Insider Picks writes about products and services to help you navigate when shopping online. Insider Inc. receives a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.
- Amazon / Business Insider
- Smart outlets are about convenience and safety: They let you remotely power-down devices unintentionally left plugged-in, and automatically switch on lamps, radios, air conditioners, and more.
- You can make an empty home seem occupied by programming lights connected to smart outlets to turn on and off at set times.
- Most smart outlets are plug-and-play ready, while others can replace a wall outlet for permanent installation.
- The ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 is our top pick because it has two three-prong smart sockets and a USB charging port, is easy to set up and use, and can monitor energy consumption, among many other features.
I have to say, with apologies to my wife, that I’ve lost track of the number of times we’ve turned the car around just so she can run back inside our house and confirm she had unplugged her flat iron. Once, she actually hadn’t, so for a time afterward, her worries surged.
Then, we got a smart outlet, and her fears subsided. Because now, we could not only check whether something was left plugged in but also kill the power to it – from anywhere on Earth, as long as we could access the internet with our phones.
Mine is just one example of how smart outlets can make our lives significantly more convenient. With the ability to remotely control home electronics and appliances, smart outlets are a smart-home component that brings any device into the Internet of Things. In simpler terms, it smartens up any dumb device, letting you “talk” to it from almost anywhere – through an app on a phone or with a command to a voice assistant (OK, Google, turn on the coffee maker).
With a smart outlet, you can also program it to automatically turn on or off at designated times. For example, you can set an air conditioner to start cooling a room before you get home from work. Or, program lamps to come up, to help you wake up or create the appearance of occupancy in your home while you travel. You can also make sure potentially hazardous appliances, like space heaters or the aforementioned flat iron, never receive power during certain times of the day, like when there’s nobody is in the house. (Do make sure that a smart outlet can support high-voltage equipment before you plug one in.) Beyond convenience, smart outlets offer enhanced safety and security.
The ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 is our overall pick, but there are others worth considering whether it’s for their features or price. In our research and testing, we eliminated smart outlets that did not support at least one of the three popular smart home automation platforms (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit) for reasons of additional functionality and future-proofing. Note that you can have different brands of smart outlets operating harmoniously on a home automation platform.
And yes, you will need a wireless network set-up and internet connectivity. If you don’t already have one, check our guide on the best routers you can buy for fast Wi-Fi at home.
Here are the best smart outlets you can buy in 2019:
- Best smart outlet overall: ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2
- Best budget smart outlet: Wemo Mini Smart Plug
- Best hardwired smart outlet: iDevices Smart Wall Outlet
- Best smart outlet multipack: TP-Link Smart Plug
- Best outdoor smart outlet: Tonbux Outdoor Smart Outlet
Read on in the slides below to discover our top picks.
The best smart outlet overall
Why you’ll love it: The ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 not only lets you control devices from anywhere, but it monitors their power consumption too.
The ConnectSense is a feature-rich, two-socket smart outlet. Besides letting you plug in and control two devices, there is a USB charging port on the side for charging a phone or tablet (you can’t control the USB port like you would with the power sockets, but it’s still a nice feature to have). And, installation is a snap: Just plug the whole thing into an existing two-socket outlet, no rewiring necessary.
For smarts, the ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 supports Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant; it can also be controlled via the ConnectSense app for iOS or Android. To turn off a lamp that’s plugged into it, for example, you can simply use your voice or flip a virtual switch on a phone. And when a phone isn’t handy, there are two buttons that let you manually turn the outlet on and off (other than pulling the plug out entirely).
But the smartest part of the ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 is its ability to track power consumption, monitoring how much electricity a connected product is using. This can help you create a more energy-efficient home as you limit the use of some hardware, swap out this bulb for that, or stop using some power-hungry devices altogether (you might be surprised to learn that DVD players, for example, can draw a lot of electricity even when they’re not being used.)
