4 Amazing Smart Power Strips You're Missing Out On
When it comes to smart homes, the focus often comes back to being able to control the flow of electrical current from an AC socket, since most regular devices connect directly to power. They will then use a simple on/off switch to operate, which happens to be a great fit for automation as smart plugs can turn the power on and off while the switch stays on. Despite the focus on smart plugs, there is another, less popular option as well: smart power strips.
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Table of Contents
What are smart power strips?
In general, a smart power strip is identical to a regular power strip other than a few subtle differences that hint to the smart capabilities of the device. A common feature is an addition of a small light above each outlet to indicate the state of the internal relay as either on or off. Many smart strips will go a step further and add USB ports directly, removing the need for charging cubes and in some cases providing automated control of that too. Other strips will have always-ON plugs that aren't controlled by via the smart mechanism, for situations where only some connected devices need to be controlled.
Some will also use grouping to control multiple outlets together, though this usually isn't a benefit for consumers as you are effectively just losing granularity. It is almost always a cost-saving measure, but it can certainly be a good option if you need to control equipment in pairs. As with regular strips, most will have some degree of surge protection along with other kinds of electrical filtering, though the fancier stuff is typically reserved for the most expensive options. A final note about smart power strips is that their compatibility varies greatly, so be sure to get one that will work with your system!
Are smart power strips worth it?
While the final answer will be different for everyone, in general, smart strips are well worth the money. Their biggest strength lies in the fact that they can offer individual control of 3 outlets or more at the same time, all in one unit. As an example, a pack of two smart plugs is commonly sold for around 15$, while a smart power strip can be purchased for around 25$. The two plugs give you control over two items but require two sockets (usually from the wall), while the power strip can control 3 and provide USB charging ports. That's not to mention the additional protections offered by a power strip, such as surge protection.
If we talk about the potential for power savings, the strips increase in value immediately. There aren't too many massively wasteful appliances these days as a result of energy-saving initiatives. Despite that, there are still situations where the average home is wasting energy. As a general rule, anything that's left turned on when unused is wasting power. This could be reduced by using a smart power strip which can help make sure the TV, game consoles, and surround sound are all turned off at night when no one is using them. As a lot of products still have transformers attached to the power plug, a lot of power is wasted collectively as they never stop generating heat. Smart power strips can be used to turn off things that might otherwise be left on, saving you money over time.
Smart power strip flaws
Nothing is ever truly perfect, and smart power strips aren't an exception. This problem actually affects power strips in general but is still important to consider depending on your use case. Every strip is sold with a maximum power rating which must not be exceeded for continued safe operation, as high current can melt wires or start fires. Smart plugs are no different as you may have noticed there is only on cord feeding the strip's many outlets. As a result of every outlet on the bar going to a single outlet on the wall, there is an overall limit on how much you can pull from a single strip.
The limit is usually not that high, 15A in the case of one of the strips listed later. This limit is in addition to the maximum current draw from a single outlet, which will typically be lower or 10A in this case. The thing to remember is that most electrical circuits that power the outlets in the wall are limited to around 15A as well, so exceeding the strip's rating might also trip a breaker. This problem shouldn't be a deal-breaker, but you must be aware of it as plugging in space heaters or hair dryers probably isn't a good idea. We should also note that the strip will continue using a tiny amount of power, even when everything is off.
Best smart power strips for energy monitoring
We should note that almost every device that offers energy monitoring is going to be more expensive than one without. The cost is certainly to cover the additional work and complexity of such a device, but you must consider if you really need this feature. If you aren't too set on monitoring, you can get a much cheaper option that we will look at in the next section.
Kasa Smart Power Strip
The Kasa Smart Power Strip is a good choice for anyone looking for control over a lot of devices, as it has 6 individually controlled outlets. It also includes 3 USB ports for charging, though they do not support smart control or energy monitoring. There is no shortage of ways to control it, as users can choose between the Kasa app, Google Home, or Alexa. There is support for the most commonly used features such as schedules and remote control directly with the app, with most of these features also carrying over to the voice assistants. Unfortunately, the strip does require a constant connection to the internet to maintain control, so this might not be the best option for those with an unstable connection. As with most power strips, it offers surge protection and has a maximum current rating of 15A.
VOCOlinc Smart Power Strip
The VOCOlinc is an interesting product for sure, with most of the features you expect from a smart power strip while also being one of the only HomeKit compatible options. It has way fewer outlets than the Kasa with only 3 individually controlled outlets and two USB ports. The power monitoring is also not quite as great as only one of the outlets supports monitoring - leaving you blind to how much the other two are using. There is much better support for high power appliances though, with a maximum of 1800 watts per plug (15A on a 120V circuit). Keep in mind you will still need to be under the maximum rating of the plug the strip is plugged into, which is usually 15A. In other words: you will more than likely only be able to plug in one high power device with nothing else connected - at risk of tripping a breaker or starting a fire.
It's compatible with a wide range of ecosystems such as HomeKit, Google Home, Alexa, and their own app. The HomeKit support means you have the option to run this strip offline if you have a hub available, which is beneficial for unstable connections or privacy-focused individuals. The VOCOlinc Cloud app also allows users to set timers and control the strip remotely out of the box, using the provided cloud service. An additional note is that the indicator LEDs emit quite a bit of light, so it may be a good idea to keep it away from light-sensitive locations such as on your nightstand.
Best overall smart power strips
Despite the potential use of energy monitoring, manufacturers don't seem to be too interested in implementing it within smart power strips. This has the effect of driving up the cost of the product while also making it difficult for consumers to get what they are looking for as there are only a handful on the market. If you aren't too set on getting power monitoring, much cheaper options are available as we will see.
Meross Smart Power Strip
With 3 individually controlled outlets and group control of four USB ports, the Meross strip has no shortage of features. You can drive 2.5A from each USB port for fast charging a phone or a tablet, and you can draw a total of 4A from all of them combined. This smart strip is also highly compatible with supports for Alexa, Google Home, SmartThings, and HomeKit. Each outlet can support a maximum of 10A, with the entire strip supporting a maximum of 15A from all outlets combined. The 10A limit per plug makes this another strip that probably shouldn't be controlling high power devices. The support for HomeKit is particularly noteworthy due to its offline nature, meaning you can use this without an internet connection with a hub. Of course, you don't need any of that as the Meross app supports all the usual features such as schedules and timers along with remote access.
TECKIN Smart Power Strip
The TECKIN Smart Strip is the cheapest on this list by quite a margin, but don't let that fool you as it is still feature-packed and is very competitive. Each of the 4 outlets can be controlled individually, with the 4 USB ports being controlled as a group. There is a variety of supported ecosystems, including Alexa, Google Home, or the companion app. Within the companion app, you can set schedules, timers, and control the device from anywhere without a hub. One downside is that it has the lowest power rating by far, with a maximum of 1250 watt (10A at 120V). This essentially rules out any high power device from ever being plugged into this. However, there is an interesting feature that will detect an overload and automatically turn itself off. When the load returns to a normal level, it will turn itself back on.
Overall there are a lot of smart power strips on the market. We saw that there are barely any products that integrate energy monitoring into a strip, severely limiting the selection. The following is a table with each strip we talked about here along with a summary of the features of each.
|Name||Energy Monitoring||Siri||Alexa||Google Home||Max Power/outlet||Total Max Power||Price|
|VOCOlinc||Sort of (1 port)||Yes||Yes||Yes||15A||15A||$$$|