Smart Plugs Give You Control from a Distance
by Melissa Crowley
If you're looking to lower your electric bill, make using your appliances and gadgets more efficient, or just to feel more relaxed when you're out of town, consider investing in one or more smart outlets. This all may seem a bit futuristic for some, but with the help of smart outlets and connected light switches, you're just a few phone swipes away from remotely controlling your electronics. Not only will you be giving yourself much-needed peace of mind, but you will also be saving power and money.
The D-Link 3-Pin WiFi Smart Plug Outlet and Belkin Remote Control WiFi Switch offer the most standard features. Once plugged into a wall socket, they connect to your home's Wi-Fi router and can be controlled with free apps for your Apple or Android phones and tablets. The next time you run out the door in a hurry, you'll be able to switch off your TV from the bus. What's more, these apps allow for on/off scheduling of your plugs where you can set them like a timer and adjust as needed, from anywhere, of course. For instance, you could save money by keeping your Internet modem on a schedule so it's not running your power meter when nobody is home. As a bonus, the D-Link model has a thermal sensor that will automatically shut off any device once the plug passes a certain temperature threshold, preventing any potentially damaging accidents.
If you prefer to use this technology for your already-installed lighting, Belkin offers a Wi-Fi-controlled wall switch that you can install yourself. It works like a normal switch and can handle any bulb type up to a 600-watt incandescent - so it's unlikely that this switch will require you to replace your lighting hardware. Like Belkin's smart plug, it works with the WeMo app to let you control it from anywhere. One major drawback worth mentioning, though, is that it won't work as a dimmer no matter how you use it, physically or via Wi-Fi.
For those of us really seeking maximum comfort, Belkin offers a more advanced bundle. This model includes a smart plug and a motion sensor, which detects any movement from up to ten feet away. When you walk in the door with dry cleaning in one arm and a bag of groceries in the other, you won't have to worry about switching on the lights or powering up any other gadgets. Plus, it also has all the scheduling and remote features as the outlet-only model.
Even just the simplest of these options can help you save money on bills thanks to the timing options. But perhaps the greatest perk in smart plugs is the flexibility they will bring to your life. Indeed, controlling your lights, AC, or even Crockpot from anywhere via your phone or tablet is a convenience that's not so futuristic anymore.