How Do Smart Plugs Work? | Behind Scene

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Written By Dinu Sri

Dr. H. T. D. S. Madusanka is an electronic enthusiastic, involved in research and development.

Well, I think most of you know what a smart plug is? Am I right? If not, please hope over to below section for a small introduction about smart plugs.

However, this article is not about the usage of smart plugs. It’s about how smart plugs work. This will be a little bit technical. Anyway, I will try my best to keep everything understandable language, yet not destroying the core details.

What is a smart plug?

Smart plug is a device which can plug into your old regular wall power outlet. The smart plug has its own outer interface to plug any electrical instrument that could go into your old power outlet.

So, now you could think about that, what is so special about this. The special point in smart plug is we can control it remotely. The controlling process can be done via the internet or using your home WIFI network. Oh, you can do that by using your mobile phone too.

Smart Lighting for Home
Smart Lighting for Home

Since we can remotely control the power outlet, we can manage anything that connected into it. That means we do not need to physically go near to the power outlet. We can turn on or off it by just pressing our mobile phone buttons or else using voice (through Alexa or any other smart home controller)

Not only that feature, but smart plugs also have auto schedules, power monitoring, and advance safety options.

How Does Wifi Plug Work

The goal of a smart plug is to make everyday household items “intelligent.” They don’t need a hub, but they do need steady WiFi. A companion app for most smart plugs may be installed from the Google Play Store or Apple App store and used to control the plugs. Smart plugs may seem a little chunky at first, but they quickly integrate into your home’s decor.

How Do Smart Outlets Work

The purchase of Smart Outlets should be at the top of your priority list if you want to automate and smarten your house. With smart plugs, you can manage your appliances, save time and effort, and improve your quality of life. A Smart Outlets, then, is just what it sounds like.

Your connected household appliances and equipment might be controlled through a remote. It is made feasible by Smart Outlets.

To put it another way, think of Smart Outlets as a remote control receivers. So, for example, if you put your air conditioner or coffee maker into a Smart Outlet, you’ll be able to turn it on or off from a distance.

How Do Smart Sockets Work

Put the Smart Socket into an existing outlet, set it up to connect to your home’s WiFi network, and plug anything into the innovative outlet to operate it from your phone using the accompanying app. All Smart Sockets are the same.

Best things to use smart plugs for

Just, for example, I’ll list out several ways that we can use a smart plug in our house. Actually, there are many ways. These are some primary uses.

Television or Radio – Turning ON or OFF your TV or radio is now comfortable with smart plug.

Home Lights – How about your home lights turn on automatically at night and turn off in mornings. Further, adding some custom schedule or random turn ON/OFF cycles to indicate you are at home when you are really not at home.

Battery chargers – When you do not have an automatic shutdown feature in your battery charger, then smart plug can save you. It does have the capability to turn off or on your charger whenever you told or scheduled.

Washing machines – You can use a smart plug to monitor or get a notification when your washing cycles were finished. This can actually save some energy usage. Especially in old washing machines.

Coffee Makes – How about getting a coffee just after you wake up in the morning. All you need to do is, set instructions to your smart plug for turn on your coffee maker at your wake up time.

Sprinklers in GardenSometimes, with busy time schedules, you can forget or do not able to water your precise garden. Well, using a smart plug, you can automate your sprinklers to do your deed.

If you are interested in checking more usages, in a detailed way, I have this excellent article for you. It will explain 12 best ways to use smart plugs in your home.

The operating mechanism of a smart plug

To explain how smart plugs works, I have designed a basic diagram as shown below. Please consider that this is a basic diagram. Actual systems may contain more specific circuits for special functions.

Also, the structure can change dramatically based on the manufacturer’s design.

smart plug internal structure

Anyway, this diagram is enough to understand the main working principle behind the smart plug.

So, like I have drawn in this diagram, most of the smart plugs have safety features in their power input and output lines. Basically, there are fuses that will burn out at larger current values.

Also, there will be a central controller board. This is the circuit that will control all of your biddings. Most probably, a microcontroller with custom firmware will handle these operations. If you are wondering what a microcontroller and firmware are, then I can explain it using a small example.

The microcontroller is a small IC which is similar to your laptop or PC, but very small and limited capabilities. Then the firmware is kind of your operating system (Windows 10 or apple OS..etc) that make your PC useful to do your daily tasks.

The microcontroller will connect to a display panel or LED to indicate the current status of the smart plug. Also, it will have the control of an antenna which will get your commands through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or ZigBee. Based on your received commands, the microcontroller will turn on or off the power output line through an electrical relay.  

Moreover, there is a small memory chip inside the main controller board to keep your schedules. The microcontroller is programmed by the manufactures to automatically check these memory chips to execute your scheduled commands.

