WiFi Plugs: An Easy Way to Automate Your Home
WiFi plugs are an easy and economic way of making your home really smart. We explain the most common types and show you how to use them.
These days, more and more electrical products support Smart Home interconnectivity. Moreover, even vintage products from the pre-internet era can now form an integral part of state-of-the-art home automation systems. The secret? Smart plugs (aka intelligent sockets, smart outlets, or Smart Home sockets) that support WiFi or other wireless communication protocols and enable remote operation or incorporation of any home device into existing Smart Home networks. No bulky remote controls required. Just use your smartphone or your voice. Below, we explain the most common types of smart plugs, and show you how to use them with any wall outlet in order to boost your home comfort hands-free.
How do WiFi smart plugs work?
Technically speaking, these little boxes represent inline sockets that connect any mains-powered device to a wireless local area network (or to any other type of wireless setup). This means that your granny’s 1950s night-light can also be an integral part of nowadays hi-tech environment. Unlike common mains outlet timers, remotely controlled wireless smart plugs enable a plethora of uses.
Smart plug control is based on standardised wireless communication protocols such as Z-Wave or ZigBee, with commands being fed forward by Wi-Fi routers and/or gateways. Most intelligent sockets use WiFi. Bluetooth or DECT are less common. Although Bluetooth sockets generally consume less energy than their Wi-Fi counterparts, they come with a limited range of signal coverage.
Smart plugs should not be confused with Powerline adapters. Powerline adapters are Wi-Fi boosters for areas with poor signal coverage, or with a lack of hard-wired local area network connections.
Smart plugs can be turned on and off by app or voice command. Some smart home sockets come with a button that lets you switch on and off the power supply manually.
However, always best to let Smart Home systems do what they are supposed to do, namely take care of things autonomously. In order to do so, Wi-Fi plugs can be operated both timer- and sensor-controlled.
What types of devices can be interconnected by WiFi plugs?
Top of the list are free-standing fans or lights that do not work with smart light bulbs. After all, devices that don’t come with a radio chip and thus can’t be hooked up to home automation networks are still found in plenty of households. Linking a Wi-Fi plug to a sensor or to a motion detector allows you circumvent the problem, freshen up stale air whenever required, or switching on mood lighting as soon as you get back home from work.
The same applies to humidifiers or electric heaters that don’t support WiFi. Smart plugs connect the devices to your home automation system. And what about waking up and literally smelling the coffee? Easily done by using a user-friendly smart plug. And there’s more: smoke detectors, intruder alarms or remotely switching off home appliances from wherever you are on the planet. Bottomline: the possibilities are endless.
Smart Living Made Easy: Tried and tested projects for WiFi plugs
If you are a registered Conrad Connect user, our rule editor allows a straightforward setup of sensor-controlled networks that will make your life a lot easier. And if you opt for ready-to-use projects shared by our Community members the whole process is as easy as it gets: adapting most projects to your network settings only requires a couple of mouse clicks.
Find the best WiFi plugs for your Smart Home
When it comes to smart plugs, consumers are spoilt for choice. How do you pick the one that’s right for you? Below some guidelines that help you make an informed decision.
Extra features: Simple smart home sockets are basically inline sockets that allow you to remotely control devices. If you want extra features, make sure you check out the product details. For instance, timer functions always come in handy. Some feature-packed Wi-Fi products also log energy consumption and forward the data to the app and your Conrad Connect dashboard. This lets you keep an eye on your smart home performance. Even more so, if you’re are using electricity providers like Fresh Energy which helps you both save money on your utility bills and reduce your carbon footprint by efficient energy monitoring.
Gateway: Like various other Smart Home devices, some smart plugs relay on a gateway (aka access point, hub or bridge) that connects them to a Wi-Fi router. Setting up a gateway is usually a totally straightforward process. If you want to save time and space, just opt for a Wi-Fi plug that doesn’t require a gateway.
Voice control: Nowadays, all smart devices come with a free app. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they also support voice control using Google Assistant or Alexa. And as we all agree, voice control is a much more convenient way to turn devices on and off in real-time than fiddling with an app. Means make sure to check for Google Home and Amazon Echo smart speaker compatibility before buying a Wi-Fi plug. By the way, Conrad Connect supports both of the above.
Outdoor use: Careful! Not every smart plug is suitable for switching on lights on your driveway or in your garden. You might have to look for a product specially designed for outdoor use that comes with an IP44 rating (weatherproof).
