Smart Plugs are an easy, affordable way to turn your house into a smart home.
With a smart plug, you can control almost any appliance through a phone app or with a voice command.
But how much electricity do smart plugs use?
And do they still use electricity even when they are turned off?
Smart plugs use electricity when turned off (in standby mode) to stay connected to your home’s wi-fi system. But the amount of energy that smart plugs use is minimal. When used wisely, smart plugs can save more energy than they consume with their wi-fi connection.
This article provides a brief introduction to how smart plugs work and explains how you can use smart plugs to make your appliances more convenient and energy-efficient.
What Is a Smart Plug?
Like every other electrical plug, a smart plug’s primary job is carrying current. But a smart plug decides when it will or will not send that current on to your appliance.
Smart Plugs Carry Current
Current will only flow through a circuit. The plug connects your appliance to the electrical grid and completes the circuit.
Electrical outlets have three holes:
- The right hole is hot and supplies electrical current.
- Electricity passes through this wire and your appliance.
- The left hole is neutral and connects to the wire that returns the current to the breaker box.
- After running through your device, the current flows back to the breaker box’s “tie block” and from there into the ground.
- The center hole is ground. It is not connected to the circuit but will send any sudden surge of power straight back to the grounding block.
- Any current that goes through the ground will be transmitted into the ground harmlessly rather than shocking you or destroying your appliance. (For example: Lightning rods protect homes by drawing lightning down a wire whose end is buried. The lightning follows the conductor and is “earthed” or “grounded.”)
You can accomplish all this simply by plugging your appliance into a wall outlet. But when you plug your device into a smart plug, you can decide when the current will flow!
You may also wonder: Can you plug a smart plug into a power strip?
How Do Smart Plugs Manage Electricity?
Consider your light switch.
When you turn the switch On, it creates a circuit between your light and the grid.
Electrical current flows through that switch, and the bulb lights up.
Turn the switch Off, and the circuit is broken.
As we said earlier, electricity only flows through circuits.
No more current flows through your bulbs, so they go dark.
Your smart plug acts as an electrical plug. It sends current from the wall socket to the appliance. But it also acts as a switch.
When the Smart Plug turns the switch off, it breaks the connection between the wall outlet and the appliance plug. Since the appliance no longer receives power, it is now off.
The Smart Plug’s processor switches power on and off. It can do so according to a timer. Or it can turn your appliance on and off in response to commands.
You set the timer, and you make those commands. You can use a phone app or tell Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri to give the smart plug instructions.
But how much power does your smart plug require, and how much energy do you save?
What’s the Electric Bill for a Smart Plug?
To answer the question, let’s do a few quick and rough calculations.
How Much Power Does a Smart Plug Require?
Your smart plug regularly checks in with your app or your smart speaker hub. It also leaves its receiver on to make sure it doesn’t miss a signal.
Sending and receiving data requires electricity.
When your smart plug is not sending current to your appliance, it is in standby mode. On standby, your smart plug uses around 1 watt of power.
Your smart plug consumes about 50MB of data monthly in communications with your app and smart speaker.
You use that much data when you browse 20 average web pages. And your smart speaker handles data much faster than you read.
But to make things simple, let’s assume your smart plug consumes 2 watts, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Your electricity is billed by the kilowatt-hour (kWh). That is 1,000 watts of power used for one hour. During a 30-day billing cycle, your smart plug will consume 1.44 kWh.
According to the US Energy Information Association, in 2019, the average cost/kWh in America was 10.54 cents.
For an average American, a smart plug costs 15 cents for each electric bill.
Some states have higher electricity costs. If you are in Hawai’i, where electricity costs were 28.72 cents/kWh in 2019, your smart plug may cost you as much as 41 cents.
The Electric Bill for Appliances on Stand-By
Like your smart plug, many modern appliances go into standby mode when they are not in use.
According to the New York Times, in 2016, about a quarter of all residential energy was used by devices in idle power mode.
Gaming consoles were among the worst offenders.
Microsoft offers an “Energy Saving” mode for their Xbox Series S, which uses less than one watt in standby. But their default “Instant On” mode uses 9 to 10 watts.
Using a smart plug with your Xbox would save you 7 to 8 watts an hour. But you could save just as much money simply by changing your Xbox settings.
The bottom line: connecting a device to a smart plug won’t increase your electric bill more than a few pennies. But neither will you see much, if any, savings.
So how do you save money and energy with smart plugs?
How Can a Smart Plug Conserve Electricity?
A smart plug’s primary purpose is to make your life more convenient. Who doesn’t love starting the morning by telling Alexa or Siri to make coffee?
But that doesn’t mean that smart plugs can’t help you make smart energy decisions.
Smart Plugs Can Provide Metrics on Energy Use
Many smart plugs can provide you precise information on how much energy your device uses.
After looking at your air conditioner or refrigerator’s power drain, you can decide whether it makes sense to replace your old electricity guzzler with a more efficient model.
This Kasa Smart Plug Mini works with Google Nest and Amazon Echo to monitor your energy use and respond to your typed or verbal commands.
Editor’s pick: Are Smart Plugs a Fire Hazard? 4 Safety Facts Revealed
Smart Plugs Can Save Your Phone Batteries
Leaving your device on the charger after fully charging puts additional strain on the battery and can shorten its lifespan.
Using a smart plug, you can schedule your phone for the 2-3 hour charge it needs, not the 7-8 hours it gets when you leave it on overnight.
Smart Plugs Can Save You Money With Older Appliances
If you are running a space heater, there’s a fine line between “warm enough” and “too warm.”
Smart plugs let you save wasted energy and excess heat by turning off the space heater in response to a voice command – or a Google Nest Temperature Sensor, which is also connected to your smart speaker.
On their own, smart plugs don’t use more than 1 or 2 watts when they’re on standby. In some situations, smart plugs can save you money and save energy.
But what we love about smart plugs is the convenience they bring to our lives. And you can have that convenience for less than a penny a day in electricity.
With a bit of work, we can earn that money back in electrical savings. But even if we don’t, we can enjoy our smart home without feeling guilty about the electricity our smart plug draws to make it so convenient and comfortable!