All these things mean that your smart plug is like a tiny computer which is specially designed to do a few specific tasks continuously.

How do smart plugs work with Alexa, Google Home..etc

Alright, let’s check how these smart plugs work with smart home controllers such as Alexa or Google Home.  (want to know how smart bulbs works too, then click here)

When you installed a smart home controller such as Alexa, it will connect to your home Wi-Fi network, or it will generate an internal Wi-Fi network. Then, your smart plugs will connect to this network through its internal Wi-Fi antenna.

Once, you have successfully connected smart plug into your smart home controller, both devices will share a direct link to communicated to each other (through Wi-Fi).

If you want to know how to connect a smart plug into Alexa, check this step by step guide that I have written in one of my previous article.

The Alexa, or else another type of smart home controller, do have an ability to capture your voice commands. These controllers will understand your command and it will send a unique Wi-Fi signal into your smart plug to execute your individual instruction.

If you are interested in checking some of the best smart plugs, then check this article. In that article, I have reviewed the best smart plugs that will work with Alexa. Actually, there are good to go with other smart home controllers too. Such as google home.

How Do Alexa Plugs Work

The Alexa app on the smartphone or tablet may switch on and off any device plugged into an Amazon Smart Plug. You can use the Alexa app to automate your home’s Smart Plugs with timers and routines, and you can even use your voice to manage them from a distance.

How Do Smart Plugs Work With Alexa

A speech-activated Amazon Smart Plug allows you to control lights and other appliances with your voice. When you’re not home, program your lights, fans, and appliances to switch on and off on their own or use a smartphone app to manage them remotely. An Alexa-capable gadget is all you’ll need.

Do Smart Plugs Work Away From Home

In combination with other gadgets in your house, smart plugs may be turned on and off remotely from anywhere with an internet connection. Turning off appliances that aren’t in use throughout the day may help conserve electricity.

Most smart plugs now on the market can be used remotely even if they are not connected to the same WiFi network as the user’s house. A smart plug that permits remote connections may be purchased, or the capability can be activated.

Smart plugs allow you to maintain control of your house while away on vacation. If you have a smart home and are planning a vacation, read on to learn how you can remotely control your smart plugs while you’re gone. Smart plugs may be controlled remotely.

If you’re on vacation and want to manage your appliances, there are methods to do it without being in the same room as them. The most frequent method to operate smart plugs when away from home is to utilize the app you regularly use to access them. Smart plugs that work with Google Home, Alexa, and other virtual assistants are also available.

Smart plugs may be controlled remotely even more easily with the help of these personal assistants, which provide you direct access to your home’s equipment.

How Do Smart Plugs Work Remotely

Even if you are gone from the house, most smart plugs (particularly those with Alexa and Google Home capabilities) will still be able to operate. A separate hub may be required for specific Smart Plugs, while others need you to be connected to the same WiFi network as the smart plug.

Do Smart Plugs Save Energy

To maximize energy efficiency in the house, smart equipment such as thermostats and appliances may automatically respond to changes in demand. As a bonus, they may help cut down on energy, water, and gas waste. When you use smart gadgets to operate your house, you may drastically lower your energy usage.

  • Benefits Of Smart Plugs

Besides providing electricity and enabling this equipment to work, these smart plugs also have technical applications that enable us to control each connected device by turning them on and off to our specifications. So, if you’re pressed for time, you’ll like this essay.

  • Using Less Power

A significant benefit of using a smart plug is the amount of energy and money saved by reducing our reliance on unnecessary energy consumption. The fact that we can exercise this level of control is one of the capabilities provided by this equipment, which is ultimately beneficial to the environment. As a result, you should think about getting one of these appliances.

  • Practicality And Comfort

Technology’s primary role is to help people do their jobs more efficiently, and this is a good illustration of that. More automated home life is now possible thanks to this technology, which gives us remote access to various electrical equipment even when we aren’t home. Using Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, you can also use your voice to switch them on and off.

  • Options With A Greater Number Of Connections Are Available

Some laptops come with a USB port pre-installed. By connecting our device’s transformer, we’ll be able to make better use of all its features.

Can a Smart Plug Turn On a TV?

For the vast majority of situations, yes. To use the smart plug, plug it into the wall socket and unplug it when you’re done. It is guaranteed to switch off the television since it cuts off its power source. However, some TVs still need you to push the TV remote control’s ON button after you’ve turned them on.

How Many Smart Plugs Do I Need?

Yes, a smart plug is required for every device. Modern houses have a wide variety of appliances to choose from. It’s good to have a smart plug for each gadget you own. All of your gadgets are fully automated, so there’s no need to stress.

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