Smart wifi plugs have been around for a few years now, and usage in the U.S. is expected to grow at a rate of almost 30% per year through 2024 (Technavio, Global Smart Plug Market 2020-2024). Smart plugs are an inexpensive and simple way to control the lighting and other electrical appliances in your home through an easy-to-use smartphone app or by voice control with Alexa/Google Home.
And at the holidays, the convenience of wifi outdoor lighting timers with a centralized schedule for all of the Christmas lights is game-changing. In fact, the same schedule can also control indoor decorations including the Christmas tree.
Beyond the holidays, there are many reasons to use smart wifi plugs as programmable lighting timers year-round.
This article will focus on the TP-Link Kasa Smart products as this is the brand that I recommend and the most highly rated. There are other options, but whatever you choose, read through to the end to find out why you should stick with one brand.
Here are my favorite can’t live without smart plug uses:
Evening Lighting Timer
I have 4 lamps on smart plugs year-round. One in the foyer, one in my office, one in the master bedroom, and one in the laundry room. I have these set to come on at sunset and turn off at varying times depending on the room.
The wall switch to the office overhead light is awkward to get to, so I have the desk lamp come on at sunset and off at midnight. My people are always in and out of the office to get to the printer or a stapler or steal pens out of my desk, so it is helpful to have the light on in the evenings. The office is also in the front of the house, so it looks nicer from the outside to have some ambient light in the room.
The laundry room might seem like an odd place to keep a lamp on at night, but our dog’s food and water dishes are in there, so I want the light on for him. He’s messy enough when the lights are on!
In the master bedroom, the lamp automatically goes off at 11pm, but if it is an early night, I can simply ask the Alexa in our Sonos Beam under the TV to ‘turn off the bedroom lamp’. If you’re curious about this Sonos Beam, you can read all about my enthusiasm for Sonos products.
Outdoor Lighting Timer
We put a smart dimmer switch on the outdoor garage lights that are over the driveway. These were getting left on overnight ALL THE TIME. Now the switch is set to come on at sunset and go off at 1am, just in case one of our teenagers misses their midnight curfew.
In addition to lights not getting left on all night, it is nice to know that these lights are on in case someone stops by in the evening. Even if we know visitors are coming over, we would often forget to turn the lights on for them, now we don’t need to remember.
Porch Light Timer
The front porch light is also on a smart switch in case of expected or surprise visitors after dark, but this one goes off earlier since no one in our family comes in that way, and we definitely don’t need surprise guests after 11pm!
Vacation Lighting Timer
In addition to the above, I’ll put a few more lamps on smart plugs when we go out of town. Using the app, you can either manually vary the schedule to come on/off on different days or times, or you can select vacation mode, and Kasa will randomly turn lights on/off so it won’t be a giveaway that they are on a timer. Your home will always appear to have people home.
Holiday Lighting Timers!
We’ve had a lot of years to amass holiday decorations, and while we’re no Clark Griswold, you may want to pack your sunglasses if you’re coming over on Christmas Eve. Kasa makes outdoor smart plugs too. These save SO much time and hassle, not to mention running out in the dark cold to unplug lights at 11pm. Now, we plug everything in once and use the app to set the lights to come on at sunset and go off at midnight.
In addition to the outdoor lighting timer amazingness, these little indoor plugs keep us all from crawling around on the floor to plug in and unplug Christmas lights every evening. Everything gets connected to a smart plug, programmed in the app, and voila, all of the Christmas lights are automated. We use the smart strip surge protector under the Christmas tree since there are so many strands of lights.
And since these are wifi, not Bluetooth, you can access your settings from home or away. I probably shouldn’t tell you about the time my in-laws were staying with the kids right before Christmas, and we kept turning the Christmas tree off and on from afar. We crack ourselves up.
Warm up the bathroom floor before you get out of bed
If you can’t stand cold bathroom floors during the winter months, consider using a small space heater on a smart plug to warm the room up for you while you are still waking up in the morning. You could either schedule the heater to come on, use the app to turn it on, or ask Alexa or Google if they are nearby.
What other appliances do you have that you wish you could be automatically turned on/off? Let me know in the comments below.
Using Smart Plug Timers THAT KNOW Sunrise and Sunset
I believe that all of Kasa’s smart products now include the sunset and sunrise settings.
This is an extremely important feature. Sunset varies where we live by 4 hours during the year.
Before this option was available, I was having to change the schedules on the app every couple weeks to a month.
Now, I just set everything to come on at sunset once, and that’s it.
Smart Plugs vs Smart Outlets
These two really do the same thing, but the smart plug goes into an existing outlet, no wiring required. The downside is, it sticks out, and whatever you plug into that will stick out further, so if you’re right up against a table or cabinet, this can be an issue. The plus side is that you can move it at any time.
Smart outlets work just like the smart plugs, but you actually replace an existing outlet with the new smart outlet. And you get 2 outlets of smartness vs just the one plug. DIYers can do this, but if you’re inexperienced with wiring, you should consider hiring an electrician or handyman for this job.
Smart switches also require removing the original switch and replacing it with the smart switch and will require some minor wiring.
If you are considering smart switches, make sure to pay attention to the installation options – single pole (the fixture only has 1 switch to turn it on/off) or 3-way (if there are 2 switches that control the same fixture).
For the 3-way, you only need one smart switch, you don’t need to change both, but you need to make sure you use a 3-way switch if there is another one for that fixture. Also, if you want to be able to dim the light attached to the switch, be sure to purchase a dimmable smart switch.
Smart Plug Brand Matters – KEEP IT CONSISTENT
Last important suggestion, once you start building your smart home electrical capabilities, stick to one brand for all of it. This will consolidate it to one app and also allows you to group the devices, such as Christmas lights, to be on the same schedule.
I highly recommend Kasa due to the breadth of products, the app’s ease of use, the integration with Alexa/Google, and our 4 or 5 years of using their products with absolutely no problems.