Price: These days, you can get a quality Wi-Fi plug for €15. Most products cost between €30 and €50. However, if you are looking for some non-standard features you might have to shell out substantially more. Choosing starter kits helps reduce the item price.
How the devolo Home Control Plug works
- Broadlink: The Broadlink Contros SP3 Smart Plug works with iOS and Android smartphones. The free app supports programmable timer settings and comes with a countdown and stopwatch function.
- Devolo: Devolo’s Home Control Timer & Meter Plug 2.0 does a lot more than just operate electrical appliances according to preset time schedules: it also monitors power consumption and notifies you by app or email as soon as the washing machine has done its job. The plug uses Z-Wave protocol and enables voice-control via Google Assistant. No support of Amazon Alexa though.
- Egardia: Egardia’s SPLUG29 wasn’t named the “Clever One” for no reason: it supports iOS and Android apps, and also enables browser-based control. A timer with 7-day programmable settings helps you make your home look occupied if you are away on business or vacation. The “Clever One” uses the 868 MHz band.
- Gigaset: Gigaset Elements products come with an app that supports both iOS and Android phones and also allows you to manually turn devices on or off. Moreover, the device features a programmable rule manager that, for example, switches on all the lights as soon as the system detects movement in your home. Gigaset’s Elements plugs use DECT ULE protocols.
- Homematic IP: Homematic supplies a range of smart devices, including products that come with built-in energy logger and dimmers. Operating the plugs requires an Homematic IP Access Point or CU2/CU3 hub. Homematic smart plugs use the manufacturer’s own communication protocol and support Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice control.
- Innogy: Innogy supplies smart inline sockets for both indoor and outdoor use. Indoor plugs come with a dimmer function and enable voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant. Operating the products requires setting up one of the company’s Smart Home hubs.
- Osram: Osram Smart+ Plugs come in a variety of types including an IP44 rated product suitable for outdoor use. All products support Amazon Alexa. Connecting Osram plugs to your home network requires installing the Osram Lightify Gateway. Moreover, Osram’s Lightify app also allows you to hook up Paul Neuhaus smart outlets to Conrad Connect.
- Smartwares: Switching appliances on and off from wherever you on the planet and loggomg their energy consumption? No prob at all. This is precisely what the Smartwares SH8-90901 Wi-Fi plug does. Don’t worry if your phone happens to be out of reach. The device comes with a remote. The advanced SH8-90902 version features a dimmer. Both products require a Smartwares gateway and support Amazon Alexa voice control.
- Sygonix: Sygonix offers three different types of smart plugs. CP1 is a standard single outlet. CP1M comes with built-in electricity metering, and CC1 is a 6-socket power strip. All three are operated by the Sygonix Home smartphone app that also includes a timer function with programmable settings. Moreover, using Sygonix smart plugs on Conrad Connect gives you plenty of extra Smart Home options.
- Smappee: Smappee takes smart tech to the next level. These well-designed products are manufactured around a junction box that logs energy consumption. As you need to hook up your devices to the box, you need to know your way around electrical wiring. Linking the energy logger to the Smappee Switch enables automated remote operation of household devices using a smartphone app. This includes turning on appliances late night which helps you benefit from cheaper rates. Moreover, Smappee products support Amazon Alexa voice control.
- Telldus: Telldus supplies a range of Wi-Fi plugs suitable for indoor, driveway, patio and garden use. Telldus products are versatile: they don’t just work with a smartphone app, they also come with a manual control button and a proper remote. Operating Telldus plugs requires a Z-Wave gateway.
- Zipato: Zipato’s Smart Energy Plug-In Switch allows you to remotely turn devices on and off, and to keep an eye on their energy consumption. Since Zipato products use Z-Wave protocols, you can operate the Wi-Fi plugs via apps by other manufacturers as long as they support Z-Wave, too. Zipato’s smartphone app also includes programmable timer settings.
Whatever product you choose is entirely up to you. All of them are supported by Conrad Connect.
Linking Smart Plugs to Conrad Connect Projects
To add smart plugs to your Conrad Connect account, you first need to set-up the plugs using the app (if applicable), following the manufacturer’s instructions. In some cases, you might have to install the gateway, too. Afterwards, sign up for cloud access on the manufacturers’ website. Log on to your Conrad Connect account, go to Products & Services, scroll to the respective manufacturer and click the Connect button. Done! Means, from now on, you are able to use Smart Wi-Fi plugs and other connected devices as part of your Conrad Connect projects.