The Smart Plug Is An Oldie But Goodie Holiday Gift
Technology #11 in our 12 Technologies of Christmas blogs series is an oldie but goodie! It’s the perfect gift for your co-worker who works remotely.
by Ken Dulaney
It’s by far one of the oldest smart technologies on the market but it’s time to plug the old smart plug. Prices have plummeted ($32 for 4 smart plugs on amazon.com). There are many appliances (especially power adapters) that are left on continuously burning with no one available to enjoy the benefits of the appliance. This blog will detail why the smart plug makes the perfect gift for anyone who does remote work or who uses Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
Key Benefits of Smart Plugs
Think about the typical remote work office, consisting of a laptop, monitor, printers, and a few peripherals. They may all be connected to a power strip but that strip has no intelligence except to protect against power surges. Connect the power strip to a smart plug and program it to turn on at the start of waking hours and off at the end. Savings of as much as 8 hours of unnecessary power can be had.
Security can be enhanced by connecting a few lights to a smart plug. And because plugs are connected to the internet, they know sunrise and sunset and can automatically modify turn on and off times.
Combine Them with Other Devices
Smart plugs can also be combined with other devices to create very sophisticated applications.
I have a recirculating pump in my house because it takes 10 minutes to get hot water to the master bedroom shower. I know what times we typically take a shower, so I use a smart plug to recirculate the water at those times. When I walk for exercise, I can turn on the recirculating pump before I arrive home. Jump in the shower and the water is instantly hot. Since my smartphone is with me most of the time, if I need hot water at other times simply use the app. It will automatically turn off after 10 minutes any time it’s turned on.
In my backyard, I have a Koi pond. When I first put the Koi in the pond, the supplier told me that I had to remove and replace 10% of the water every week to keep the water fresh. After spending a significant amount of money to build the pond this was the last thing I wanted to hear—I wanted the benefit without the work. But now the thought of dragging out hoses to perform the water change had me depressed.
The challenge led to innovation. I had had valves that control the pond drain and fill installed when the pond was built. They are controlled by 24-volt DC power. So I connected the smart plug to a relay that switched a 24-volt battery source to the drain and a second plug to a relay and the fill valve. The drain comes on for 10 minutes which is the amount of time to remove 10% of the water from my pond and then after that the fill valve comes on for 8 minutes to fill the pond (there is a float valve to shut the fill off early if necessary).
What to Choose
Smart plugs are the most populated category of any smart home devices. All will have a Wi-Fi connection. Most will have the ability to turn on/off, on/off after a time, or on/off after a set time after sunrise or sunset. They work in hours and minutes but I have not found any that work in seconds (I have a need for one that does seconds to turn a plant so that it will be sun-exposed on all sides). All will have a smartphone app. And most will work with Alexa and Google Assistant (“Hey Google, Turn on Recirculating Pump” is popular at our house).
Smart plugs are the oldest of the smart home devices but probably the most useful. Grab a 4-pack at your local Costco or go online and put them to work saving energy and improving the convenience at your home.