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Have you ever wished that your appliances could do the thinking for you? That you house would just run itself? Or even that you could save energy without having to run around the house every night to switch off all the power points?
Finally there is an easy, way to make your wishes come true! Smart plugs are the first easy step into home automation, and they will have you wondering how you every got by without them.
Before we get into the awesome things you can do with them, you might be wondering what a Smart Plug is, and what makes them 'Smart'?
A smart plug is like a power-point adapter – it fits between your power socket and the appliance you wish to plug in. At its most basic level, it simply turns things on and off. But, when connected to a smart home platform, it becomes a very nifty device.
They are considered ‘smart’ because they let you control your appliances from an app on your phone from anywhere. The good apps (like carbonTRACK’s) even let you set schedules for your smart plugs so you can turn appliances on and off at set times and on specific days.
Some smart plugs also go one step further and collect information about how much energy the appliance connected through it is using. This is an incredibly useful feature for the energy-conscious consumer.
So how do you control them? Most smart plugs communicate (using your home’s Wi-Fi network) to a central control hub. Then, the hub uses your Wi-Fi to send information to an app on your phone.
The carbonTRACK Smart Plug is a little different. It communicates to the carbonTRACK hub using ZigBee Protocol – a short-waves communication technology that is a lot like Bluetooth, except better because it runs off much less power than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
By now you must be excited to read about some practical and clever examples of how you could be using Smart Plugs in your home.
We’ve all fantasied about it. Creating knee-trembling creepy house to scare your friends/house-mates or kids. Well, picture this:
Your friend walks in the front door and all the lights go out. Then eerie waltz music starts playing from somewhere deep in the house. Next the lounge room lamp turns on, but only for a minute, before switching off again.
The music cuts and there’s silence. A small floor heater turns on and blows hot air at their feet, then the TV turns on with maximum volume… If your friend is still there at this point, then they have a very steely nerve!
For those of us that embrace the Christmas spirit and put up Christmas lights for the festive season we are always faced with the dilemma of when to turn them off at night. Obviously we want to leave them on for at least a few hours in the evening when people are still out and about and can enjoy them. But when it’s 10 or 11pm and you’re snuggled up on the couch or in bed, the last thing you want to do is go outside and turn them off.
Then there’s remembering to turn them on – what’s the point of putting all the effort into putting them up if you only remember to turn them on twice a week? And often when you do remember to put them on, it’s too early and still light, and so would be a waste of power.
Cue Smart Plug to the Christmas-light rescue. Plug all of your sets of lights into one power board, then connect that to power through a smart plug. Then you can set your lights to run on a schedule for a couple of hours in the evening, at exactly the right time. Christmas cheer optimised! Now, if you could just get a smart plug to do your Christmas shopping for you…
Have you ever wondered how much it really costs to run your appliances? Or considered upgrading to more energy efficient models, but feel unsure about which appliance will give you the biggest savings?
When you connect your appliance through a smart plug you can track how much electricity it consumes. If you don’t want to buy 10 smart plugs, you can always plug one an appliance at a time to a smart plug. You can then track how much each appliance consumes and you will know you exactly what’s using the most electricity.
With this knowledge, you will be able to decide, without a doubt, which appliance will shave the most of your energy bill if you replace it. You can also then select an appliance to keep attached to the smart plug, so you can switch it off when it’s not being used and cut down on its standby power consumption.
Vampire power is the power your electronic devices use when they are on standby. Vampire or standby power can make up to 10% of your electricity bills.
While a single device consumes very little in annual electricity use, when multiplied by several dozen products, you're no longer talking about pocket change. What’s more, standby power use is roughly responsible for 1% of global CO2 emissions!
Some of the biggest standby power energy suckers are:
When you connect your appliances to smart plugs, you can switch them off from your phone when you’re about to leave the house or go to sleep. Or, you can schedule them to turn off when you know you won’t be using them. This way, you can save power without even thinking about it!
