Review a smart plug for Bulb

In September 2018, we asked members of team Bulb to help us run an experiment. We tested a bunch of different smart plugs to see if they were a useful energy saving device.

Overall, we didn’t find them as useful as we’d hoped but we’d love to get them into your hands to see if you agree.

Smart plugs work with mobile apps to give extra controls to your appliances

A smart plug is a device that you can plug in at home to give you control over your appliances remotely. You can turn your appliances on and off and monitor your energy usage using your smartphone. And some devices work with existing services from Google, Apple and Amazon.

Team Bulb didn’t find their smart plugs that useful

We struggled to get the smart plugs set up and found that because they only control one gadget at a time, they were an expensive way of understanding energy usage.

Some Community members weren’t overly surprise at the outcome.

Do you want to test the smart plugs?

But, like we said in our blog post, although we’re always up for finding ways to save energy, we’re not professional gadget reviewers. So we’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

We’ve still got four smart plugs and we don’t want them to go to waste. Instead, we thought we’d try a new experiment; send them to you to review.

If you’re interested in testing a smart plug, here’s what you need to do:

  • Post below to register your interest
  • I’ll send you an email to arrange sending the smart plug
  • Spend 2 weeks using the smart plug, noting down;
- how easy it was to set up - what appliance you controlled - how much you saved - anything else you think is useful for us to know
  • Write up a your experiences for Community to read

Hi, Yes please, i would be very interested to test this.

Yes, I would like to register interest in this…

Great, thanks @darryl5653 and @christos_1

We have four smart plugs so you two can certainly review one each. I’ll wait for a couple more to register their interest and then I’ll DM you to get your details :slight_smile:

I’d be interested too!

I’d be interested too!

=) That’s great @joanna2694 - thanks for letting us know.

I’m guessing I’m too late for this, but here’s hoping

Not too late! There’s just one more and it’s yours.

@rowli @joanna2694 @christos_1 and @darryl5653 I’ll be in touch shortly with more details.

Great, looking forward to hearing from you

I fully expect to see exactly the same results from these tests!

An aside but I’ve been using SmartThings plugs for a couple of years (as part of the SmartThings wider system).

I won’t pretend they are saving me money, but they did make it easy to chase around the house figuring out why our standby power use was so high. They also made it very easy to automate things we want to turn on/off automatically ( recent examples including christmas lights or automatically running the dehumidifier when we weren’t sleeping and the house humidity was too high). The automation options were powerful (potentially varying based on the time of day, day and who was home) you can also easily override them through a mobile app or Alexa if you want direct control of something. As with most smart home kit we have (Hue Lights, Evohome, Harmony remote) they aren’t really about saving us money they are about making life easier.

I couldn’t honestly recommend the SmartThings system just for the plugs as it is quite expensive. The system as a whole does quite a bit for us, monitoring for leaks, checking freezer temperatures, motion sensors, monitoring babies room etc, which is nice. But my point is that smart plugs plugs can be useful, if they talk to enough other system and can be programmed to behave in a smart way based on what is going on around them. I do hope to be able to program them to respond to our meter going into export mode soon, then they will really help save us money.

If there is another going spare, I’m happy to test and feed back

Heya @Rdw

I’ll pop you on the waitlist for the smart plugs. Just in case one of our reviewers changes their minds. If reviewing is something Community would be keen on getting involved in, we can find some more devices to try out. I’ll keep you updated on that.

Thanks for sharing @ThatGuy. It’s interesting that they didn’t save you money on your energy bills. Do you think you even saved enough to cover the cost of the device?

@darryl5653 was asking about which devices to test the smart plug on. Sounds like you’d suggest devices that are often on standby? I suggested a few things too:

  • Heaters
  • Wi-fi modems
  • The television
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Desktop computers.

If you have any other suggestions, let us know.

I’ve seen a smart plugs being used a burglar deterrents. You can make it look like you set the lights to turn on and off on a timer which is handy and reassuring.

@“Eleanor at Bulb” I’d be pretty confident I didn’t save the value of the plugs, but then I haven’t really tried too. If I really pushed for it I might be able to design a automation scheme that turned off the AV stack automatically when nobody was home/at night to save energy that over 3-4 years might pay for itself but that doesn’t seem like a worthwhile use of my time. The extra convenience and control I gained from using the plugs however has justified them for me. I’d be intrigued as to how much power those smart plugs drew, mine use Z-Wave communications so should use little standby power themselves but I could believe a WiFi plug would use more power than a TV on standby…

If you are trialling the plugs you might want to look at your microwave, some older models have shockingly high standby power use. They need big transformers to supply the kW+ of energy they use while microwaving/grilling, when they are only running the clock those large transformers have very high iron losses (which have to be paid for).

Thanks for the tips @ThatGuy I’m sure our reviewers will appreciate your expertise as I purposely didn’t give them much help (we want to replicate buying one of the shelf with no extra support).

It’s good to know that even if the smart plugs don’t recover the economic cost, the convenience makes them worth it. I hope the others find them useful in some way too.

That’s a great tip about the microwave. Mine’s always on standby and there’s really no use as the clock on it is wrong anyway so I’ll be turning it off when I don’t use it from now. Thanks!

@“Eleanor at Bulb”, most modern microwaves and ovens also tend to have an optional setting which puts them into a far lower standby mode without showing a clock - useful if the plug is inaccessible. My microwave only wakes up when you open the door.

I suggested a few things too:
  • Heaters
  • Wi-fi modems
  • The television
  • Kitchen appliances
  • Desktop computers.
With heaters you should only do this if it's one with a large heat capacity designed to be used in this way (for example an oil filled radiator) and be careful that the smart plug you use can support switching that large a current.

You might have issues with WiFi smart plugs if you switch you WiFi router off with one…

Modern TVs on standby use less power than a WiFi smart plug may do.

For kitchen appliances, aside from potentially the microwave as discussed above, I can’t think of anything that it would be advantageous to switch on and off in this way

Moden desktop computers also likely use a similar amount of power to a smart plug when switched off and if you’re going to trigger the smart plug manually, what’s the advantage of this over flicking a switch on the wall or on an extension lead?

Hi Eleanor,

We are definutely interested in trying the smart plugs if there’s still one available! I’m keen in reviewing any devices and gadgets as we have only been in our home a few months and I’m hoping smart devices will make life easier with a young child!


Hey @Rose_Elizabeth12

Thanks for your interest, I’ll pop your name on the list. I’m afraid we’ve sent out all the smart plugs now - they went in a flash. But I hope to get our Community testing a few more gadgets so if you’ve got any suggestions*, let us know.

  • within reason - I’m preempting someone suggesting we buy a fleet of Electric Vehicles =)

Hi @“Eleanor at Bulb” or anyone else who has used a smart bulb, do you know how far the range is on them to connect to a router? When i receive mine, I am keen to test it on our tumble dryer but it is in the garage at the end of our garden.