best uses for a smart socket

smart sockets have uses.

caption: tp-link bulbs and sockets connect to your wifi and work without the need for another box or hub.

A smart socket adds a little cleverness to a table lamp or electric heater. The printer upstairs takes five minutes to warm up so switching it on by remote control is a time saver. Eventually I think most wall outlets will have built-in smartness but until some breakthrough we must have socket sockets. They connect to your Internet wifi though some work on local 433MHz RF.

  • Smart sockets usually come with an app that offers a scheduler. I use a smart socket for the battery chargers on a laptop and a lamp with a lead acid battery. Neither should be allowed to overcharge or continuously charge. So I set a schedule to turn the sockets off at night. I turn the socket on when it’s needed knowing that it’ll turn off eventually. (Incidentally TP-link sockets still perform their schedule, even when the wifi is down).
  • Use a smart socket to turn off a table lamp every night. Use a smart socket to turn off a electricity guzzling heater/printer every night in case you forget to do so. There is no ‘on’ time in this schedule.
  • Remember those little plugs which give a gentle light when it’s night? Well, they’re still useful, simple and still inexpensive, e.g. for finding the bathroom or stairs at night.
  • You probably use a smart socket to control a device that’s inconveniently placed. My broadband router is not very accessible and it benefits from a turn off/turn on occasionally – but using a smart socket for this is ill advised. If it uses wifi you probably won’t be able to turn it on! Instead I use an older technology 433MHz RF controlled socket – thus I can still remotely reset the broadband router located in another building.
  • You can use a smart socket behind a kitchen cupboard or in a ceiling void and save some wiring.
  • I have a smart socket that monitors energy use on an immersion heater and also set its heating times.
  • 433MHz RF smart sockets work differently to wifi smart sockets. You can’t do some things with wifi smart control. You pair RF sockets to a switch or a remote control, instead of pairing them to an app. My bedroom lighting works on 433Hz RF – the main light and a side light are paired to two wireless switches at the bedside. The switch at the door however is paired to both lights – giving some extra convenience when you enter and leave the room.
  • The thing that’s missing from every smart socket is a timed ‘boost’ feature that turns the unit on for a set time and then turns it off. You might get this feature if you use a home automation platform to create a ‘routine’. This requires a bit of thinking to do but Siri or Homekit or Alexa might do this. I made a ‘boost’ routine in Home Assistant that triggers an ‘off’ message when a device has been on for a certain time. I made another ‘boost’ routine that monitors the water immersion heater circuit and triggers an off message when the amps drops below 8 amps. In this way the water heater only stays ‘on’ until the water is hot.
  • Smart sockets aren’t useful on washing machines, computers, TVs and devices that power up but go into standby. You’d probably want smart control of an air conditioner or a dehumidifier but I can’t imagine how a smart socket could help with that.

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