Home automation has taken huge leaps in recent years. Through apps and voice commands, smart devices help people make shopping lists, dial phone numbers, record TV shows, adjust thermostats, and, thanks to smart plugs, control electrical power.
Users can install smart plugs in an electrical outlet and control nearly any plugged-in device through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The best smart plugs can power lamps, air conditioners, and electronic gadgets like TVs. And since smart plugs can control devices remotely or on schedules, folks can worry less about remembering to turn everything off when they leave the house.
With their easy installation and ability to conserve power—not to mention save money over expensive appliance upgrades—the best smart plugs are a smart buy. Users can shrink their energy bills and fill their lives with rich conveniences once reserved for futuristic TV cartoon families with robots for housekeepers. We tested these top-rated models to see how they stacked up in the real world.
- BEST OVERALL: Amazon Smart Plug
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Lite | HS103P2
- BEST FOR LIGHTS: Lutron Caséta Smart Lamp Dimmer and Remote Kit
- BEST FOR THE BACKYARD: Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug | KP400
- BEST ENERGY-MONITORING: Emporia Energy Monitoring Smart Plug
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Smart Plug
For those who want to cash in on the convenience but are confused about which smart plug to buy, keep reading. This section explains some of the important features and considerations to keep in mind when shopping for the best smart plug for any home. From app support to connectivity, these features help maximize the power of a smart plug.
While each smart-plug brand has its own app that allows users to control the power quickly, set timers, and set schedules for its plugs, smart plugs can actually do much more. With the right smart-home system, users can control devices with their voice or program scenes (a series of device activations programmed by the user based on their lifestyle) that power up several devices at one time, based on one simple action such as unlocking the front door.
To truly take advantage of all that smart plugs have to offer, shoppers will want to consider one that works seamlessly with their smart-home system. Some of the most popular smart-home hubs include Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple HomeKit. Few devices are universally compatible, so research all the different options to ensure compatibility with a particular hub.
Not only can these smart-home systems control devices with an app, but they may also allow voice control. By using a key phrase to activate a digital-assistant device, users can tell the smart-home device to shut off specific lights, turn on the radio, and control several other devices plugged into smart plugs.
App Inclusion and Support
Instead of a smart-home hub to control their smart devices, some people use an app, but they aren’t always as intuitive or reliable. Before purchasing a smart plug, ensure that it’s backed with a quality app that’s reliable and easy to navigate. Look for an app that allows users to program several devices under one system.
Folks planning to use smart plugs throughout their homes will want to buy the same brand for each room. Otherwise, they’ll have to navigate three or four different smart-plug apps on a phone or tablet.
Network connectivity is one of the most common issues that smart-device owners encounter. Everyone wants a device that connects easily without causing frustration. Whether connecting it to a smartphone app, Bluetooth device, or smart-home system, pairing should be straightforward.
While most smart plugs work well with a Wi-Fi system, some have Bluetooth connectivity as well. This means they can potentially control Bluetooth devices that aren’t connected to Wi-Fi. Those who want “If-This-Then-That” (IFTTT) programming may prefer this feature to help them get the most from their smart plug.
Keep in mind that some devices may require an additional device to tie into the home’s Wi-Fi system. These devices are known as bridges, and by linking the bridge to the Wi-Fi system, they allow the user to control the plug. It’s important to know if a device needs a bridge before purchasing to avoid frustration.
To squeeze a bit of extra functionality out of a smart plug, look for a model with a built-in USB charger. While many smart plugs are large multioutlet devices that might not fit well behind a couch, some allow several devices to connect to the smart plug at once.
Some smart plugs feature 5-volt USB ports that are “always on,” which means users don’t need to use an app to turn it on before charging a device. Instead, plug a smartphone or tablet into these ports and allow them to charge overnight without worrying about programming the app—a convenient benefit over a standard smart plug.
USB ports also provide the ability to charge USB devices without their base cube—an important consideration since a smart plug already protrudes from the wall. Attaching a USB base cube would make it stick out even further, unnecessarily taking up space.
