for people who are less tech-savvy.
Tapo P100 Mini Smart Wi-Fi Socket – Good all-rounder
Plenty of features, including away mode
Can’t be used with the Kasa app
Tapo is a sub-brand from TP-Link. The P100 Mini Smart Wi-Fi Socket is one of the best smart plugs we’ve tested.
For starters, it’s one of the most affordable on the market.
The simple, compact design means you’ll be able to fit it into even cramped spots and we’ve found it quick and easy to get set up on the app. Once it’s ready to go, the app allows you to do the usual things like set schedules and timers.
There’s even an ‘away mode’ which will turn a light on and off randomly, to make it look like you’re still at home. There’s also a button on the plug if you want to use it manually.
Like many plugs on the market, the Tapo P100 supports both Google Assistant and Alexa, so you can control it from a smart speaker if you have one. No additional hub is required.
It’s worth noting, however, that you can’t use it with the Kasa app, so it isn’t ideal if you already have TP-Link smart plugs or other smart devices.
Unless you’re already locked into a different ecosystem, this smart plug is definitely one to consider.
TCP Wi-Fi Smart Plug – Excellent features in a compact plug
Timer and conditional switching
No energy usage monitoring
This TCP plug is an excellent option with pretty much everything you’d want in a smart plug at a very good price point.
First off, it works using Wi-Fi, meaning that you don’t need a hub. It also has all the features we’ve come to expect in the best smart plugs. It’s Alexa and Google Assistant compatible, so you can use voice commands for basic controls.
It has two forms of timer: the usual type that sets it to switch on or off on a schedule, plus a countdown timer. The countdown timer means it can turn a device (such as a portable heater warming you while you’re snoozing) on or off after a certain amount of time.
You can also set it up as one of multiple devices that come on at the same time or automate its timings to switch on (or off) when one of a number of conditions is met, including outside temperature, humidity level or sunrise and sunset.
Get a couple of these and you have a cheap and efficient way of automating your home to respond to changes in the weather.
Importantly, its compact design means it won’t obstruct neighbouring plug points. It also features an on/off switch and status light, so it can be turned off without the app. It’s easy to set up and use as well.
It doesn’t monitor your device’s energy usage but for a few quid more, you can get
the TCP model that does.
The SwitchBot Bot – Mechanical solution for wall switches
Harder to set up on rocker switches
SwitchBot’s Bot isn’t a smart plug, but we’ve included it here because it can add smart functionality to wall switches (including rockers) and any other button or key that’s not on a smart plug compatible device.
If you only want to use it to operate a switch from the comfort of your bed or schedule times to switch lights and appliances off and on, you only need the Bot itself, but if you want to create scenes, you’ll also need a
SwitchBot Hub. It’s compatible with Alexa, Google Home, HomePod and IFTTT.
The Bot operates mechanically via a little lever that pops out. It has an adhesive pad on the back and you stick it to the switch you want to control. It won’t cover it, so you can still use it manually. It’s easy to set up and surprisingly effective and comes with a replaceable battery that should last for two years. You can buy it in black or white
If you want to use Bot to control a rocker, rather than an on/off button, you’ll need to use the loop and sticker provided, which takes a bit more effort to place properly.
Energenie MiHome Wi-Fi Smart Plug – Supports 13 amp devices
No hub needed
Poor instructions on feature set-up
Energenie has a range of smart plugs, but most of them require an expensive hub that connects to your router. This Wi-Fi Smart Plug, however, doesn’t. That’s great news, as it will talk directly to your router via Wi-Fi.
It can’t monitor how much electricity is being used, but it does support Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT, which are more useful features for a lot of people. It’s just a shame that the instructions aren’t particularly clear on how to set this up.
Another benefit is its small size. It’s less bulky than most smart plugs and it shouldn’t prevent you from using adjacent sockets.
