Smart plugs are a popular way to make your home a smart home.
A smart plug lets you control your lamp or other appliance through your smartphone or with voice commands to your home assistant.
But are smart plugs a fire hazard?
Smart plugs are safe as long as people use them responsibly. If you are careful where you connect your plug, do not use indoor plugs outdoors, use a UL-certified smart plug, and make sure your electrical outlets and appliances work properly, there is little danger of a smart plug starting a fire.
This article will show you how to use your smart plug safely and avoid electrical fires.
I’ll explore how these handy gadgets work and what you should be aware of to stay safe. Read on to learn more!
Are Smart Plugs Dangerous?
Smart plugs are no more dangerous than any other outlet or appliance as they’re put through the same safety standards as every other device in your home. Much like a regular power strip or outlet extender, smart plugs are safe provided you use them as directed by the manufacturer.
Smart plugs are very simple; there isn’t much to them.
You plug the device into an electrical outlet, then plug something like a lamp or appliance into it.
Just about any outlet will work.
You control the smart plug remotely by using the device’s app downloaded to a mobile device, such as a tablet or phone.
The Smart Plug connects to the mobile device using WiFi.
You can think of the smart plug like the switch or button on an appliance, like a coffee maker.
Instead of turning the coffee maker on or off directly, the app tells the smart plug to supply the power or not, much like the light switch does with a ceiling light.
You can also schedule when the device should turn on or off using the app, making them a safety feature for your home.
Instead of wondering if you turned off the coffee maker, you will know just by checking your phone.
Compatible smart plugs can connect to home assistant devices, such as the Amazon Echo Dot or Amazon Echo Show 8 (both products available on Amazon.com).
These devices are voice-controlled, so you don’t need a mobile phone to control the smart plug.
Home assistant devices such as Google Nest, Z-Wave, and Zigbee also use smart plugs.
That all being said, much like your standard power strip, if you overload a smart plug with too many devices, it can become dangerous.
When you buy your smart plug, check the manufacturer’s guidelines and the maximum wattage allowance before plugging anything into it.
This is especially true of heat-producing devices, like coffee makers or toasters.
It is recommended to only plug one such device into an outlet at once, as these are the most likely to overload and overheat.
4 Safety Facts About Smart Plugs
Smart plugs help simplify your life by allowing you to control electrical devices remotely, such as lights and appliances.
There are some things you’ll want to think about before using a Smart Plug.
1. Be Careful Where You Connect It
You need to know the amp rating of the smart plug so you can be sure it’s compatible with the home’s electrical system.
Using a smart plug with a different rating as the electrical system it’s being connected to could cause it to overload and become a fire hazard.
Most household electrical outlets in the US have a 15 amp and 120-volt rating; smart plugs sold in the US should have this same rating.
Some household outlets have a 20 amp rating, while larger appliances like a stove or washing machine require outlets rated even higher.
If the plugged-in device draws more power than the smart plug rating, it won’t function properly and could cause a fire.
If you live or travel to another country, find out if the electrical rating is different.
Germany uses 230 volts as their standard. A smart plug compatible in the US (120 volts) wouldn’t work in Germany.
To use a 120-volt smart plug in a country like Germany, you need a power converter to convert the voltage safely.
Similarly, you don’t want to attach a device with a higher voltage than the smart plug.
For example, an air conditioning unit draws a lot of power and could cause the smart plug to melt or catch fire.
Be careful not to connect a device that pulls a lot of electricity.
You may also not want to plug in any device that produces a lot of heat, like a space heater.
According to most manufacturer’s warnings, a space heater should only be connected directly to a wall outlet.
If you use a smart plug to control the heater, it shouldn’t be left unattended, and it’s best not to use scheduling.
To be safe, you should be in the room when you turn the heater on to ensure flammable items aren’t close enough to cause a problem.
Electricity spikes, or surges, are caused by lightning, faulty wiring, or power outages.
They call it a surge because there’s an unexpected significant increase in the voltage coming into the electrical system.
It can harm your electrical devices and could even start a fire.
A surge protector stops these spikes from damaging your smart plug and the devices plugged into it.
Most Smart Plugs aren’t surge-protectors, but you can connect them directly into a surge protector such as the Amazon Basics Surge Protector (available on Amazon.com).
This product not just prevents damage but can also provide power to 6 electronic appliances.
Alternatively, you can use this Gosund Surge Protector (available on Amazon.com).
This product is compatible with Alexa and Google Home. It has a 9 in 1 plug design that is suitable for use inside the bedroom and in the kitchen.
Learn more: Do smart plugs use electricity when turned off?
2. Do Not Use Indoor Plugs Outdoors
There are benefits to having a smart plug outdoors.
Controlling outdoor lighting on your patio is one example where a smart plug would be beneficial.
You could use one to control the timing of your holiday light display as well.
If it runs on electricity and you use it outdoors, it could be a good idea to plug it into a smart plug.
However, make sure the plug you’re using outdoors has an outdoor rating such as the Minoston Outdoor Smart Plug (available on Amazon.com).
This outdoor smart plug is compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. Using this, you can control your devices using your voice.
Manufacturers design outdoor plugs to be weatherproof to protect the components inside from the weather.
They can stand up against rain or hail without failing or becoming a hazard.
Please don’t consider them to be waterproof; you shouldn’t submerge them in water.
A plug not rated for outdoor use might work for a while, but it’ll inevitably fail.
A compromised smart plug could spark, catch on fire, or shock you when trying to touch it.
It would also help if you protected even an outdoor-rated smart plug from the outdoors.
Place the device out of the sun; regular exposure to the sun can cause the plastic to degrade.
Hang the plug to a wall or face it toward the ground to protect the outlets.
3. Use Only Outlets That Are Working Correctly
Wiring in older homes may have deteriorated over time or were inadequately grounded.
Outlets in any home could become damaged due to wear and tear.
An outlet could be dangerous if it shows burn marks, is melted, or the device isn’t tight when plugged in.
A damaged outlet needs to be repaired or replaced before using it. Don’t plug a smart plug into an outlet that isn’t working correctly.
Reading recommendation: Smart Plug Not Responding: 6 Causes & Instant Fixes
4. Use Quality Products With Good Safety Ratings
Like many things, some companies create lesser quality smart plugs and sell them for a lot less.
These products may not meet the same safety standards as the name-brand ones.
Unless you are confident the cheaper option is of the same quality, don’t take the risk; buy the name-brand product instead.
Underwriters Laboratory is a global company that independently tests products for safety.
Companies pay a fee to have their products tested and receive a safety rating.
When purchasing a smart plug, or any electrical device, check to see if it has a UL rating by looking for the UL trademark.
If it doesn’t, you might want to consider not buying it.
Check out: Smart Plug Won’t Connect: 7 Causes & Instant Fixes
Smart plugs are safe and help make our lives easier. They provide a convenient and straightforward way to automate your home.
They help save energy by turning items off when they’re not needed.
They can keep your home safer by turning lights on and off while you’re away.
There’s no end to the usefulness.
However, some things can go wrong if you’re not mindful.
Taking this convenience for granted could have costly and harmful consequences.
But if you’re cautious and don’t take unsafe shortcuts with your smart plugs, they’re just as safe as other appliances in your home.