A smart plug paired successfully with a great app or smart-home system allows users to set up automated schedules. For instance, in some cases, a user may be able to approach the home’s smart lock on the front door, and the lock will sense the phone’s Bluetooth to unlock the door automatically. Additionally, the app or smart-home system can perform actions such as turning on the entry lights when it detects the door unlocking.
Smart plugs can make it appear as though owners are home when they’re actually at work, out for the evening, or even on vacation. Scheduling a program to make all the smart plugs throughout the home work together to turn lights on and off helps provide additional security.
Our Top Picks
Many top-quality products are available in the home-automation arena, which can make shopping for the best smart plug a daunting task. This roundup zeroes in on some of the best smart plugs on the market. See how they compared in these tested product reviews.
The Amazon Smart Plug is an easy way to bring smart conveniences into the home. Amazon coins its version of the smart plug as “Certified for Humans,” which means an average person without an engineering degree can set it up with ease. It doesn’t require a smart-home system; instead, it runs entirely through the Alexa app. It’s also incredibly easy to get started. Just plug it in, open the app, and add all the household devices. Alexa can set up schedules and routines as well as designate a set of devices to react together, such as turning off all the lights at once. Its small design means two smart plugs can fit on a double outlet.
While this plug is easy to set up, it won’t work properly on a 5GHz wireless system. The device requires standard 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, which may mean resetting all the other devices in the home.
This is a relatively basic smart plug, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to like. First, we found that linking it to the Wi-Fi was easy; the included QR code was a big help. Also, this was one of the smallest smart plugs in the lineup—at 1.5 inches tall by 3.2 inches wide by 2.2 inches deep—making it more convenient than many of the others. The one area we found disappointing was the bare-bones app (no energy monitoring, literally just on and off), but it does allow for programming routines or timers, and it can support IFTTT tech.
- Smart-home compatibility: Amazon Alexa
- App: Amazon Alexa
- Bridge required: No
- Connected Wi-Fi extremely easily with included QR code
- Lower-profile design doesn’t block other outlets and sticks out from the wall less
- Does support IFTTT programming, allowing advanced users to create dialed-in scenes
- Relatively bare-bones app features
Get the Amazon smart plug on Amazon or at The Home Depot.
TP-Link’s Kasa Smart products account for more than one award in this guide for multiple reasons. Reliable and easy to use, the apps usually pair without difficulty, and this is also the case with this Kasa Smart plug. The product comes in an affordable two-pack to set up two different devices. To program these smart plugs, users can simply plug them into the wall, download the Kasa Smart app, and connect them to Wi-Fi through the app. Then, they can set up all of the schedules and timers, including a timer to sync with sunrise and sunset.
While these individual smart plugs aren’t necessarily slim, they do have a relatively compact design. We found this to be particularly nice for our crowded coffee bar, where other plugs can get in the way of jars and appliances.
As with other Kasa Smart devices, setting up these plugs was a breeze. We were able to set up both plugs in just a few minutes, and we quickly programmed a schedule for the fan we position on the dog’s crate during warm days.
The one thing that we found to be strange about them was that they do make a slight hissing sound when they’re set to “off.” If they’re behind furniture or alongside a coffee pot, though, it would be hard to hear. Overall, this two-pack is a great bargain for just about anyone.
- Smart-home compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana
- App: Kasa
- Bridge required: No
- Easily installs with Kasa Smart app, allowing users to set up several plugs in just minutes
- Comes in a 2-pack for dual device control
- Compact size is helpful for crowded counters or behind furniture
- Makes a hissing noise when in “off” mode
Get the Kasa Smart HS103P2 smart plug on Amazon.
Folks who want smart lighting but would rather not replace expensive smart bulbs will want to check out Lutron’s Caséta smart plug. This device plugs into a standard outlet and can control two lamps, allowing users to activate, shut off, or dim their living room, bedside, or workshop lights with a smart device.