It uses the same MiHome app as Energenie’s other products and, if we’re brutally honest, it’s one of our least favourite apps because of its clunky interface. Make sure you don’t mistakenly install Xiaomi’s MiHome app: look for the Energenie one instead.
When you’ve added the plug in the app, you can tap ON or OFF to manually control the switch (even when away from home) but you can also set up timers. You’re free to create as many as you like for multiple power cycles each day and different times on different days.
Another point to note is that the MiHome Wi-Fi Smart Plug supports 13 amp devices, whereas some of the cheaper offerings are limited to 10 amps – or less.
At this price, the minor flaws can be forgiven: it’s great value.
Eve Energy – Best for Apple HomeKit users
Bluetooth-only means limited range
The Eve Energy is a smart switch that also monitors how much power the connected device uses over time. It’s an Apple HomeKit plug, which means it only works with iOS devices. However, this also means you can control it with Siri voice commands and that it benefits from the full encryption that HomeKit offers.
Rather than using Wi-Fi, the switch uses Bluetooth. This makes it easy to set up and also means you don’t need to have a hub connected to your router. However, it does limit the range over which it can be controlled. It will work in most UK homes, but if you want to control it when away from home, you’ll need an Apple TV (3rd generation or later) or a spare home-based iPad (newer than iPad 2) running at least iOS 8.1.
You can turn the switch on and off via the Apple Home app in iOS 10, or using the Eve app. There’s a button on top for manual control as well.
Setting up timers is possible using the Scenes tab in the app, but creating a schedule is more complicated than in other apps, such as TP-Link’s.
However, the Eve app is built to work with the whole Eve range, not just a smart switch, and you can make all your gadgets work together using Scenes. It’s powerful, but it could be easier to use.
It’s expensive, but if you already have an iPad or Apple TV to use for remote access and you like the idea of controlling it via Siri, it could be right for you.
Lightwave Smart Socket – Smart replacement plug points
You’ll need to install them
Here’s something slightly different: the Lightwave Smart Socket lets you replace the actual sockets in your home with smart variants, so you can avoid having bulky plugs sitting on top.
The sockets are available in either chrome or white, so they should fit in with your home decor. Once you set them up with the Lightwave app, they’re compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit.
There are downsides – obviously, you’ll need to actually install the sockets rather than just plug them in. They’re not the most budget-friendly option either. Plus, you’ll need to buy the Lightwave hub so it can communicate with your router.
To set up a Lightwave ecosystem, you can
buy one of the starter kits and start building a system of sockets, light switches, and smart heating products.
What is a smart plug?
A smart plug is a switch that you plug into a power socket, which you then plug another device into. You use it like you would an adapter. You can control it via an app on your smartphone or tablet over Wi-Fi, or with voice controls through Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri.
With the best smart plugs, you can set schedules, monitor energy usage and find out which devices are used most often and when. Armed with such data, you can start saving on your home energy use.
You can also remotely check which plugs are on (so no more panic over whether or not you switched off your hair straighteners when you’re sitting on the train) and turn on lights remotely, so it looks as though you’re home.
The only caveat is that it will only be useful for devices that can be left in the ‘on’ position, then switched on or off by controlling the power from the mains. Anything that requires you to press an additional button on the device won’t turn on just because you’ve turned on the mains outlet, so a smart plug socket won’t be any help.
If you want to find out more, we’ve rounded up the top 10 things you can do with a smart plug.
Some smart plugs will also offer energy use and cost monitoring. Devices are often left on standby when not in use for large parts of the day, and standby use accounts for up to 16 percent of the average electricity bill. With a smart switch you can dramatically cut down on this wasted standby time.
Some switches can even monitor multiple devices on a single power strip.
Smart plug start at around $10/£15, but they are getting cheaper, with better features. They’re probably not yet so cheap you can buy one for every appliance, although if that’s your aim, you should look out for multipacks. But for those you really want to control from afar, it’s worth the outlay.
Power Systems, Smart Home