WeMo Mini Smart Plug: A Reliable Way to Keep the Lights On
Like many automated devices today, smart plugs, smart switches, and smart outlets come packed with features like voice control, energy usage alerts, and programmable scenes and schedules. But the best smart plugs and outlets are the ones that do the job so well, you don’t even know they’re there. We looked for smart plugs and outlets that offer superior control and compatibility but won’t hog your socket space or stick out like a sore thumb.
Belkin’s WeMo Mini Smart Plug may be compact, but it’s mighty in terms of reliability and design. It’s one of the easiest smart plugs to use and has voice command control across the widest variety of platforms, including Amazon’s Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and more.
Here Are Our Picks for the Top Smart Plugs and Smart Outlets
The WeMo Mini smart plug is small, but it leads the pack as one of the most reliable and versatile products on our list. If you’re concerned about space, its low-profile, compact design means it takes up only one socket in the outlet. Just plug it in, download the app, and connect to your Wi-Fi network, and you can access programmable schedules and remotely control a wide variety of devices from lamps to air conditioners.
Although no home hub is required, this compact smart plug does integrate with most platforms. You can also control devices with voice commands via Alexa, Siri, or Google. WeMo Mini’s standout feature is called Away Mode, and it randomizes lights to make it look like someone is home. One disadvantage to WeMo Mini is a higher price tag, but given what’s packed into this little smart plug, we don’t think you’ll mind.
Easy to use
Away Mode randomizes lights
Compatibility with most platforms
Slightly more expensive price
No web browser control
No energy monitoring
TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug: Best for Customization
TP-Link is a trusted brand for networking products, so it’s no surprise to see this smart plug heading up the list. While it takes up more outlet space than the mini version, the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug gives you some fantastic features as a result. Easy, intuitive programming options let you make schedules and set up timers for automatic shutdown on the app. Controllable from anywhere on an Android or iOS device, this plug also has an away mode to create the appearance of someone being home.
One of the advantages of this TP-Link smart plug is the energy monitoring it provides. Detailed information about your energy usage enables you to lower your bills by shutting off devices that use the most power. While no home hub is required, you can use voice commands through Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana.
If you want a plug that blends into your home seamlessly, a smart outlet is a better solution. While it does have to be hardwired, the GE Enbrighten Smart Outlet looks exactly like a standard wall outlet. The mobile app allows you to remotely control devices and appliances connected to the GE smart outlet, as well as schedule events and create scenes.
GE’s Enbrighten does require a Z-Wave certified gateway, and it’s compatible with Z-Wave home hubs such as SmartThings and Wink. But because it’s not compatible with Zigbee, it won’t connect to Alexa without an Amazon hub like the Echo. It also lacks the energy usage features and “away mode” options of the smart plugs we recommend.
Normal outlet appearance
Ability to schedule events and create scenes
Compatibility with any Z-Wave hub
More expensive price
No energy usage monitoring
More Smart Plugs That Are Worth a Look
While the smart plugs and outlets listed above will probably keep the lights on (or off) just fine, there may be certain situations that require a different approach. We recommend the following smart plugs for unique capabilities like dimming lights and outdoor use.
Lutron Caseta Smart Lighting Dimmer
Whether it’s to strike a mood or conserve energy, if you want to turn the lights down low, you’ll need a smart switch with dimming features. Fortunately, the Lutron Caseta Smart Lighting Dimmerserves as both a smart switch and a smart plug. Just put in the socket and connect up to two lamps for dimming function that you can control through voice commands or a smartphone app. The Caseta dimmer is compatible with Amazon, Apple, Google, Nest, and more, although it does requires asmart bridge.
iClever Outdoor Smart Plug
Most of the smart plugs and outlets we’ve mentioned are for indoor use only, but the iClever Outdoor Smart Plug is a weather-resistant smart plug specifically designed for the great outdoors. Water-resistant and equipped with surge protection, the iClever plug is an excellent solution for holiday lights, sprinklers, and barbecues. You can set up timers and control the iClever remotely on the app as well as use voice commands through Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant.
Things to Consider before You Buy a Smart Plug or Smart Outlet
Power: Identify what lights or appliances you want the smart plug to handle, and make sure the one you choose is up to the task in terms of wattage and functionality.
Design: Determine the outlet you’ll want to use, other nearby devices, and available socket space. For constricted spaces you may need a mini, stackable version to avoid cord congestion.
Schedules and scenes: These customizable options vary from product to product, so pay attention to how the features are described. Schedules allow you to set on and off times while scenes are more sophisticated functions that let you control a group of lights.
Compatibility: You’ll want to select a smart plug or outlet that works with your existing automation platform. If you don’t have a home hub, stick to smart plugs or outlets that are widely compatible so you don’t have to worry about issues down the road.
Water-resistance: Smart plugs designed to handle outdoor electronics and devices need to be weatherproof and offer additional protections like surge control to avoid potential hazards.
What’s the difference between a smart plug and a smart outlet?
These two terms get used interchangeably, but an outlet and a plug are not the same. A smart plug is a device that plugs directly into the socket in an outlet and lets you operate whatever electronic is plugged into it with an app. A smart outlet functions similarly, but it’s designed to be hardwired into the wall in place of a traditional outlet.
Do I need a home hub or a bridge to use a smart plug?
It depends. Most smart plugs and outlets can be controlled on an app without a home hub or smart bridge. But if you want to use voice commands through Alexa or Google Assistant, you may need a home hub or a bridge to make it compatible so the two can “talk” to each other. You can use our best home hubs guide to find a platform that will be compatible with your existing connected devices.
What’s the difference between a smart hub, a smart bridge, and a smart gateway?
The terms smart hub and smart bridge are often used interchangeably because both devices perform the same function. They allow various smart devices without Wi-Fi chips to bridge or connect with the internet and communicate with one another. Smart bridges are typically smaller and plug directly into the router in your home, while smart hubs like Echo or Google Home connect to the network wirelessly. A smart gateway performs an entirely different function. It’s a device or appliance that connects to your internet and creates a bridge between your fiber, cable, or DSL connection to your home network. Smart gateways usually combine the functions of both a modem and a router.
Can I design my own smart plug system to control my lights?
If you have mad skills and a Raspberry Pi, you can take on the challenge of designing your own smart plugs, but it’s not advisable for beginners. Smart plugs are relatively inexpensive, and there’s no reason to hack together a system piecemeal.
How We Picked the Best Smart Plugs and Outlets
We sifted through reviews of countless smart plugs and outlets to determine which products made the cut. Recommendations from experts also informed our decision, as well as brand reviews from the Better Business Bureau. The methodology we stick to means we not only inspect popular products but also scour the research to determine safety, reliability, and value.
*Amazon.com list price as of 11/22/2019 12:22 MST. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SafeWise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.
Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.
Written by Kaz Weida
Kaz is a journalist who covers home security, parenting, and community and child safety. Her work and product testing in the security and safety field spans the past four years. You can find Kaz in HuffPost, SheKnows, Lifehack, and much more. Her degree in education and her background as a teacher and a parent make her uniquely suited to offer practical advice on creating safe environments for your family. Learn more