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What are the different types of smart outlets, plugs, chargers and switches for your home?

Adding intelligent functionality to your home is simple with the correct products. However, in a crowded marketplace, how do you choose? If you’re willing to convert anything from your connected television to your phone charger, smart outlets are a cost-effective solution. Smart plugs are an excellent starting point for modernizing your personal area. They can be utilized by homeowners and renters alike. Willing to learn more read on for more information? 

Finger pressing an on-off button with blue light active for safety testing electric system on modern smart plug and Wi-Fi outlet.

What are smart plugs and outlets?

Smart outlets are a cost-effective method for transforming common appliances and fixtures into smart gadgets. Using Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Home Pod, or a variety of other devices, you can turn off and on your appliances with a smart outlet using your phone or (in certain scenarios) your voice. If you’re looking for something less sophisticated, smart plugs are another method to make dozens of your electronic devices more intelligent.

Smart plugs provide you control over your household equipment when they are plugged into an electrical outlet. They provide remote control from practically anywhere in the globe, like normal smart home devices, but are more cheap than purpose-built smart home items.

How are smart outlets and plugs installed?

Smart plugs are simple to install. The smart plug is inserted into any conventional electrical outlet, then fans, lamps, and other devices are added. Then simply configure it with an application, and everything is ready to go.

For smart outlets, there is a little electrical work involved to replace the existing outlet.  Its best to consult a licensed electrician for installation. 

Do smart plugs and outlets conserve energy?

A benefit of adopting smart plugs is reduced energy expenditures. With smart plugs, you can program appliances to switch on and off according to your needs. A home may, for instance, program a smart plug to activate a clothes dryer or pool filter only during off-peak hours, when electricity is less expensive to purchase.

A second example would be a person who utilizes a tiny space heater during the cold months. Typically, space heaters warm a room rapidly, but many older versions lack good thermostatic control and energy efficiency. Once the appropriate temperature is reached, the heater must be shut off to prevent the room from becoming excessively heated.

Using a smart socket, the heater can be turned off automatically after a predetermined amount of time. Smart outlets and plugs can operate numerous equipment, including lights, televisions, air conditioners, fans, water heaters, and electric blankets. This guarantees that devices operate only when necessary, reducing energy usage while they are not in use.

How do smart outlets operate?

Simply put, it is a connector equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities that enables remote control. Connected appliances or devices with smart plugs can be turned on or off via an app. As long as both the smart plug and your mobile phone are linked to the internet, you can control your smart plug regardless of your distance from the appliance.

Note, however, that the majority of smart plugs available today can only regulate the flow of electricity from the socket to the appliance or gadget. It cannot be used with more complicated appliances, such as air conditioners and televisions, which require a power button or remote control to switch on or off. Smart plugs are typically used with devices that can be left on continuously, such as lamps, chargers, and electric fans, to name a few.

Features of Smart Plugs and Outlets

1. Manage it anywhere

With smart plugs, you can remotely operate your appliance. No problem if you’re uncertain whether you turned off your fan before leaving the house. Simply launch the companion app on your smartphone to turn it off from anywhere.

2. Voice control

The majority of smart plugs available today are compatible with intelligent assistants like Google and Alexa. Once you have done configuring your smart plug, these smart assistants should instantly identify it. You may then control your appliance with voice commands via Google or Alexa without moving a muscle.

3. Establish timing and schedules

The majority of electric fans still lack an integrated timer. If you wish to go from air conditioning to a fan in the middle of the night despite having an air conditioning remote control, you will have to get out of bed. A smart plug can simply rectify the situation. You just set your fan to activate when the timer on your air conditioner expires. You may even create a daily schedule for this, so you will only need to setup it once.

4. Energy observation

Several smart plugs, including our 2-in-1 Smart Plug, include this capability. If the model you purchased includes this function, you can easily check the daily or monthly electricity use of each of your equipment. If not, having smart plugs in your house can still be extremely advantageous, particularly if you use them to reduce or eliminate vampire power. Vampire power is also known as standby power, and it can account for up to 10 percent of your monthly electric cost.

Why choose a smart switch as opposed to a socket or a light bulb?

Installing a smart switch is not the only technique to improve the lighting in your house. Many smart bulbs can also change colors, which is not only entertaining but also surprisingly useful when ordering food or waiting for an Uber. However, the light bulbs can be expensive, especially when numerous bulbs are required for a ceiling fan, and they only provide control over the bulb itself, not the power source or other hardwired equipment.

