Monday, 13 October 2014

4 Wireless Power Outlet Reviews | Wifi & App Controlled Switches & Plugs

Searching for Remote Controlled Power Outlets? WiFi is the Answer

Someone monitors their outlets on the go.
Monitoring Power on the Go
Photo Credit: Belkin
Remember the days of the 'clap' light? Clap twice to turn it on and off? 

It was pretty cool technology at the time, but it invariably led to rage when the clapper wouldn't respond. 

Thankfully, we've come a long way since then. With so many devices around the house, it's easy to forget something. That's why a good wireless power outlet can make your life simpler and more economical.

This article is written to review some wifi controlled power outlets, and we'll only be covering the 'best of the best'. For each item I'll be outlining a few things: the pertinent features, any 'need to know' cons, and of course how user friendly it is.

Sound interesting? I hope so!

Wireless / WiFi Enabled Power Outlets: The Different Types

There are many different models and styles of WiFi controlled power sockets on the market today, but they all essentially boil down into two types. Choosing between those two styles should come down to what you find the easiest.

Remote Controlled Power Switches: These are pretty self explanatory. The switch plugs into your existing power outlet. Each outlet contains a wireless receiver, which can detect the signal from a remote control (usually included in the kit). 

Want to turn off your lights, or your TV, or your popcorn maker? Anything that's plugged into the wireless electrical outlet can be controlled with the remote. 

App Controlled Power Outlets: These are very similar to what's described above. The main difference is that you control your sockets using an app on your smart phone.

There are plenty of advantages. You can label the different plugs, unlike the remote, and describe the device that it's plugged into. Also, most of these systems let you monitor which devices are on and which are off. Finally, these apps don't typically have the range restrictions that remote controlled devices do. You could turn on your coffee maker while still at work, for example.


Z-Wave: A fantastic system of wifi-enabled power outlets, switches & devices

GE Wireless Power Outlet (Z-Wave)
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Have you heard of Z-Wave before? It's a small step forward in the so-called 'internet of things', and it's a real boon to your home.

Essentially, Z-Wave is a system of wireless enabled plugs, switches, sockets and more, which all communicate with one another and 'relay' information around your home.

For our purposes, a Z-Wave wireless electrical plug can be switched on and off from a distance. You can use either a programmable remote control, or a computer or mobile device.

Most Z-Wave systems feature a wireless range of about 100 feet (line of sight). However, they have the ability to relay messages. That means that by sprinkling Z-Wave compatible devices throughout your home, you can essentially control any device from any point in your home.

You also have other features at your fingertips. Programmable settings ensure lights aren't accidentally left on. You can monitor what's on from anywhere in the world, and you can increase home security by setting lights to come on while you're on vacation.

This particular Z-Wave plug by GE is great because it requires no wiring or installation. Just plug it in. It won't interfere with your plug, and there's even a manual 'off' button on the switch. It's among the best WiFi power outlets around.

I'd also encourage you to check out the wide range of Z-Wave compatible wall plugs, light switches and home security accessories. They're all compatible and simple to use.

Pros: Easy to install, plugs relay information, controllable from anywhere, compatible with remote control

Cons: Array of options can be overwhelming


Belkin WeMo: A modular, WiFi controlled power outlet system

Belkin WeMo
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For fans of 'plug and go' type devices, the Belkin WeMo is a strong choice in this category. It is a modular system that you can expand as needed.

The WeMo makes use of your home wireless internet (so you'll need to have a WiFi router to use it). It's controlled using either an Apple or Android device, and you'll need the free app to make use of the system.

Installing the system is as simple as plugging in the WiFi controlled power socket, installing the app on your device, then following the on-screen prompts to connect the plug to your router.

The app has some extremely handy features. You can access your plugs from anywhere, provided you have internet access. 

It also allows you to program the plug. Make sure your lights are always turned off after midnight, or get the coffee brewing first thing each morning.

The WeMo comes in other editions too. They have a compatible light switch, a motion sensor for lighting, and even a power monitoring WiFi power plug to pinpoint energy consumption.

On the whole, the WeMo system is one of the top WiFi power outlets today, and it should make you quite happy.

Pros: Simple setup, programmable app, worldwide access, compatible with both Apple and Android devices.

Cons: Can sometimes be finicky to connect with routers (especially older models)


D-Link Smart Plug: A WiFi electrical outlet with energy monitoring

D-Link Smart Plug
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Most wireless electrical plug systems charge a premium for energy use monitoring, but the D-Link Smart Plug offers that as a free bonus.

In addition, it's a smart, user-friendly device that turns your phone or device into the ultimate remote control.

It's another WiFi smart power outlet, so it requires a wireless router to do its thing. If you have a WPS router, connecting is a snap, as each plug has a WPS connection button on the side. They also support other more standard router security protocols.

Like most other WiFi controlled electrical outlets, it makes use of an app to manage your devices and your schedule. You can preset it to turn on whenever you like, and you can monitor what's on from a distance.

Another nice feature of the app is the electrical usage statistics, which let you identify and address any mysterious power drains. 

There is only one small issue for me with the Smart Plug. The app takes a few seconds to load, so on/off isn't instantaneous. Beyond that it's a fantastic option with simple setup, and the electrical monitoring is just icing on the cake.

Pros: Quick WPS connection, energy consumption statistics, simple to use free app

Cons: Delay when loading app to turn off devices


Etekcity 5-pack: Remote controlled power outlets, super simple

Etekcity Wireless Outlet
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If fiddling with routers and WiFi doesn't sound like a good time to you, consider opting for a simpler system. 

There are many similar products out there, but the Etekcity is a wireless power outlet pack with good reviews, and it's well priced. 

The concept is pretty simple: You have five different plugs which you can place in any outlet throughout the house. Each one corresponds to a different button on the remote. Turn the power on and off with a single press.

This set gives you two remote controls to work with. 

There are two considerations with a more traditional 'line of sight' setup like this. First, while it can operate through some walls and floors, you must be relatively close to the outlet in question to make it work. The range is about 100ft without obstructions.

Secondly, you'll have to memorize which button corresponds to which outlet. Some masking tape labels can certainly help.

Luckily, the sockets are not tied to the remote. Each one has a learning feature which allows you to reprogram it with another remote. You can also program one button to turn on multiple outlets, a handy thing for a living room full of devices.

It's cheap and dirt simple. I'd recommend this pack to anyone looking for a good remote controlled power plug that isn't reliant on internet access.

Pros: Simple to install and program, two remotes, affordable price tag

Cons: Can't access from anywhere, no programming functions


Final Thoughts:

What are your experiences with WiFi enabled power outlets? Do you have any recommendations that I might have missed? Feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading!

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