Have you ever wished your air-con would just come on by itself on a really hot day so that when you arrived home the house was nice and cool? Or that your heater would switch itself on in the morning 20 minutes before you wake up, so that getting out of bed is just that little bit easier?
What about if you have unexpected guests arriving? You mum calls you while you’re still at work and she’ll be getting to your house an hour before you get home? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could switch on the heating for her so she can relax in comfort while she waits for you?
With a smart plug, you can schedule your appliances to turn off and on at the perfect times. This means that whether its summer or winter, you can set a time for your air conditioner, fan or heater to turn on. Welcome to the future, where you get to enjoy your home at the perfect temperature when you get home from a hard day at work, when you get up in the morning, or just any time really!
If you’re going away over the weekend or heading overseas for a holiday, you might want to create the illusion that you’re home. You can do this by setting up a smart plug with a lamp nearby a window.
All you have to do is connect your lamp to the smart plug, then you can set timers for your lights to come on at night to create the illusion of activity and warn off intruders. You can travel relaxed knowing that your home is looking after itself.
Your toothbrush and mobile phone are two things that you need to charge quite often, and yet they do not need to be charged for 8 hours plus at a time. In fact, it’s actually bad for their batteries if they remain on the charger for longer than necessary.
Batteries do not enjoy eternal life. Most smartphone manufacturers say their devices rate their batteries at 300-500 cycles. But, for many of us, it’s built into our routine to put our phone on the charger when we go to bed, so that it’s fully charged and ready to go for the next day.
What we really need, is the ability to let our phone or toothbrush charge for 2 – 3 hours before the power is disconnected. A smart plug lets you do just this. By connecting your charger through a smart plug, you can run it on a schedule that automatically turns off the power at a set time. This could save you hundreds of dollars in new batteries (or thousands in new phones!) over time.
Tired of the weekday battle of getting your children to do their homework or to go outside for a while? Having trouble enforcing rules on how much TV can be watched, or how long the Xbox or play station can be played? Smart plugs can help you manage your children’s screen time and put into place a healthy after-school routine.
Here’s a great example: Let your kid’s zone out and rest for half an hour when they first arrive home. Next, turn the power off to the TV setup for an hour or two, and make this ‘homework and outdoor play time’.
Put the power back on for the hour before dinner so you have the headspace and quiet to get that sorted. Finally, make sure no one is getting up in the night to play games when they are meant to be sleeping – turn off the power when you go to bed.
The simple use of a smart plug on a schedule makes it easy to put a regular routine like this into practice!
Do you have a slow cooker? Have you ever been frustrated by the odd length of time you might need to put it on for to cook your meal? 6 – 8 hours on low or 4 – 6 hours on high works in theory, but when you leave for work at 7am and get back at 6pm, a solid 11 hours will pass and your meal is going to be well over-done.
In the wonderful world of smart plugs, you can set a reminder in your phone to turn on your cooker at exactly the right time. This way, you meal will be perfectly stewed when you arrive home ravenous after a big day.
Have you ever gone to bed on a warm summer’s night and left the fan on, only to wake up a few hours later when it’s cooled down, and have to get up to turn off the fan?
Or have you gone to bed in the depth of winter with your heater and/or electric blanket on and woken up roasting in the middle of the night?
If you plug these appliances into smart plugs, and set them to run on a schedule to turn them off at say 12pm, you’ll never again awake with a shiver or drenched in sweat.
Any electrical appliance has the potential to start fires or cause an electric shock, and each brings with it its own dangers, ranging from frightening to life threatening. A few of the common culprits are toasters, microwaves, clothes dryers and dishwashers.
Ensuring these appliances are switched off using a smart plug whenever you’re not using them will cut down on the chance that one of your appliances will have a fault and catch fire when you are sleeping or out of the house. How’s that for peace of mind?
If you are a control freak, the Smart Plug gives you more control than ever. Or, if you just want to save energy, save money, and not have to worry about remembering which switches you turned on that day, you can let the Smart Plug be the brainpower, while you get on with more important things… like trying that new restaurant around the corner!