Last updated: September 2019
The Amazon Smart Plug is essentially a voice-activated on/off switch that you can control with Alexa. I set 2 up in my home this week to use with lights, and I am loving them. As of the writing of this post, the plug has over 3,800 reviews and 4.5 stars on Amazon, so I’m not alone.
Best uses for the Smart plug
#1. It can turn your regular lights into smart lights
Ever thought about installing smart lights in your home? It’s pretty magical to turn the lights on and off with your voice or automatically as part of your morning Alexa routine. While VoiceBrew’s guide to Alexa Hue lights makes it easy for anyone to install smart lights, smart plug set-up is much faster.
You can make your current lights smart using the Amazon Smart Plug. It’s super easy to set up and, priced at $25, cheaper than most good smart light starter kits.
#2. You can use the smart plug with other devices too
How to use the smart plug
You’ll know the smart plug is on when the small blue light on the left side of the plug is on.
3 ways to turn on your smart plug
Alexa voice command
“Alexa, turn on [first plug / your plug name].”
If you’re using your smart plug to control a light, remember that you can’t tell Alexa to dim the light because the smart plug functions as an on/off switch (see Pro Tip #3 below for a simple workaround).
Via the Alexa app
Go to devices on the bottom navigation bar > Plugs > toggle on and off.
As part of a routine (my favorite!)
Say you want your bedroom light (or your coffee maker) to turn on as part of a morning wake-up routine.
In the Alexa app, go to the hamburger icon on the upper left > Routines > + icon on the upper right. Tap When this happens > Schedule > pick a time and Repeat setting (perhaps weekdays only) > tap the Done button at the bottom. When you’re back on the New Routine tab, tap Add action > Smart Home > Control device > first plug (or whatever the name of the plug that controls your bedroom light is) > toggle on > Next. This will bring you back to the New Routine tab one more time where you can tap Save in the upper right corner to create your new routine.
Set-up is super easy
The Smart Plug should magically set itself up
One of the best things about the plug is the satisfaction you’ll get out its easy set-up. All you need to do is:
- Take plug out of its packaging (but keep the packaging until set-up is done)
- Plug it into the wall
- Open the Alexa app
- Give it a few seconds to find the plug…
- Tap Devices in the bottom navigation bar > Plugs
And voila, your new Smart Plug will be there and ready to use!
Do not fear if the automatic set-up did not happen for you
For most people, the set-up just happens automatically. But, for a few, it doesn’t. It actually didn’t work for one of the Amazon Smart Plugs I bought.
If it didn’t work for you, follow these simple steps to get your plug up and running:
- In the Alexa app, tap Devices in the bottom navigation bar > + icon on upper right > Add Device > Plug (under the All Devices section) > Amazon
- You’ll land on a tab requesting the 2D bar code. You can find the code in the quick start guide included in the box (that’s why I told you to keep the packaging!). If you already threw away the packaging, you can also scan the code from the back of the plug
- Follow simple on-screen instructions
If you didn’t skip past this section, that probably means the smart plug automatic set-up didn’t work for you. And that probably just means you haven’t saved your wifi password to Amazon and enabled Wi-Fi simple set-up. You can check to see if you have saved wi-fi passwords (make sure you’re logged into Amazon for this link to work and then scroll down and click Saved Wi-Fi passwords) or, if you’d rather not mess with this now (or ever), you can skip it and keep reading.
Still having trouble?
When I tried to set up my smart plug, it didn’t work at first, even after I went through the steps for the manual set-up above. It was unresponsive until I eventually got an alert in my Alexa app “there is a problem.” If something like this happens to you, try this:
- Unplug the smart plug
- Cancel the set-up in the Alexa app
- Plug it back in and hold the button on the left side until it blinks red and blue
- Try the manual set-up in the section above again. (When I got to this step, curiously, the smart plug was automatically discovered, I didn’t even have to go through the manual set-up)
Read this if you plan to use your plug to control a light
Make sure that when the plug is on your light is on. You’ll never need to turn your light off manually with a knob or button again because the smart plug will do it for you. Remember, if the smart plug is on but the light is off, your light will be off.
Where to buy the plug
There are a bunch of smart plugs on the market, but you want the Amazon Smart Plug because the set-up is much easier with Alexa.
You can get the Amazon Smart Plug for $25 on Amazon.
