Smart Outlets 101

smart outlets

One of the newest technological wonders hitting the market today is the “smart” outlet. Like a WiFi hotspot that allows you to connect to the internet, these outlets power up electrical devices in your home, providing connectivity via apps on your smartphone.

By plugging into smart outlets, you gain remote control over items you use everyday, such as light fixtures and kitchen appliances. Before you make the investment however, there are a few things you need to know.

How Smart Plugs Work

There are two types of smart outlets available to consumers. One is hardwired into your home like a traditional electrical outlet. The other type is plugged into existing outlets. When electrical devices are connected to either style, users can then control the connected fixture or appliance through their phone or a device hub.

If you’re building a new home or engaging in a remodel, hard-wired outlets are a great way to go. They provide easy connectivity to plugged-in devices, and some of the newest offerings actually allow you to control each outlet individually.

The downside to hard-wired outlets is just that—they need to be wired into your existing electrical service. If you aren’t familiar with how to install a new outlet, you’re better off hiring an electrician or going with an external plug.

The plugged-in variety of smart outlets provides much of the same functionality, but is easily installed by inserting it into an existing receptacle.  Most are plug-and-play, meaning set up should be a breeze through your smart phone or computer.

The Advantages of a Smart Outlet

One thing that’s great about smart outlets is that they can be used to help you control how much energy you use. By connecting existing light fixtures into smart outlets, for example, you can remotely douse illumination or other electronic devices.

Convenience is another factor when it comes to using smart outlets.  Simply plug your coffee maker into one at night and wake to the smell of a fresh brew every morning. Or maybe you like the idea of turning off your crock pot after six hours, rather than risking overcooking your dinner. With smart outlets you can do it all from work, school or anywhere you happen to be.

Smart Outlets Provide Added Safety

In addition to making your morning or evening more pleasant, smart outlets can be critical safety features in your home.

Say you’re going on a trip, but you’d like your home to look occupied at night while you are gone. You can easily turn your fixtures on and off or set time cycles from your phone. For a little added security, you can do the same with your television, creating an extra illusion of occupancy.

Some smart outlets even include motion detection capabilities, a real advantage with outside fixtures. Since they turn on when someone approaches the outlet, connecting external lighting instantly floods intruders with unwanted illumination or offers a welcome ambiance for unexpected visitors.

Looking into the Future of Smart Technology

An up-and-coming technology, known as a synthetic sensor, is currently under development at Carnegie Mellon University. When plugged into an existing outlet, it will turn any device in the room into a smart device. More importantly, it can track anomalies and alert homeowners to potential hazards with appliances, fixtures and even heating systems.[i]

Advanced technology like this can reduce hazards, such as threat of fire, and make your home a safer place. As more home owners adopt these smart applications, insurers are catching on and offering discounts or financial incentives to offset the purchase cost.

If you do decide to adopt smart outlets in your home, be sure to check with your insurer for discounts or do a little shopping to find one who will reward your smart behavior in using smart outlets.