This story is part of Home Tips, CNET’s collection of practical tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.
Smart plugs are an inexpensive and easy way to add smart home convenience to almost any device that plugs into an outlet. However, they don’t get all the credit they deserve, mainly because their main function is to turn things on and off easily.
But to say that smart plugs are little more than a way to turn something on or off remotely underestimates the full potential of their possibilities. Smart plugs can make various home routines more efficient and enjoyable.
If you’re looking for fun and practical uses for your outlets, consider these 10 creative uses for your smart outlets.
alarm clock upgrade
Getting out of bed in the morning isn’t always easy, but smart plugs can make it a little easier. Try syncing your bedside lamp and radio to greet you with your alarm clock so you can wake up and get motivated for the day.
You can also schedule your electronic toothbrush to start charging when you wake up and stop charging after a few minutes (to save energy – it doesn’t need to be charged all day) . Or schedule your curling iron to heat up 20 minutes after you wake up.
Is coffee a key element to start the day? Same here, which is why I use a smart plug to automatically prepare a casserole in the morning. Remember to fill your coffee maker with coffee grounds and water the night before.
Order your Christmas display
Use smart outdoor outlets to turn your lights on or off automatically and save money on your electricity bills.
Daniel Van Boom/CNET
Good Christmas lights make the season bright. But plug and unplug? Not that much. What about next month’s electricity bill? Even less.
Smart outlets can alleviate both vacation problems. Use smart outdoor outlets to automatically turn on your Christmas lights (or inflatable arsenal, if that’s your thing) at night and turn off at sunrise. Do the same with an indoor outlet for your Christmas tree lights. You will appreciate the comfort and energy savings.
A helping hand for children
My favorite here. We know how (mostly) smart devices like plugs and lights work, but for a child it’s nothing short of magic.
Have the app ready for your smart plug, then proclaim your amazing ability to turn lights on or off at your command. Use a countdown timer or the trusty “abracadabra” to really sell it, then hit the button.
Your audience will surely be hypnotized, but what’s even more fun is making them the magician. Have them use a word or gesture to control the lights, and use your phone to do so each time they do.
Fair warning: it gets old for you before it gets old for her. Be prepared for the “battery to run out” or the light to “break”.
Start with dinner
I’m not as enthusiastic about this idea as the last one, but it’s worth a try. Use your smart plug to cook your slow cooker or steak sous vide before heading home. This saves a lot of unused cooking time and potentially opens the door to recipes and cooking methods you might not otherwise enjoy.
My concern here is food safety. How long do you leave food outside before you start cooking? Watch out for foodborne illnesses when using your smart plug to delay the cooking process.
Secure your garage door
I came across this at Smart Geek Home, and it’s too good not to share. Plug your garage door opener into a smart outlet. It does not allow you to open or close your garage door instead of the button, remote or panel (like a smart garage door opener), but it prevents others from opening the door.
Car break-ins are common. Even worse, many of us leave our garage door remotes somewhere in our vehicles. If a thief gets hold of it, they could also have access to your house.
By connecting your garage door opener to a smart outlet, you can turn off the power when you’re away or overnight. This way, even if someone has the remote control for your garage door opener, they won’t be able to lift the gate.
Tell Alexa to turn off the lights
The 5th Gen Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is perfect for using voice commands to control your smart plugs.
Or what smart home hub and name you are using. Most smart plugs are compatible with smart home ecosystems, adding another layer of convenience to a device already designed to make your life easier.
Instead of going into the app on your phone and manually turning off the lights (somewhat) at night, or creating a schedule that can turn the lights off before you’re ready, just tell your home hub smart to do so. Be sure to name the smart plug so your hub knows which device to turn off.
Or let IFTTT do the work
Now we are really talking about “smart”. Many smart plugs come with IFTTT capabilities, so you can pair them with other smart devices and automate their interaction.
For example, with a compatible smart plug and thermostat, you can automate a fan to automatically turn on when the temperature warms up a bit, then turn off again when it’s cooler. You can also do the same with a space heater when the temperature drops.
Going back to home security ideas, try setting your smart plug to turn on a light when your outdoor camera detects activity in the yard, or automatically setting a light to turn on at sunset. and at sunrise.
Get those hard to reach places
Selling points are usually located in convenient places until you place a large piece of furniture in front of them. But some outlets, perhaps in the garage or attic, can be downright difficult to access.
While a smart plug doesn’t make it easy to plug something into the outlet, it does allow you to control devices once you’ve successfully plugged them in, like a smart phone. B. a fan mounted in the attic or a fluorescent light in your garage.
Restart your router remotely
Your router is another device that could cause you problems when you need to access it. The top of a shelf is a good place for your router unless you need to reach for it. Your router may also be hidden away in a closet, depending on where your internet connection enters the house. Or your router may be easily accessible but on a different floor when you need to restart it.
Use your smart plug to turn off your router for about 30 seconds, then turn it back on and restart it effectively. Note that this won’t work if your router has battery backup, but if it did, it wouldn’t be unplugged either – you’ll still need to remove the batteries.
While a smart plug is handy for rebooting your router, I don’t recommend using it to turn your internet connection on or off. If you want to restrict internet access, most if not all routers have an app that lets you control internet access per device. Try this before completely disconnecting from the internet, as it may interfere with other connected devices.
Let your day end well
Wouldn’t it be nice if your bed was toasty warm before you got in? Preheat your bed by plugging an electric blanket into a smart outlet and turning it on a few minutes before bedtime. Don’t worry about drifting off to dreamland before you get rid of the cover. Simply set your smart plug to turn off for you.
I don’t know how many times I’ve fallen asleep reading a book and left my bedside lamp on. Not only does this waste energy, but it also annoys anyone trying to sleep. A smart plug can either automatically turn off the light at a specific time or give the person on the other side of the bed the option to turn off the light without getting up.
Ditto for TV if you feel like relaxing in front of a show. Although most televisions have a sleep timer, the setting may not be easy to find. You can also use the remote for a streaming device that doesn’t have the button to access the sleep timer settings. Either way, using a smart plug is a great way to keep your TV off all night.
That’s our list of creative uses for your smart plug, but there are countless more. As with any smart home device, the full potential of a smart plug is only limited by your imagination and the other devices in your home.
More tips and tricks, like where to put your thermostat, how to get stains out of your clothes, and how to protect your home Wi-Fi network, check out the CNET Home Tips page.
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