You can also use the ConnectSense app to create custom electricity usage plans. For example, you can set lights to automatically dim when a TV is switched on, or preprogram lights or radio to switch on an off at seemingly random intervals – ideal for home security.
The ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 currently has a 4.2-star overall rating on Amazon, with one customer calling it a “fantastic smart outlet,” noting that setup “took less than a minute from unboxing to being functional” and that it was very easy to use.
In our Insider Picks review, the app didn’t immediately recognize the outlet during the pairing process. However, it worked just fine after resetting the outlet. We also found the outlet to be bulky, but you do get two outlets.
Our bottom line: “The ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 is a great way to get smart control for two outlets at once and at a relatively affordable price [without rewiring].”
Pros: USB port, manual shutoff option, easy-to-create custom power programs, electricity usage monitoring
Cons: Expensive for the category, bulky
The best budget smart outlet
Why you’ll love it: A Wemo Mini Smart Plug‘s slim design allows you to connect it to an outlet without blocking access for a second plug below or above.
The Wemo Mini Smart Plug has a long, slender rectangular design that allows you to connect it to a standard two-plug outlet without rendering half of the outlet useless. You can place it in either the top or the bottom of any standard, grounded wall outlet, leaving the other spot free for a regular plug. This slim design also means the Wemo is stackable, letting you connect two of these slim smart plugs to one outlet or several to a power strip.
And the icing on the cake is the price: the Wemo Mini Smart Plug sells for less than $30. You can find cheaper options, but I find the Wemo to offer the best value when it comes to features, performance, and ease of use. And while it does only have the one outlet, it’s so easy to move it around the home or office, it can be used with myriad devices as needed.
You can control a Wemo with a voice assistant (Google Assistant, Apple Siri, or Amazon Alexa), or by using the Wemo app if you don’t have a voice assistant. You can create programs for turning on and off lights, synchronize lighting to power up or down with the sunset and sunrise, and control any device connected to the plug from anywhere there’s an internet connection.
A product tester from The Wirecutter called the Wemo “reliable, compact, and easy to use,” praising its “compact design” that doesn’t “block both outlets on a wall plate.”
Although we didn’t encounter setup issues, a number of Amazon customers complained about the difficulty in setting up Wemo products, even when they were placed near the home’s router.
Pros: Slim design doesn’t block other outlet, great price, allows for easy hardware automation
Cons: Some users reported frustrating setup
The best hardwired smart outlet
Why you’ll love it: The iDevices Smart Wall Outlet seamlessly integrates into a wall of your home, looking like any standard outlet but offering you smarter capabilities.
The one major drawback to most smart outlets is their marked lack of subtlety. The enhancements they offer are great, but they tend to be eyesores, especially when located in the kitchen, living room, or other high-traffic parts of the home.
The iDevices Smart Wall Outlet solves that conundrum: Rather than plugging into an existing wall outlet and acting as the smart middleman between power source and device, it replaces the existing wall outlet entirely. The result is a flat, discreet pair of sockets with some smart capabilities.
As you’d expect from a smart outlet, the iDevices Smart Wall Outlet offers remote connectivity, letting you monitor and switch devices on-and-off from afar. It supports voice control via Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, so operating the outlets while you’re at home requires nothing more than speaking to your phone or smart speaker.
Like the ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2, the iDevices app helps you track power consumption and to establish custom programs for lighting, kitchen appliances, and more. Unlike plug-in smart outlets, this one has an embedded night-light that casts a soft glow after dark (but can be turned off if you prefer).
Although the iDevices looks like a traditional outlet, it does stick out a tad more. In our Insider Picks review, we said, “That won’t be obvious visually once the device is installed, but if you have an exceptionally small wiring box, then it might be an issue for you. The back of the outlet is a little less than two inches wide and two inches deep, so it should fit in most wiring boxes.”
