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 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 switched off your appliance.
Smart tech will provide smart support to anything from older appliances to modern gadgets, letting you remotely control the power supply to your devices and give them basic smart features.
As well as remote access, voice control and scheduling, you can, in many cases, see how much energy the appliance plugged in uses.
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.
Tapo P100 Mini Smart Wi-Fi Socket - Best overall
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 even into 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 (probably a light) on and off randomly, to make it look like you're still at home. There's 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. There is no additional hub 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, we can't think why you would spend more on another smart plug.
Hey! smart plug - Best gift option
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) and 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 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 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 with less tech knowledge.
TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug - Amazon Alexa- and Google Assistant-compatible
TP-Link's Wi-Fi Smart Plug is one of our top picks. For a start, it's affordable and, second, it connects via Wi-Fi directly to your router. So it doesn't need a hub.
There are iOS and Android apps, but the icing on the cake is that it also works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. This means that, while you're at home, you can say, "Alexa turn on the light" and control your device hands-free.
Via the app, you can create schedules, turning the plug on and off as many times as you like, with different schedules for each day. Using your location, you can also choose sunrise and sunset as triggers.
There's also a timer mode so you can turn the plug on or off after a preset time, which could be handy for a sleep timer or to turn off the TV once the kids have had enough screen time.
With a well-designed and good-looking app, no need for a hub and a decent price, the TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug is one of the best you can buy right now.
D-Link Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug - Compact design for double plug points
As the name suggests, this is a smaller version of D-Link's regular smart plug. The compact design will help you to avoid the plug getting in the way of anything around the socket and ensures you can get two plugs on a double socket point.
The design has also been simplified, with a single power button on the top and an LED indicator.
Otherwise, it works in the same way, so it's incredibly easy to set up. You get Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT support, along with options such as scheduling from the mydlink app.
There's currently no option to add widgets to an Android device's home screen to quickly switch the plug on and off without opening the app, which is the device's only shortcoming.
Energenie MiHome Wi-Fi Smart Plug - Supports 13 amp devices
Energenie has a range of smart plugs, but most of them require a £69.99 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 doesn't have all the bells and whistles of Energenie's Adapter Plus, which can 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 the instructions aren't particularly clear on how to set up these features.
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 WiFi 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.
D-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug - Has a status light
D-Link's Smart Plug is an attractive oval device with a glowing ring that tells you its status.
On the right are three buttons: one to turn the attached device on and off manually, another to turn the LED on and off, and a third to reset the plug or use WPS setup with your router.
Setting it up is simple via the mydlink app. You scan a QR code in the quick setup guide, and the plug should be detected. Then you can pick which Wi-Fi network you want the plug to connect to: like the TP-Link, no additional hub is required.
There's support for Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT, so you can control it with your voice, or get it to turn on and off based on other triggers via an IFTTT applet.
The mydlink app lets you control the plug from anywhere, as well as giving you the option to set it to turn on and off on a schedule.
Efergy Ego Smart Wi-Fi Switch - Best for monitoring energy use
The Efergy Ego smart switch can work as a regular timer, and can also switch devices on and off at random - useful when you’re trying to give the impression that your home is occupied when you're away.
Its smartphone or tablet app will show you the energy usage of a device or strip of devices, plus their estimated cost over a period of time. Isolate the worst culprits and you’ll soon be making sure they’re properly switched off when not required.
While it lacks WeMo’s handy notifications feature, the Ego wins out with its ability to learn and automatically turn off appliances that have been on stand-by for a long time.
There is also a group function for those with multiple Ego switches in their home. You can group them together and control them all from the group/scene page. The best application for this is to have all appliances in one room in a group.
Like the WeMo, the Efergy Ego is reasonably inconspicuous but still a little too bulky not to get in the way of other sockets’ flick switches. It's also taller than the WeMo.
No hub is needed, so the smart plug price is all you pay, which is great value.
Eve Energy - Best for Apple HomeKit users
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 set up easy 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. If you're standing next to the switch, 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 could be easier to use.
It's fairly 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
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 of your sockets.
The sockets are available in either chrome or white, so they should fit in with the way your home is decorated. 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 switches start at around £15/$15, and rise to around £55/$55, so they're not yet so cheap you can buy one for every appliance. But for those you really want to control from afar, it can be worth the outlay.
If you're hoping to pick up some more smart home tech, take a look at our guide to all the best smart home devices, and check out our round-up of the best smart home deals to make sure you're smart about your spending too.