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Technology.

10 genuinely useful things you can do with a smart plug

Smart plugs are simple and cost effective, but how useful are they really? We offer up some ways to make the most of this versatile smart home accessory
Felix Wilson

Smart plugs are versatile devices and the ideal introduction to the smart home. With prices starting from under £10, they're cost effective too.

Whether you’ve just received a smart plug as a gift and don’t know what to do with it, or you’ve picked one up out of pure curiosity, we’ve got you covered. Here are our favourite ways to make the most out of a smart plug.

Not sure which smart plug to buy? See our in-depth smart plug reviews to find the right model for you.

1. Deter burglars while you're away

Lights on in home

This is among the most popular cases given for owning a smart plug. Keeping your lights on as a visual deterrent for burglars is a classic trick – but keeping them on all day isn’t ideal, especially for long spells away. Leaving your home lit at all hours could even be a bigger giveaway that nobody's home than not lighting it at all.

Many smart plugs have schedules, which allow you to turn devices like lamps or radios on or off at certain times while you’re away. Even better, all of our Best Buys come with an ‘away mode’, which occasionally switches the device on and off at between certain hours at random intervals. This makes the effect less predictable and more realistic.


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2. Wake up to fresh coffee

Woman drinking coffee in kitchen

If your coffee maker doesn’t have a built-in timer, a smart plug can be scheduled to turn it on in the morning. This might not work with more complex coffee machines, so check that turning the power on and filling the machine is enough to get things started.

Bleary-eyed tea drinkers can also benefit from a smart plug. Fill your kettle and set the switch on the previous evening, and set your smart plug to switch the socket on just before you wake up to get your tea in record time.

Discover the best way to make a cuppa with our kettle reviews and coffee machine reviews.

3. Never miss your favourite radio shows

Dab radio

If you like to tune in to a radio show at the same time each day, set a smart plug to turn the radio on for you so you don't miss it. Alternatively, if you have a smart speaker you can ask Alexa or Google to set a reminder, and then tell it to play a radio station of your choice once it goes off.

Check our radio reviews and smart speaker reviews to see what's on offer.

4. Slow cook to perfection

Slow cooker containing a joint of meat

You can use a similar trick to turn on your slow cooker. Just fill it with your ingredients, program the smart plug to turn on at the right time and you’ll be coming home to a perfectly cooked one-pot meal.

We've tested slow cookers as well – find out which models impress with our slow cooker reviews.

5. Keep your fish happy

Fish tank with light

Setting your fish tank or aquarium lights on a schedule can be a great way to establish a healthy a day/night cycle for your fish and other aquatic life. You can also use it to make sure any plants in your tank are getting enough light.

If you regularly turn off the pump to feed your fish, it’s a handy way to turn the pump off without fiddling with cables or physical switches behind or inside the tank.

6. Save yourself getting down on all fours

Smart plug lamp

Whether it’s a standing lamp switch buried behind the sofa or a TV socket hidden by furniture, sometimes turning a device on or off at the source can be a pain. Smart plugs can help – just tap a button in the app, or issue a command to your voice assistant, and you’re good to go.

7. Monitor energy usage

Energy monitoring

Some smart plugs can measure how much energy is being used by whatever is plugged into them, which can help you cut back on energy spending. You might be surprised just how much energy your devices use – even when they’re on standby. Our reviews of smart thermostats and smart radiator valves can help you find more ways to monitor energy usage around the home.

8. Get peace of mind with hazardous appliances

hair straighteners

Ever been at work and suddenly gotten the sinking feeling you’ve left your iron, hair straighteners or curlers plugged in? With a smart plug app, you can remotely double-check. If they’re still on, you can switch them off remotely.

Dyson vs GHD: we put hair straighteners from these popular brands to the test – find out who came out on top.

9. Set a timer on your electric blanket

Electric blanket

If you’re a firm believer in warming your bed up before you get in it, there’s a good chance you own an electric blanket. Smart plugs allow you to set a schedule to turn the blanket on before you come to bed, and switch off again once it’s toasty enough.

Prefer the simpler option? Read our guide to the best hot water bottles.

10. Keep your home warm (or cool)

Cat near heater

If you’re heating your home using an electric heater, rather than through central heating, using a smart plug as a timer can save you money and make your home a more comfortable place to be. Even some of the best electric heaters don't have timer or scheduling functions, making smart plugs a good way to make a great product that little bit smarter.

Alternatively, during the warmer months you could use one to keep the home cool. If you own a fan without a built-in timer, a smart plug can be a handy way to stay cool while you’re falling asleep, without having it on all night. Read our electric fan reviews to help find a good model.

For more ideas on how to make the most of smart tech, read our guide on five ways smart tech can keep an eye on your home.