This model doesn’t require a bridge to operate, but it does require one to interface with Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and other digital assistants. However, without the bridge, users can turn on, shut off, dim, or brighten their lights with the included Pico remote switch. There are also additional brackets that users can buy to attach their remote switch to the wall to make it operate like a typical light switch.
In testing, we didn’t have the bridge, so we were limited to remote-control use, but we rather liked the switch once we got the hang of it. It’s small and easy to use, and it has a favorite setting that immediately sets the lamp to the preferred brightness set by the user. We could see the convenience of mounting it to the wall like a standard switch, though it didn’t come with the mount to do so (bummer!). Also, we really liked that this device has side-mounted outlets and a slim profile, making it perfect for mounting behind a couch. It’s actually lower profile than a standard plug, meaning if kids or rambunctious dogs are moving the couch back and forth, it’s less likely to hit the plug.
- Smart-home compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and more
- App: Lutron
- Bridge required: Yes
- Pico switch controller is small and easy to use
- The “favorite” button on controller dials in brightness quickly
- Side-mounted plugs maintain an exceptionally low-profile design
- Available bracket (sold separately) attaches remote to the wall like a typical light switch
- Requires a bridge to interface with phone or digital assistants
Get the Lutron smart plug at The Home Depot or on Amazon.
TP-Link takes the smart plug to the home’s exterior (though it’s also great for a basement or garage) with this plug-in adapter that can control two separate devices from one plug. It operates with Kasa’s app and communicates via both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for convenient voice control. It’s weather-resistant and has a Wi-Fi range of up to 300 feet, which makes it an excellent option for controlling Christmas lights, backyard string lights, and pool pumps. Simply power up the devices using the digital voice assistant or the Kasa app. Keep in mind that if using it outdoors, it’s weather-resistant but not waterproof. Shelter it from direct rain and snow to prevent damage.
We didn’t have an outlet far enough away from the router to force this smart plug to lose connectivity, meaning its range was pretty impressive. And, like all Kasa Smart devices, it was a breeze to use the app and program this device. We also found a really cool feature that allows this plug to switch its outlets automatically, letting the user swap controlled devices without physically unplugging and replugging the devices. The LED toggle is also a nice feature, as it allows the user to turn off the LEDs to prevent the plug from lighting up at night—presumably to avoid a theft or to avoid ruining softer lighting. The one complaint we do have is that the rubber outlet cover isn’t attached to the unit, and it’s not very secure, so it can easily fall out and get lost.
- Smart-home compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana
- App: Kasa Smart
- Bridge required: No
- Links quickly to Kasa Smart for easy installation and connection to lights or devices
- Automatically swaps the plugs so users don’t have to remove and reinsert the plugs
- LED toggle allows the user to shut off the indicator lights to hide the plug at night
- Not waterproof, so it has to be sheltered from rain and snow
- Rubber outlet cover isn’t secure
Get the Kasa Smart KP400 smart plug at The Home Depot or on Amazon.
Folks who’d like to know how much energy their frequently used devices are drawing should check out the Emporia Energy Monitoring Smart Plug. The app features energy monitoring for each device, giving readings on watt usage for up to 1 year. This allows users to adjust their plugs for peak demand hours, monitor time-of-use management, or even direct excess energy produced by a solar system to power-hungry appliances.
This four-pack of smart plugs works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing users to control up to four devices with their digital assistant. These plugs can handle schedules and routines, and they feature a relatively slim profile at just a little more than 1 inch deep.
These were some of our favorite plugs on the list, but they weren’t without their trouble. We had to program each of the smart plugs manually, activating their individual Wi-Fi signals just to get them to recognize our home’s Wi-Fi. However, once installed, they integrated extremely well with Google Assistant.
It’s worth noting that despite the challenge of installing the plugs, the app runs smoothly and has plenty of features. Programming scenes was easy, as was naming and integrating Emporia with Google Assistant. Also, the energy-monitoring feature included helpful graphs and easily understood data. All said, the app could actually be our favorite part of this set of plugs.
