We ran a small experiment and asked you, our Community, to get involved.
Previously, Team Bulb reviewed a number of smart plugs to see if they are useful energy saving devices. Overall, we didn’t think that they were worth the time they took to set up or the money.
But we thought that our Community could spend a bit more time putting the smart plugs through their paces.
Lots of you were interested but with just four smart plugs to test, we couldn’t get everyone involved this time.
@rowli @joanna2694 @christos_1 @darryl5653 were the lucky few who were sent a smart plug. I asked them to test it out for a few weeks and write a review to share. I didn’t give any extra instructions as we wanted to replicate what it’s like to buy one off the shelf.
Here’s what they thought:
TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug, model 110
We paid: £19.99
Reviewed by @christos_1
The Quick Start Guide provided is rather minimal but setting the device up was reasonably straightforward. I hit a slight snag in that my particular unit had been used previously and therefore needed to be reset but that wouldn’t be a problem for a brand new one. The Quick Start Guide doesn’t explain at all clearly how to connect to the Wi-Fi router using the WPS button but I was eventually prompted to input the router’s password and that worked.
The associated Kasa app worked well and I was able to use the button displayed on the touch screen of my Android mobile phone as a remote switch. This worked with the phone connected to my home network and also with the phone’s Wi-Fi switched off and Mobile Data on - so it should work from anywhere with a phone signal.
It was easy to set the device up as a skill for my Amazon Echo (Alexa) which made it voice controllable.
The plug has a manual push-button switch which I actually found myself using more frequently than the smart functions. It was particularly useful when the device was plugged into a multi-socket extension lead as it allowed an individual appliance to be switched off more conveniently and more safely than simply pulling its plug out.
A button on the app shows the current power usage of whatever is connected to the device. For example I could see that my paper shredder uses 1 watt when it is on stand-by. The app does not show the device’s own power usage but I was able to measure this by other means as 2.4 watts with no load.
The Kasa app has Schedule and Timer functions and an Away [from home] mode with random on and off switching between set Start and End times.
The plug is fairly bulky but two of them could fit side by side in my twin wall sockets. However two would not fit next to each other on an extension lead.
I have limited mobility and found this smart plug to be very useful where sockets are in an awkward position to reach, for example because they are obstructed by furniture or are at low level. But the most useful application for me will definitely be the ability to control my lounge lighting using multiple smart plugs to control several separate lamps simultaneously as a group using the Amazon Echo/Alexa app.
I was not able to identify any ways in which this device would save energy – if anything I would expect to use slightly more energy since I would use multiple plugs all having a small stand-by load. Nevertheless I would recommend it purely for its convenience.
Efergy Ego smart plug: monitor and control on the go
We paid: £4.99
Reviewed by @joanna2694
Contents in the box - one smart plug and no instructions.
Lack of instructions to set up might deter a non-techie but there is online help.
There are just a couple of pointers on the side of the box:
That’s it so not much to go on. I downloaded the app from the Apple store as I’m using an iPhone XR.
A data sheet and manual can be found online together with support for the product and faq.
It is fairly easy to set up via the app. From the main screen hit the + add appliance button, which takes you to a new screen where you enter your wifi details and connect to your home internet router.
There is the opportunity to group appliances together or use for a single appliance. There is also a setting for overriding equipment that is on standby, but this feature was not tested.
The Ego smart plug was tested as a replacement for a manual bog standard timer switch for a bedside light. The only advantage I could find using it was the ability to change the timer settings remotely so that if one was away one could activate or change the settings. There is also a manual on/off switch on the plug itself so the light can be operated as normal. The downside is that one must remember to have the light actually turned on from the mains and its own switch in order to operate it via the smart plug.
The app has several screens including one which allows you to add and/or group together appliances as well as a screen showing past 24 hours usage and cost (which required entering monetary unit and tariff charges). I did not find this particularly useful.
This is a fairly basic piece of smart kit with limited functions.
Can be operated remotely.
Relatively inexpensive to purchase.
The equipment needs to be set up correctly
Reports produced on consumption not that useful.
Lack of instructions to set up might deter a non-techie but there is online help.
Doesn’t offer many extra features from analogue timers.D-LINK DSL-W115 We paid: £29.48 Reviewed by @darryl5653
After being selected to test a smart plug, I was excited to test it on different appliances to see what uses a lot of energy, especially when in standby mode. However, after receiving it in the post and doing a bit of research of it online before setting up, I realised the one I had been sent didn’t actually monitor energy usage. It was more of a smart plug to allow you to automate appliances being switched on and off automatically at certain times of the day or manually from your smart phone. Therefore, my first bit of advice would be to anyone looking at getting one to ensure you know what you want a smart plug for and to do research into them before buying. It may sound obvious, but with smart meters providing insight into usage etc, i just presumed a ‘smart’ would do something similar. Therefore, all I effectively had was a plug-in timer I controlled programmed from my phone.
I continued with my testing and the initial set up was a nightmare. The instructions provided were easy to follow, but the plug didn’t want to oblige! I had to do a factory reset on the item about 5 times before it finally found my router sitting 1 meter away. All in all, it took around an hour to finally set it up. As I got more and more frustrated and hotter and hotter in myself, I probably provided enough heat to the house for that hour…Good news, just saved some money on gas as I didn’t have to have the heating on for an hour!
Once I started navigating around the app and working out how to use it, i thought I would put it to the test and plugged the kettle in and set it for 5 mins after my alarm goes off in the morning. The next morning, I went downstairs to a freezing cold kettle. It seems as though where it had been sitting idle for almost 12 hours, it had forgotten its pairing with my router so it didn’t switch on at the scheduled time. I put this down to a one off, but it also failed the next day too. It finally worked on the third day, however this didn’t save me any money, it just saved me a few minutes waiting for it to boil. So far, saving 5 mins wouldn’t warrant the cost of a smart plug.
I went around my house trying to think of other appliances I could use this on, but it soon become apparent that this item would actually only work (when it remembered my router) on items with an analogue switch. Any item with a digital power button or an appliance that needs to be programmed once switched on such as a washing machine this wouldn’t work, as this would only provide power to the appliance at a scheduled time, someone would still need to provide the program once switched on and press start!
I then felt this would only really be beneficial on lights when on holiday or away from the house. However, after my first experience with the kettle, if I was to use this as a deterrent to my property, I am not sure I would trust it. Not only am I relying on it to stay connected to my router, but I would also be relying on my internet connection being active at all hours and my phone having battery and reception. I would also have to take into consideration the time difference of the destination I was in when I set the schedule on the app. If i was 6 hours behind UK time and I wanted the lights to come on at 8pm, i would have to set the schedule in the app to come on at 2pm as my phone would auto adjust to my local time. I imagine not many people would consider this and set it in their app for 8pm only for the lights to finally switch on at 2am! For these reasons, and the re-assurance that I have set the lights as a deterrent, I would much prefer to use a good old fashioned light timer which didn’t have other factors to take into consideration.
All in all, as you may have guessed, I didn’t find many uses for my smart plug and wouldn’t recommend the one I was sent. I most likely would have found one that displays usage a lot more beneficial more for monitoring purposes rather than automating lights, appliances etc.
Did this smart plug same me money on electricity…Yes it did because when I wanted it to provide energy to an appliance, it forgot too!
We paid: £36
Reviewed by @rowli
Unfortunately Rowli couldn’t get this one set up. This device pairs with the Heatmiser home system so you’d have to invest in the whole lot to make use of this smart plug.
Thanks to our fab Community members for sharing their thoughts. We’ve had interest from a other members keen to get involved in another round of testing.