How to make almost any dumb appliance smart.

Smart devices offer voice control, smartphone apps, and powerful automations. But why spend hundreds of dollars on the latest models? With some cheap smart plugs, you can give your dumb devices the same features for a fraction of the cost.

dumb devices are the best

Smart plugs work on a fairly simple principle. Insert one into an outlet and plug something in. It cuts power to turn off devices and restores power to turn them back on. If you control any outlet in your home with a light switch, the principle is essentially the same. But that same principle also limits the types of appliances a smart plug can control.

How to make almost any dumb appliance smart

Appliances and accessories have a mechanical or electronic switch. A mechanical switch physically cuts power. An electronic switch stores the current state and changes to the opposite state when you press the power button.

The latter presents a problem because the “current state” is stored using energy. If you lose power to your home, the device defaults to shutting down and the next switch is set to “on.”

How to make almost any dumb appliance smart

Mechanical switches tend to be a rocker or toggle switch, while electronic switches tend to be a soft button. If you are not sure if your device has a mechanical or electrical switch, you can test it in just a few seconds. First, turn on the device and then disconnect it. Count to five and then plug it back in. If the device turns on, it is compatible with a smart plug. If you were to press a button to turn it on after plugging it in, a smart plug won’t work with that device.

Smart plugs are a great option for some portable or window air conditioning units, fans and heaters, curling irons and straighteners, holiday lights, lamps, humidifiers and dehumidifiers, and more.

How to make almost any dumb appliance smart

what you will need

To get started, you need a smart plug. They come in many shapes and sizes, and prices vary. Some have additional features, like energy monitoring, but most offer compatibility with Alexa, Google Home, or both. Unless you have a specific need for power monitoring, you can skip that feature and save money.

Smart plugs come in Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, ZigBee, and even Bluetooth formats. However, we do not recommend Bluetooth due to range issues. If you have a smart hub, a Z-Wave or ZigBee connector is a good choice because they offer faster local control. Otherwise, Wi-Fi smart plugs are the most affordable option.

How to make almost any dumb appliance smart

makes a relatively inexpensive Wi-Fi smart plug for around $20. If you’re willing to wait, Wyze launches for $15 later this year (Sept 2019). Our sister site, Review Geek, has you might want to consider.

Unfortunately, Europeans have far fewer options. Ikea might be the most trusted and well-known European provider of smart plugs; offer a version for and . But you will need to buy additional items, such as a hub.

If you own an Echo or Google Home device, make sure the smart plug you buy is compatible with it (most work with at least one, if not both). If a smart plug doesn’t work with a voice assistant, you should skip it.

How to make almost any dumb appliance smart

You also need a smartphone or tablet and an app to set up your smart plug. Depending on the plug you choose, you need a way to connect it. For Wi-Fi smart plugs, you need a Wi-Fi router and for Z-Wave or ZigBee plugs, you need a smart hub.

How to set it up

To put your smart plug to work, plug it into a power outlet. If you are new, you should enter pairing mode immediately. If it doesn’t (or you need to fix it), most smart plugs have a physical button that you hold down to enter pairing mode. Smart plugs usually also include an LED that indicates when it is on, off, or paired.

When the smart plug is in pairing mode, open the related app on your smartphone or tablet and search for “add device” or similar option. When the device is paired, give it a memorable name. It’s usually a good idea to name it after whatever it controls, like “curling iron” or “lamp.” Choosing good names for your smart plugs will help with voice control.

How to make almost any dumb appliance smart

Now plug in whatever you want the smart plug to control and test it to make sure everything works.

How to control smart plugs with your voice and smartphone

Most smart plugs include voice control with Alexa, Google Home, or both. If you want voice control, you need to add the device to your voice assistant.

, open the app, tap the hamburger menu at the top left, and then tap Add device. Choose the plug category. Select your manufacturer, and then follow the instructions to link your accounts.

The process is similar with . Open the Home app and tap the Add button. Tap “set up device” and then tap “Works with Google”. The Google Home app presents you with a list of manufacturers. Find the correct one and follow the pairing process.

How to make almost any dumb appliance smart

After connecting your smart plug to Google or Alexa, add it to a Google room or . Voice control works best when you group your devices correctly.

If you’re not using a voice assistant, the app on your smart plug is the best way to control it. You will find on, off and other functions in the app. If you use a voice assistant, you must control your device with the Google Home app or Alexa.

Both apps have similar on and off options. If you use Google Home or Alexa as your only app instead of the smart plug app, you can also easily control other smart devices (even third-party smart plugs). This also means you won’t have to try to remember which app controls what.

How to make almost any dumb appliance smart

How to set up schedules and automations

The Alexa and Google Home apps are great for creating simple routines.

Now you can set your smart plug to perform actions automatically. For example, you can set it to turn on an old, non-smart lamp at dusk or to run a dehumidifier during specific hours each day.

If you don’t own a Google Home or Echo device, you can create schedules in the Smart Plug app, or your Hub app if it’s Z-Wave or ZigBee. Every app is a little different, but just look for a feature called a timer, routine, or schedule. Typically, you can add one or more sockets to a routine. You specify an “on” and “off” time, and the days to run the routine. You can also set a smart plug to turn off but not on, and vice versa.

You must create your routines in the Google or Alexa app if you own a Google Home or Echo device. Once again, select which plug(s) you want to create a routine for, and then choose an “on” time, an “off” time, and the days to run the routine.

When you create your routines in the Google or Alexa app instead of the connect app, it allows you to include other smart things in your routines. For example, you can create a schedule that turns off all smart plugs and lights and locks the door every day at 10:30 p.m. M. Unless you use a smart hub, your smart plug app can’t do all of that.

If you use a single app to control everything, it also makes it much easier to remember where to go when you need to adjust something or change a routine.