- Smart-home compatibility: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- App: Emporia Energy
- Bridge required: No
- Integrated really well with Google, making for a very simple setup
- Flexibility to manage time-of-use, peak rate use, and even the ability to use excess solar power
- App runs smoothly and gives clear energy-consumption readings
- They were challenging to install as each plug required manual programming
Get the Emporia Energy smart plug on Amazon.
Wemo Mini Smart Plug
The Wemo Mini Smart Plug has some appealing features, like its ability to link with Apple HomeKit as well as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. However, it’s incredibly frustrating to set up. It took us several attempts to get it to link with our Wi-Fi. Once it did, we found the Wemo app to be pretty lackluster and boring, not feature rich like other apps. Also, it was downright difficult to navigate compared to apps like Emporia or Kasa. But, worst of all, it didn’t stay connected to Wi-Fi, so the next day when we went to access it again, it wouldn’t communicate with our phone or Google Assistant, requiring another long, drawn-out installation process. All in all, it didn’t meet our standards for recommendation.
How We Tested the Best Smart Plugs
We wanted to ensure that we were suggesting only the best smart plugs on the market, so we performed hands-on research with these devices. We set them up, navigated their apps, programmed schedules, removed and reinserted them, and hooked them up to Google Assistant for voice control. We used them to control devices, renamed them, and performed many other tasks to determine if these plugs were high quality and provided enough value.
Some products were ridiculously difficult to install, while others were simple. Some integrated well with our voice assistant while others were a bit more challenging. Those that passed the tests and offered enough value were given awards based on their strengths. Those that didn’t were designated as failures and removed from the list.
The Advantages of Owning the Best Smart Plug
Using smart plugs can increase a home’s security. By pairing smart plugs with an app or a smart-home system, users can create the illusion that they’re home even when they’re far away by programming lights and other devices, like radios, to turn on and off. Also, apps that work with a security system can program smart plugs to turn lights on throughout the house if the alarm activates, potentially scaring away would-be intruders.
Smart plugs can turn standard devices into well-oiled machines that offer enhanced flexibility and convenience. For instance, a standard coffee pot paired with a smart plug can have coffee hot and ready the second the alarm goes off in the morning. By programming the plug and turning the pot’s switch to the “on” position the night before, the plug powers up the coffee pot at the specified time.
Smart plugs can help reduce “vampire” energy loss, which refers to the power that devices consume when they’re in standby mode. A smart plug cuts power to those devices completely when they’re not in use while also consuming less power to stay connected to the smart-home system. Smart plugs can:
- Increase a home’s security.
- Improve the usability of standard devices.
- Reduce vampire energy loss.
Consumers who are still unsure about purchasing a smart plug or are simply not certain they fully understand how it works may find the answers they need below. Here, the most common questions about smart plugs and their corresponding answers appear. If you still have questions after reading this section, reach out to your smart-plug manufacturer’s customer service department.
Q. What can I use with a smart plug?
You can use any device with a smart plug. However, devices with on/off switches that stay in the “on” position, such as lights, coffee pots, heaters, fans, and radios, work best.
Q. Is a smart plug available that works with 5GHz?
You don’t have to have a 5GHz system to use a smart plug. A 2.4GHz Wi-Fi system has better range and plenty of speed and capability to send an on/off signal to a smart plug. However, if you connect your phone to a 5GHz system, you should still be able to communicate with the devices on your 2.4GHz system.
Q. How do you set up a smart plug?
Most smart plug apps walk you through the device setup procedure. Generally speaking, first, install the app and then press a button on the plug for a prescribed amount of time while the app scans for the signal. After that brief process, the app allows you to set up timers and schedules.
Q. Do smart plugs block other outlets?
Rarely. Most smart plugs fit over one outlet and allow access to the other plug. However, some multiport smart plugs block both outlets, but they have several built-in ports to compensate for the blockage.