Similar to smart switches, smart plugs allow you to regulate the flow of electricity from an outlet rather than a switch. As a result, smart plugs are appropriate for lighting settings, such as plugging in a lamp or nightlight, but not for hardwired lighting fixtures or ceiling fans.

The ease of installation is a benefit of smart lamps and plugs over smart switches. Smart plugs will plug directly into your outlet, and installing a smart light bulb is identical to installing a standard light bulb.

In contrast, smart switches are more incorporated into the home and necessitate some electrical work. Installation is not particularly difficult, and your smart switch should come with thorough instructions, but expect it to take longer than replacing a lightbulb. Furthermore, there are always safety considerations while working with electrical components. Ensure that all safety precautions are observed when installing a smart switch.

Smart Plugs Compatibility 

One of the most advantageous aspects of smart plugs is the fact that they are compatible with voice assistants such as Alexa, which is sold by Amazon. Thankfully, there are a number of smart plugs available on the market that are compatible with Alexa in addition to other voice assistants. Three of the most well-known brands of smart plugs are the WemoTM Smart Plug, the Kasa SmartTM Wi-Fi Plug, and the Amazon® Smart Plug. Which one is best for you will depend on which features are most important to you. There is a wide variety of options, ranging from a compact design to the capability to combine your smart plug with other smart devices in your home for easy commanding. Which one is best for you will depend on which features are most important to you.

When to Use Smart Plugs

1. Slow-baker

If you’re a lover of making set-and-forget meals with your slow cooker, a smart plug will allow you to manage how long your food cooks – since, let’s face it, we’re all occasionally gone for longer than anticipated. With a smart plug, you’ll be able to turn off your slow cooker from anywhere, preventing overcooked, rubbery pot roast.

2. Christmas tree or holiday lights

Smart plugs can contribute to year-round energy conservation. Schedule your smart plug to switch your Christmas lights on and off throughout the day so they’re only on when someone is available to enjoy them.

3. The Coffee Machine

There is no better way to start the day than by waking up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. You may program your coffee maker to begin brewing before you wake up if it is equipped with a smart plug, or you can use the accompanying app to flip a switch to allow it to brew while you savor those few precious extra minutes in bed.

4. Heaters for the interior space and refrigerants

Smart plugs are wonderful for helping to keep the right temperature in your home, particularly if you use a window air conditioner or a space heater that is only a few square feet in size. You can program the heater to kick on at the exact moment you reach home, so that the house is already toasty and comfortable when you get there.

5. Outdoor Smart Plug

There are many electrical devices and home appliances that can benefit from being automated by using smart plugs. With an outdoor smart plug, such as the iHomeTM Outdoor Smart Plug, you may remotely turn on and off devices, such as the string of beautiful lights on your patio or water fountain pump.

What are smart switches and dimmers?

Smart switches are a form of smart home technology that enables remote lighting control in the home. Smart switches link to your home network or smart home hub and provide homeowners with Wi-Fi access and management of their home lighting. This connectivity enables remote control of your home’s light switches via an app accessible on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. You may manually turn the lights on or off with all smart switch devices by toggling the in-wall switch. This manual option will allow your visiting grandmother without a smart phone to switch off the bathroom lights.

Smart switches will allow people to control their house lighting and switch-wired devices in novel ways. In addition to light bulbs, you may set smart switch products for remote control of any switch-powered, hardwired appliance. Using a smart switch, waste disposal machines, ceiling fans, and bathroom fans can be remotely turned off or on. On a chilly winter evening, you can use a smart switch to warm your living room with an electric fireplace before returning home from work.

LED lighting solutions are one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency. According to a Department of Energy (DOE) analysis, the collaborative effort to transition to LED lights has reduced annual energy expenses by more than $675 million. Suppose that during the following two decades, every homeowner and company owner switched to LED lighting exclusively. In this scenario, the United States may anticipate an approximate $250 billion reduction in energy prices. This reduction would effectively halve the amount of electricity required for illumination, so preventing around 1,800,000,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

LED lighting choices dramatically lower a household’s energy use and offer a vast array of new, personalized lighting alternatives. The defining characteristic of a successful home technology choice is its capacity to simultaneously increase home comfort, performance, and functionality while drastically reducing energy use. The results indicate that householders are rapidly adopting LED lighting solutions.

Are smart switches cost-effective?

