Application Guidance: Smart Plugs

Smart plugs can be used to control electrical appliances in communal areas and personal workspaces. Large appliances with high standby power consumption that are not expected to provide services outside of business hours are good candidates for being controlled by smart plugs. Examples include vending machines, water coolers, drinking fountains, coffee machines, portable space heaters, etc.

Energy savings will primarily result from the smart plug cutting off the power to the appliance based on the preprogramed schedule. Therefore, it is crucial to program a proper schedule for each smart plug that turns on and off the power supply according to when the appliance is expected to be used to maximize energy savings while not disrupting regular business services and productivity. In addition, smart plugs allow users to remotely turn on or off power to the appliances in an ad-hoc fashion through a web interface or mobile application. This remote control feature may be used at the organizational level by facility managers to manage large appliances in communal areas or at the occupant level to control devices within a personal workspace.

A subset of smart plugs, including all the products evaluated by the Hub, are equipped with native energy monitoring capabilities. This functionality tracks both real-time and historical energy consumption, and sometimes operating hours, of the appliance that is plugged into the smart plug. Users are encouraged to take advantage of the energy monitoring feature to gain actionable insights into the energy profile and usage pattern of the appliances, which can result in devising more effective smart plug schedules, replacing the highest-use appliances with more efficient models, etc.

Other considerations when selecting smart plug products include:

  • Physical size – Each smart plug model comes in a different physical size, and the size may matter, especially when used on a common two-receptacle wall outlet panel. When a smart plug is plugged into one of the two receptacles on a wall outlet panel, the other receptacle could be obstructed, not leaving enough space to accommodate the plug of another appliance or smart plug. This could be an important planning factor in spaces with many electrical appliances but few wall outlets.
  • Default state – The default state determines whether a smart plug is supplying power to the appliance that is plugged into it when it is energized, such as recovering from a power outage. Selecting a smart plug with the desired default state or a programmable default state is particularly important when inappropriate starting of an appliance can cause disruption to business operations, injury of operators, or damage the appliance itself.