All the ways a smart plug can reduce your energy bill

This story is part of Home TipsCNET’s collection of practical advice for making the most of your home, inside and out.

Smart plugs are all about convenience, but their benefits don’t end there. You can also use a smart plug secure your garageexternally restart the router and even help you cut your electricity bill. How can smart plugs save you money, you ask? It’s simple, really. Smart plugs help reduce wasted energy while consuming a negligible amount of energy themselves.

All five tips below can help you cut energy consumption with a smart plug, but they’re not the only way to lower your electricity bill. For more ways to save energyconsider switch to Energy Star appliances, using a smart thermostat, reverse the rotation of the ceiling fan or change how you wash.

How much energy do smart plugs use?

On its own, the average smart plug uses a maximum of one, maybe two watts at any given time. Zero, as for an unused standard outlet, would be ideal, but smart plugs require a small amount of power to be connected to Wi-Fi. Nevertheless, a smart plug only uses around 10 kWh over the course of a year.

Electricity costs are different everywhere (and in some places, prices even fluctuate during the day), but my supplier here in Fort Mill, South Carolina currently charges 13 cents per kWh. So over the course of a year, if my smart plug stays plugged in for all 8,760 hours, it will add less than two dollars to my electricity bill for the year.

Given how little smart plugs will increase your energy consumption, it doesn’t take much for them to save more than they use. Soon enough, that $10 to $20 smart plug will probably pay for itself, but it won’t do all the work on its own. You have to use smart plugs strategically to maximize savings. Here are five ways to do just that.

Go Van Helsing on these energy vampire devices

They are called “vampire” appliances or devices, and they are guaranteed to be in your home, consuming energy even when they are turned off. With prongs like a vampire’s fangs, TVs, desktop computers and their monitors, game consoles and other devices will continuously suck energy after you press the power button.

Vampire units are responsible for about 10% of the total energy use in an average household, easily adding $100 to $200 to annual electricity costs. Disconnect vampire units when they are not in use is an effective way to combat waste, but the task is not always practical and can easily be forgotten.

Smart plugs can save you the trouble of remembering to unplug things and running all over the house to do it. Set a timer for your smart plugs to turn off automatically, or turn them off manually via the app on your phone. When turned off, smart plugs cut all power to whatever is connected to it, so turning off the smart plug is essentially as effective as unplugging the device.

Did you forget to turn off the lights before you left the house? Use the smart plug to do it remotely.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Turn off the lights you left on, anywhere

With a smart plug, you can hit the lights, wherever you happen to roam. It’s okay if you don’t get that Metallica reference; the point still stands. Smart plugs allow you to check a device’s on/off status and toggle it accordingly from virtually anywhere. That means if you left the house for work, or a two-week vacation, you can check if you left any connected lights on and turn them off remotely.

A left at the light won’t waste the same level of electricity as a vampire unit might, but every little bit adds up. If you can reduce your energy consumption by turning off a few lights from five or 500 miles away, why not do it?

The same applies not only to lights, but to anything that may have been left on, whether you are at home or away. Use the smart plug to switch off fans or heaters that may be running unnecessarily in another room, or devices such as electronic toothbrushes and earplugs which does not need to be charged 24/7. Also consider flipping one indoor security camera of when you are at home or a kindergarten camera when you are away and do not need the monitoring.

Monitoring energy consumption makes it easier to save

The Emporia smart plug and app allow you to see how much energy the connected devices are currently using and keep track of previous energy consumption down to the second.

Emporia App/Screenshot by David Anders

Most smart plugs, and specifically the accompanying app, come with an energy monitoring feature to help you keep track of how much power your connected devices are using at any given time.

Use the smart plug to get a measurement of how much energy household items use. You may be surprised at how uneconomical that heater is, and opt for an extra layer and a blanket instead. You may also find that even low-use devices like a lamp can benefit from minor changes like using one more efficient light bulb. Either way, the smart plug keeps you aware of how much electricity you use.

Read more: A space heater can save you hundreds on heating this winter. This is how

Some smart plugs make it even easier to monitor and control energy consumption. For example, the Emporia Smart Plug, one of the our favorite smart plugsoffers a setting to automatically turn off devices if they reach a set level of energy use.

Set it and forget it

Have you ever heard of the smart home automation tool called IFTTT? IF This Then That (no, that TTT doesn’t stand for “trust the technology,” but it can!) controls and combines the automated actions your connected smart devices take in response to other devices.

For example, if your smart thermostat detects temperature rise, you can set a compatible smart plug to automatically turn a fan on and then off again when the temperature falls back within a certain range. Or you can set lights to turn off automatically when Alexa notices that you’ve left the roomwhich effectively does the job of saving energy for you.

Even if you don’t take full advantage of the IFTTT capabilities, your smart plug will surely come with settings to schedule devices to turn on and off at specific times. So if you accidentally leave a light or TV on when you go to bed, your smart plug can turn it off for you when you plan to.

Bypass the electricity supplier’s peak hours

Demand can affect what you pay for electricity, and demand is often at its highest at certain times, commonly known as rush hour, during the day. If possible, use your smart plug to coordinate your energy use around these hours to save money where you can.

It is clear that it is not possible to avoid the use of certain appliances or devices during peak hours, but some may work exactly the same regardless of the time of day. The dishwasher, battery chargers and electric vehicle chargers, for example, can be scheduled to be active only during off-peak hours. You won’t use as much energy during the popular rush hours, but that’s OK; you will save money.

That’s it for our list of ways to save money with a smart plug. For more money-saving tips and home hacks, check out our year-round list cost-saving tips for around the house. Plus a smart plug is not the only smart home gadget that can save you money. And try this clever bulb trick which your Uber driver will thank you for.

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