Cheap Smart Plugs – Do they really make your home smarter?

by Robb Sutton
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There have been some things in the house that I have really been wanting to put on a schedule. Specifically…this time of year…it’s the Christmas lights. Whether it be the lights on the house or the Christmas tree itself, I like to be able to control them on a schedule or through Amazon Alexa when possible. The days of manually turning them on or off or even relying on the “dusk/dawn” sensors should be a thing of the past.

I looked around Amazon and found these Teckin Smart Plugs. I had several criteria that I wanted met and they seem to check those boxes.

  1. I didn’t want an outlet replacement. I wanted to be able to use them in any part of the house if possible and not be permanent in one location.
  2. I wanted them to be cheap.
  3. They need to be easy to setup with app integration that links with Amazon Alexa and other smart home software/devices.

The 4 pack ended up working out perfectly as well as I needed 4 outlets to get the lights up and running. The order came in one day thanks to Amazon shipping and I started the setup process.

Easy Setup and Configuration

These particular smart plugs use a universal app called Smart Life to get the outlets setup and to control them. I personally like the fact that they do not use a self branded app to do this. The Smart Life app is easy to use and gets a lot of development so you do not have to worry about dealing with a lot of software issues.

For setup, you literally just plug them in…hold down the power button until it starts blinking…and then it is added to the app. One thing to note though (and this is true of all smart plugs), you do have to be on a 2.4 ghz wifi network and not your 5 ghz band to get these plugs setup. It was really easy with my Amplfi mesh network as Amplfi has a setting to separate out the 2.4 ghz band on the existing network. You will need to look into your router and see how you can do that. Once you have setup the plugs, you can go back to your 5ghz network on your phone.

Once everything is setup, you can group plugs together, schedule tasks and do all of the other functions you are used to out of your smart devices. Personally, I went straight to the Alexa integration and linked the two together so I could control the plugs that way as well. That is where I ended up setting up my schedules but it will work either way.

The Good and the Bad

As I mentioned before, these did check off all of the boxes I was looking for in a cheap smart plug. They were affordable, reliable and easy to setup. So with all of that good…are there any drawbacks? Well…yes…so lets get into those.

First, the round design of the plug does not allow for two to be installed in a single outlet. This normally wouldn’t be too much of an issue but the Christmas Tree needed two outlets. I had to put a splitter on the smart plug to be able to light up the tree at once if I wanted to use that single outlet panel. You can find some like the Amazon smart plug that will fit two to an outlet but those run $24.99 each! I do have one that I ordered on Black Friday for $4 dollars but I was limited to one at that price.

These plugs are also not something you are going to want really visible. They stick out like a sore thumb when plugged into the outlet so I would not recommend them in places like a kitchen counter unless they are going to be hidden behind something else. The size and shape really makes them stick out in the room.

You are also going to want to use these for items that don’t move and really benefit from the smart aspect of the plugs. This is generally going to be things like lighting. You are not going to want these plugged into outlets that see a lot of changes in what you are using for power.

Overall, they have been great for the price is if you can get around a little bit of the annoyances of the shape and look when plugged into an outlet. They made scheduling the lighting around the house this time of year a lot easier and it is pretty cool to just be able to say “Alexa turn on the Christmas Tree” or “Alexa turn on the outside lights”.

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