If you’re okay with a used Amazon Smart plug, you can get it for as little as $19.
#1. Put multiple smart plugs in a group so you can turn them on and off together
Say you have 2 smart plugs in your living room connected to 2 lights like me. I put the smart plugs into a group called “living room lights” so that I can say “Alexa, turn off the living room lights” instead of saying “Alexa, turn off the table light” and then “Alexa, turn off the floor light.” You can still activate the lights separately with those commands if you want.
To create a group: Open the Alexa app, tap Devices on the bottom navigation bar > + icon in the upper left corner > Add Group > write your custom name or pick one and tap Next > (scroll down to) select the smart plugs for the group (under the Devices section) and then once you have checked off the ones you want to include tap the Save button. Now when you go to the Devices tab, you’ll see your new group (for me, living room lights) show up under the Groups section.
To edit a group (add or remove plugs): Open the Alexa app, tap Devices on the bottom navigation bar > group you want to edit under “Groups” > tap “Edit” in the upper right corner > check off or uncheck plugs > tap the Save button.
#2. Rename your smart plugs
You want your smart plugs to have names that you and other members of your household will actually remember so you can all voice activate them. I named mine “table light” and “floor light” (in this case, boring names are probably best).
To change names of your plugs, open your Alexa app, tap Devices on the bottom navigation bar > Plugs > First plug (or whatever your plug’s default name was) > Settings icon in the upper right corner > Edit Name. Do this for each plug.
I’ve read elsewhere that during the smart plug set-up Alexa asks if you want to name your smart plug, and you can just say “call it living room light” or something like that. This, sadly, did not happen for me, so I renamed mine after the fact following the steps above.
#3. Here’s an easy hack to turn your dimmable lights on with the smart plug at a dim setting
Just turn the plug (and light) on and set the light to the brightness level you want. I know, it’s almost too easy. Then every time the smart plug turns the light back on, it will turn it on at that brightness level. I hate super bright lights, so I do this with my living room table and floor lights.
#4. How to tell if a device will work with the smart plug
If you turn on the device, unplug it, plug it back in and it’s still on then it will work with the smart plug. But if you plug the device back in and you have to turn it on again, then you won’t be able to turn it on with the smart plug. While my window AC unit works with the smart plug, my space heater does not because I have to turn it on again each time I plug it into an outlet.
#5. Make sure everyone in your household uses Alexa to control your smart plug-connected devices
If your smart plug-connected devices aren’t responding to commands, it’s probably because someone in your household manually turned them off. If this happens, you can turn the plugs on and off but the devices won’t respond. To fix this, just turn the devices back on manually while the plugs are on. This is exactly what happened to me this morning when my living room lights did not turn on as part of a morning routine I set up for them. Turns out my husband turned the lights off manually last night.
#6. If you have a routine that turns the lights on, create a second routine to turn them off
That way you don’t have to worry about turning them off. My morning routine turns on my living room lights at 6:45am and turns them off at 7:30am when it’s light enough outside. To create a routine, follow the steps in the “As part of a routine” section above.
#7. If you want to sleep in, it’s easy to disable your morning lights routine
Say you want to sleep in tomorrow, so you don’t want the lights to turn on with their usual routine schedule. No problem. In the Alexa app, tap the hamburger on the upper left > Routines > tap the routine you want to disable > toggle Enabled off. This will move the routine down to the Disabled section on the Routines tab. To re-enable it, just tap it and toggle it back on.
#8. Anyone in your household can activate your smart plug — but with some frustrating caveats
When you set up a smart plug with your Alexa app, and your Echo device is on your account, you and anyone in your household can ask Alexa to turn the plug on and off with a voice command like “Alexa, turn on [your plug name].”
But the plug won’t be set up in the accounts of other members of your household. I discovered this when my new smart plugs did not show up in my husband’s Alexa app. This will impact your household in a two ways. First, if you switch your Echo over to another account, the smart plug won’t respond to Alexa voice commands. Second, other members of your household won’t be able to control the plug through their Alexa app, including creating routines with the plug.
If you want everyone in your household to be able to use your new smart plug seamlessly, you’ll have to go through the set-up again for each member of your household. I figured there must be some simple way around this, but there isn’t (at least not one I can figure out, let me know if you do!). This is a bit of a bust on Amazon’s part, and hopefully they’ll fix it soon.