Make Your Apartment “Smarter”

Having a high-tech apartment or townhouse doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Smart plugs are an easily affordable way to turn your lamps, electronics, or small appliances into smart devices. They can make small tasks more convenient, reduce your energy use, and improve home security.

What Is a Smart Plug?

A smart plug is a small outlet that plugs into an existing electrical outlet. They connect wirelessly to the internet, which allows you to control them with a smartphone. Any device you plug into smart plug can be controlled from anywhere with your phone. Leave the house and forget to turn off a lamp? No problem. If you have your smartphone, you can turn off the lamp with a tap.

Considering prices start at under $20, you can control quite a few things in your apartment for a small investment. Basic models allow you to turn devices on or off from your phone. More expensive models allow you to do things like schedule a device to be turned on or off automatically at a specific time of day. Some also connect to digital assistants. That means you could turn on your coffee maker from bed just by asking Alexa to do it.

How should I use them?

While they’re fun and novel, it doesn’t make sense to use a smart plug for anything that you wouldn’t want to control remotely or automatically. The easiest way think this through is to take a walk around your apartment. Consider each electric-powered device. Would it be convenient, more energy efficient, or improve security if you could control it remotely or automatically? When the answer is yes, it’s a good candidate for a smart plug.

What kind do I need?

When selecting smart plugs, give thought to the functionality you need. Do you simply want to be able to turn devices off or on with your phone? Do you want to program them to run automatically? Do you want them to integrate with a digital assistant such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri? Do you want them to monitor energy use? Since functionality drives price, don’t pay for anything you don’t need. Once you know what you want, a quick Google search can provide you with lots of options.

Start small

One of the smartest ways to start is by purchasing one or two smart plugs and testing them around your apartment. Try using them in the devices you identified. After you’ve used a smart plug someplace for a few days, think about how you’d feel taking it out. If the thought of giving up the ability to control that device isn’t something you’d be happy about, you can feel confident you need a smart plug there. Just repeat that exercise with your other devices. It’s an easy way to avoid spending money on smart plugs you don’t really need.

If you decide to start small and expand your smart plug use over time, just make sure to stick with a single brand. Controlling a smart plug involves downloading an app from the manufacturer. If you buy different brands, you’ll be jockeying between different apps to control them all.