Post Updated 11/26/18 – Welcome to the first post in LME’s new Smart Home Showcase feature. Let’s kick it off with some good news for those with more smart home enthusiasm than money. If you’ve already got an Alexa device, then yes: you can get a great, multi-device start on your smart home for under $25. Note that prices on Amazon are subject to change at any time, and prices quoted in this post are accurate as of publication date.
Smart Plugs: Easy, Inexpensive, Versatile
Smart plug technology is pretty mature now, and you’ll find most smart plugs work with both Alexa and Google Home. The advantage of a smart plug over a smart bulb is versatility: plug a lamp into your smart plug and presto! Your lamp’s ordinary light bulb can now be controlled like a smart bulb. Prefer to use it for something else? No problem! Any device that runs on electricity and is compatible with the plug (e.g., here in the US we have both 2-prong and 3-prong plugs so we have to be sure we buy the right plug for each appliance) can be turned off and on via voice commands when it’s connected to a smart plug.
Smart plugs go into your usual electrical outlets, and connect wirelessly to your WiFi network. Through that WiFi connection they can be powered on and off through Alexa, Google Home devices and usually, their own, free mobile app. At first it was a real pain to get smart plugs and bulbs set up and communicating with Alexa, but now it’s down to just two easy steps:
1. Get The Manufacturer App & Complete Setup
Download and install the free app from the smart plug manufacturer (if you can’t find the app in Amazon’s App Store, the packaging that came with the plugs will tell you where to go online to get it), then open the app and follow its setup prompts. This is necessary to get the plugs “talking” to your WiFi network.
2. Bring Alexa On Board
Go into the Alexa app under Smart Home > Add Device to get Alexa connected to the new plugs. You can give each one a unique name (e.g., “Bob’s Desk Lamp”) to make your voice commands easier to remember, and you can also group them if you’d like to control more than one with a single command. Setup in the Alexa app has vastly improved since the early days, and now it’s all pretty seamless and intuitive.
What You Gets For Your Moneys
There are lots and LOTS of options out there, but I’ve done the research and scoured the reviews to bring you the recommendations below. Each will get your smart home off to a running start with the ability to control three lamps, home appliances or other electronic devices with voice commands.
This KMC 3 Pack Wi-Fi Smart Plug package has an average review rating of 4/5 stars across 540 reviews (as of this writing). One verified purchaser said in his 4/2018 review that these are “better, cheaper, and more reliable with Alexa than the TP-Link switches I owned before.” These plugs include heat sensors for safety, pre-programmed timer capabilities, and also allow for tracking energy use in the free, companion app.
UK Readers – Check Out The COOSA WiFi Smart Plug 3-Pack
This COOSA WiFi Smart Plug 3-Pack is a popular pick in the UK. One verified purchaser said in his 7/2018 review: “Simple to set-up & configure and integrates easily with Alexa/Echo Dot really well. Very impressed.” These plugs include the ability to set pre-programmed timers and allow for tracking energy use in the free companion app, which also offers parental control capabilities.