So, what exactly is a smart outlet and why would you want one?

Smart outlets either replace a conventional outlet or plugs right into a conventional outlet. These useful products can help prevent vampire power. They are comparatively inexpensive and can reduce your overall power consumption, which is better for your bank balance and the environment. Smart outlets are incredibly easy to use, particularly the plug and go models that simply slot into an existing traditional outlet. This ease of use and low price tag, combined with immediately visible results with the monitoring features, make these smart products a great introduction to smart home technology and a solid foundation to building a smart home.

Um... Vampire Power?

That's right. Vampire power. Energy vampires, to be precise, rather than the blood-sucking villains of legend. It's also referred to as phantom load or vampire draw. Many people leave devices on standby or turned off but still plugged in. The majority of these devices, including televisions, Blu-ray players, and smartphone or tablet chargers, still draw power, regardless of whether or not they are switched off. According to Energy Star, the average American household wastes a whopping $100 per year paying for vampire power resulting from devices left plugged in. That's a significant amount of money, and it's bad for the environment.

That's Where Smart Outlets Come In

Smart outlets do battle with the insatiable energy vampires in your home, meaning that even when you forget to unplug your phone charger or accidentally leave the TV in standby, the smart outlets prevent the device from drawing more power, therefore saving you money, reducing your power consumption, and making your home a little greener. Many models also let you monitor how much power specific devices are consuming. You can then adjust your usage, such as running demanding devices during off-peak hours, in an attempt to further reduce or optimize overall consumption and maximize your savings.

Remote Control

Many smart plugs let you access your outlets remotely, via an app. This way, as long as you've got an internet connection, you can view all devices currently plugged into your smart outlets. Not only can you see whether the connected device is turned on or off, you can switch them on or off via the app. This level of control is particularly useful if you're at work, for example, and you suddenly remember you've left your coffee pot or hair straightener on. Yes, it saves you wasting energy, but it's also a safety feature. You greatly reduce the risk of an appliance overheating or shorting out due to being accidentally left on as you have the ability to switch it off remotely. Some more advanced models, when integrated with the right system, let you use voice commands to turn them on and off.

Use With Home Automation Systems

Some smart plugs are compatible with home automation systems like Nest, Samsung SmartThings and Apple HomeKit. Data is then shared between all devices across the home network, and depending on the outlet model, you can instruct one or more outlets to turn on at specific predetermined times, or when Nest, for example, detects that you're on your way home. As part of a home automation system, some smart outlets can be set as part of a scheduled event. For example, at a given time, or in response to specific data, your whole-home system could lock all the exterior doors, adjust the temperature, turn on a reading lamp, turn off the main house lights and turn on the television.

As part of an integrated whole-home network, your smart plugs can make sure you don't inadvertently waste energy overnight. If you're wearing a fitness band that's compatible with your home automation system, you can set all or specific smart plugs to power down the devices, such as the television or a lamp when your fitness band recognizes that you're asleep.

While useful as standalone items and a great introduction to the smart home culture, smart outlets are at their most useful when part of whole-home automation system. If you've tried the outlets and found them beneficial, you can add to your budding smart home by introducing other simple, easy-to-use products like smart lighting, smart keyless door locks and security cams. With the right home automation system, you can also add smart kitchen appliances to further maximize energy savings.

More Top Stories