Smart switches are a relatively inexpensive and simple method for upgrading your lighting controls. You should be able to find a smart switch for practically any space or purpose, as there are a variety of colors and configurations to pick from, and some may be more compatible with your other smart home devices than others.

Consider your demands and determine if smart switches make sense, but keep in mind that you are not limited to a single lighting option. Mix and combine smart switches, bulbs, and plugs across your home to provide each setting with the optimal smart lighting solution.

Types of Smart Switches

The primary distinction between smart switches is the type of connectivity used to regulate them. All smart switches will rely on a radio transmitter for internal communication and network connection. Nevertheless, the “smart” functioning of the switches, which enables them to communicate with one another, can be governed by a variety of broadcast frequencies and protocols. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, and Z-Wave are the three most popular forms of connectivity for smart switches.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth smart switches are typically the simplest to install because they do not need a smart home hub. Thus, they can connect quickly to your existing home network. Smart switches that are controlled by Zigbee and Z-wave communication must be connected to a smart home hub. The primary advantage of this solution is that the switches will not consume Wi-Fi network bandwidth. If you want to install multiple smart switches throughout your home or have a limited internet data plan, this feature can be essential.

What is smart battery charger?

A microprocessor-controlled charger is another term for a smart battery charger. These chargers are only compatible with smart batteries manufactured by the same manufacturer. This is due to the fact that smart batteries contain microchips that are programmed to connect with chargers of the same brand.

Typically, intelligent batteries are regarded to be batteries capable of complicated operation. These microchips tell the user of the battery’s current state of charge (SoC) and health (SoH). They are commonly utilized in medical devices, computers, video and digital cameras, and military equipment. Given the importance of SoC and SoH to their functionality, smart batteries are a natural fit for these devices. Notably, batteries that just instruct a charger to replenish the battery to a given level are not normally considered smart batteries.

Because a smart battery charger is designed to provide exact charging, it is unlikely to experience overcharging, and trickle charges can be effectively maintained. Intelligent batteries have microchips that are compatible with a particular and related charging equipment. To prevent damage to smart batteries, consumers should always charge their batteries via the charger provided by the manufacturer. A consumer’s free or paid battery warranty may be voided if the battery is charged using a foreign charger.

A smart battery charger is only compatible with smart batteries manufactured by the same company.

Three Levels of Smart Chargers

Stage I | Bulk Stage

A battery charger’s principal function is to recharge a battery. This initial stage is often when the charger’s maximum voltage and amperage rating will be utilized. The amount of charge that may be added to a battery without causing it to overheat is known as its natural absorption rate. The charging voltage for a common 12 volt AGM battery will reach 14.6-14.8 volts, whereas flooded batteries can reach even higher voltages. The voltage of the gel battery should not exceed 14.2-14.3 volts. If the charger is a 10 amp charger and the battery’s resistance permits it, the charger will output 10 amps. This level will recharge extremely depleted batteries. At this stage, there is no risk of overcharging because the battery has not yet achieved full capacity.

Stage II | Absorption Cost

Before charging, intelligent chargers will measure the voltage and resistance of the battery. After reading the battery, the charger decides the optimal charging stage. Once the battery’s state of charge reaches 80%*, the charger will enter the absorption phase. At this stage, the majority of chargers will keep a constant voltage while the current decreases. The decreased current flowing into the battery securely increases its charge without causing it to overheat.

This step takes longer. During the bulk stage, the remaining 20% of the battery requires significantly more time than the initial 20%. The current gradually decreases until the battery is nearly at full capacity.

Stage III | Floating Charge

Some chargers enter float mode as early as 85% state of charge, while others do so closer to 95%. In either case, the float stage brings the battery to completion and maintains a 100 percent state of charge. The voltage will decrease and stabilize between 13.2 and 13.4 volts, the maximum voltage a 12-volt battery can retain. In addition, the current will diminish to a trickle level. This is the origin of the term “trickle charger.” It is effectively the float stage, when charge is always being added to the battery, but only at a safe rate to achieve a full state of charge. It is perfectly safe to leave a battery in float mode for months or even years with the majority of smart battery chargers not shutting off.

To summarize

The beginning of the twenty-first century ushered in a technological revolution that we are still experiencing. As we transition from the fourth to the fifth industrial revolution, we have become so accustomed to the rapid rate of invention that we anticipate technology solutions to become increasingly effective and labor-efficient. 

Given that the field of smart technology is expanding at a rapid rate, inventions become obsolete nearly as soon as they are introduced, it can be rather difficult to define something as broad as smart technology.

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