On the plus side, we liked the power buttons that let you manually turn the outlet on or off. We also found it easy to install, however, those who aren’t comfortable with electrical DIY should call an electrician.
Most Amazon customers gave the iDevices Smart Wall Outlet a solid review and a 5-star rating. One customer called it “easy to install” and said it “works perfectly, every time.” Another loved that the “device tells you the wattage consumption with daily weekly and yearly estimates per outlet.”
But many people shared a common complaint – one that fortunately has nothing to do with product performance – the price is just too high. This hardwired unit costs about twice as much as the next most expensive smart plug on the list.
Pros: Subtle appearance, night light, tracks power consumption
Cons: Very expensive, some wiring knowledge required, cover plate not included
The best smart outlet multipack
Why you’ll love it: The easy-to-use TP-Link Smart Plug is the fastest way to outfit a smart home.
Like most of the best smart outlets, the TP-Link Smart Plug is straightforward to set up and use. Simply plug one in, fire up the free Kasa app you just downloaded, and get the plug synced. It will take you about a minute to go from opening the smart outlet’s box to controlling all sorts of electrical devices around your home – whether or not you’re home.
But if you’re jumping into the smart home game and want to outfit your house or apartment with smart outlets quickly, the three-pack TP-Line Smart Plug is a good place to start. I particularly like the Away-Mode setting that turns selected devices on and off (lights are the most obvious) at different times while you’re away, making it seem like you’re home.
A TP-Link Smart Plug is compatible with 120-to-220-volt outlets and can be safely connected to all sorts of electrical hardware. In my research, I found the TP-Link Smart Plug to be one is the easiest to sync with a phone or voice via Alexa (it also supports Google Assistant), and it is reliable, without bugs or troubleshooting during the setup process, as people may encounter with other options.
The TP-Link Smart Plug has a 4.1-star overall rating on Amazon. One customer said using the plug was “as easy as plugging my lamp into the Smart Plug and plugging the Smart Plug into the wall outlet.” Another appreciated how convenient the plug was after being paired with an Alexa speaker.
On the downside, because of how the device is shaped, one TP-Link Smart Plug will block access to the socket if you’re plugging it into a two-socket outlet.
Pros: Quick and easy setup, low-cost per unit, pairs with TP-Link’s Kasa app
Cons: Blocks second outlet on double-socket plate
The best outdoor smart outlet
Why you’ll love it: An outdoor smart outlet like the Tonbux Outdoor Smart Outlet is great for use during parties at night, playtime with the kids at day, and all season long during the holidays.
An outdoor smart outlet is useful for a variety of applications. The durable, water-resistant Tonbux Outdoor Smart Outlet can be used, for example, to control lighting (turn off those festive holiday lights in the after hours to save money or turn on the patio mood lighting for some ambiance), the Bluetooth speaker that’s blasting music during a BBQ or party, or the cleaning robot that’s scrubbing your pool. Forgot to turn off the Christmas lights after you’ve climbed into bed? Just do it from your phone or voice assistant.
With its companion app, you can control any of the Tonbux Outdoor Smart Outlet‘s three sockets individually. An outdoor smart outlet can also be a meaningful part of a home security setup, switching on and off lights on a preset program to give the impression that someone is home.
The Tonbux Outdoor Smart Outlet can also be controlled via voice using Alexa or Google Assistant. It can be mounted to a wall and caps that seal an unused outlet from dirt and debris.
With more than 140 reviews posted on Amazon, this Tonbux outlet has a solid 4.4-star average. One customer called the system “simple to use” and said it “works great,” while another customer loved that the unit “has three separate ports that can be turned on and off independently.”
A few people reported connectivity issues but said that once properly hooked up to their home Wi-Fi, the plug performed well. We suspect the issue is due to distance since the outlet would be outside the home, so a strong Wi-Fi router may be needed.
Pros: Water and weather resistant, three independent plugs, good price point
Cons: Has difficulty connecting to Wi-Fi