Smart plugs seem like such a cool idea, right? They're really not that expensive, and make great gadget gifts for tech geeks who already have everything. They've even got the word 'smart' right in the name, and if you've already invested in a smart speaker then you neeeed something like this to use it with.
So imagine you've just bought a smart plug. Best decision ever. Then it arrives at the door. Now what on earth do you do with it?
The Tech Advisor team put its heads together to come up with some genuine use cases for the humble smart plug, so your new purchase needn't be wasted after all.
If you realise you have more uses for a smart plug than you previously thought, consider whether you can control multiple devices from a single plug using an extension lead. Or if you need another, check out the best smart plugs. We like the TP-Link Smart Plug, which has an RRP of £29.99 but is frequently discounted at Amazon (currently just £19.92).
Best uses for a smart plug
1. Remotely switching off hair straighteners and other styling accessories
I can't be the only one who leaves the house in a rush in the mornings only to panic that I've left my straighteners switched on and will return to a burned-out shell of my former home. The fact there is a built-in standby mode and various safety protocols is never enough to curb this paranoia.
Plug the straighteners or other styling accessories into a smart switch and you'll never have to go through the all-day wait to find out whether your husband/parents are going to murder you: you can just switch off the plug from your phone wherever you are.
2. Warm up the room before you arrive
If you're using some form of standalone heater to keep your office, garage or other cold room toasty, don't spend the first half hour shivering as you wait for the temperature to rise. Plug the heater into a smart plug and you can switch it on before you arrive. Likewise, if you forget to turn it off at night you can do some from your phone.
3. Sleep soundly in a cosy bed
Electric blankets are ideal for warming up the sheets either before you get in or before you get up, but too often the basic integrated timer control means they are either on or off and you'll wake up in a sweat. Use a smart plug to schedule the blanket to turn on and off only when you need it.
4. Deter burglars by making it look as though someone's home
It's easy to make it look as though someone is home even when they're not. Connect lamps to smart plugs and you can configure a schedule that imitates your usual routine were you at home - a few hours watching TV in the evening perhaps, and the bedside lamp right before you go to bed.
5. Have dinner ready when you get in from work
Slow cookers offer the ultimate convenience in cooking, not only creating tasty meals but allowing you to have them waiting for you when you get home. But it is possible to overcook something even when it's cooked slowly, and sometimes your working day might be just that little bit too long for you to get away with turning it on before you leave in the morning. Or maybe you're going for a beer after work and get a bit carried away (we've all done it). Use a smart plug to turn on (or off) the slow cooker at a more appropriate time.
6. Get an extra five minutes kip while the kettle boils
This one takes some prep, since you'll need to fill the kettle and flick down the switch on the kettle itself before you go to bed, but if the smart plug at the wall is switched off that kettle will boil only when you tell it to.
This can be really handy if you have baby bottles to make, since you'll need to let that boiling water cool down before you can use it in any case. Spend those extra few minutes getting some much-needed sleep.
7. Turn off the tumble dryer when you're not at home
We all know tumble dryers are like the best thing ever when it comes to the ongoing chore of washing clothes, but we also know they can be dangerous when left on unattended. If you forget to turn off the tumble dryer before you leave home, or want to give those clothes an extra 20 minutes without the cool cycle setting in, use a smart plug to remotely turn off the tumble dryer when it's done.
8. Turn everything off at night and save on electricity
Okay, so the savings in energy costs may be minimal, but doing your bit for the planet won't hurt. Consumer tech does use some electricity in standby mode or when trickle charging, so consider switching it off overnight. There are some things you probably won't want to switch off at night, such as the fridge, but for everything else you can automate shut down in a few quick and easy steps using a smart plug.
9. Enforce bed time
This is only going to work until the kids get clever enough to realise that they can simply override the smart plug or unplug it from the wall, but for now you could enforce bedtime rules by turning off their computers, consoles and televisions between certain hours. You could attack the router, too, but then you'd also miss out.
10. Turning on/off Christmas lights and decorations
Okay so it's the wrong time of year for this one, but there's nothing wrong with being prepared for the most awesome Christmas of all in 2019.
With presents stacked up high below the tree, getting to the plug for the fairy lights can often present something of an obstacle course. Plug the fairy lights into a smart plug and you'll be able to switch on and off the decorations from your phone, or using a voice command with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.