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Are Smart Plugs a Fire Hazard?

Last Updated Jan 3, 2022
Several smart plugs lined together
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With new smart technology coming out every month, it’s hard to resist adapting and keeping up with the times. But with any new technology there are always questions around safety. Keeping your loved ones and home safe from any hazard should be a top priority.

My main concern was, are smart plugs a fire hazard? I found that Smart Plugs are not a fire hazard and most models actually exceed the minimum safety requirements and standards. All of these devices have been been UL tested and are just as safe as any other wall plug device.

UL is a global company with over 120 years of experience. You can find more about UL testing and how they are ensuring safe and compliant installations here.

Most issues around safety with any device is the result of user error. If you have common sense, you should be fine. If you lack common sense, good luck.

How Do Smart Plugs Work?

Smart plugs work the same way your regular outlet does. The only difference is smart outlets have a relay on the load-side of the circuit that opens and closes on the users command. When the relay is open, power is able to flow through your smart plug. When it is closed, the electrical current is stopped.

Think of it like a light switch turning on and off, the only difference being you are using your smart phone or voice to turn the outlet on or off.

The average home outlet has an output of 1800 watts. Most smart plugs are at that rating or above. As long as the device plugged into the outlet doesn’t draw more power than that, the smart plug will function properly and not be a fire hazard at all.

When it comes to fire safety and fire prevention, a lot of these newer smart plugs actually take it a step further with overload protection. Basically an added layer of protection.

Check out our most recommended smart plugs here!

Overloading a Smart Outlet

Overloading a smart outlet is possible but not a huge issue if you are using devices whose total draw falls inside of the rated amperage and watts of the smart plug. T.V.’s, lamps and lights usually pose no risk of overloading an outlet on there own.

There are an estimated 5,300 annual house fires caused by overloading outlets a year. I don’t have the stats on how many were caused while using smart outlets, but I’m gonna say the vast majority come from homes with “dumb” outlets, faulty wiring and misuse.

So, how will smart plugs help reduce the chances of this happening to you?

Most smart plugs have built-in protection, where if that outlet is overloaded, it automatically shuts off. this drastically reduce the chances of sparking a fire.

Automatic shutoff features in smart plugs increase the safety of traditional outlets and should really help put anyone’s mind at ease, considering making a purchase.

What Not to Connect to Your Smart Plug

You should never plug in a high draw appliance to a smart plug. Some appliances require more electricity to run and you should avoid these at all costs.

There are some horror stories out there about people using appliances they shouldn’t have been using with there smart outlets.

Appliances that put off heat usually require more energy to power. Think of a space heater or a hair dryer. I’ve never owned a hair dryer myself, but did grow up with sisters and can remember them tripping up the circuit breaker while drying out their hair.

I wouldn’t say hair dryers are off limits though. If you have a well known branded product that fits into the rated amperage and wattage specs of your smart plug, you should be ok. Just be cautious. And who really needs to plug a hair dryer into a smart plug anyways? Those don’t seem to require any automation.

The Space heater is a bit more tricky. Space heaters can be high draw, and when on for extended amounts of time, can be an issue. The same with A/C units. Check your manuals to see the energy required to run these appliances. Check the max output of the smart plug you have. If the units are within the limits of the smart plug, you should be good.

Now I am not a professional electrician by any means. If you have questions, get yourself an electrician to take a look. It is always best to be safe, especially when protecting your home and family.

Safety Tips

  • Always plug your smart outlet directly into an outlet. You should never plug these smart outlets into an extension cord or any other power strips. These are designed for an outlet on a wall and that is what they have been tested and perform best. You would only be increasing the risk of fire from misuse by using it anywhere else.
  • Ensure your smart outlet is properly installed. The smart plug should be flush with the wall outlet cover and fit snugly in the outlet. If it doesn’t, it might be time to call an electrician.
  • Inspect the outlet you will be using. If you are in a newer home, this most likely will not be an issue. If you notice any discoloration or cracks, it may be past the time to replace these. Call an electrician.
  • Make sure the power requirements of the device being plugged into the smart plug are within the maximum amp and wattage ratings. Most smart outlets are rated to a minimum 1800 watts. If the device you are connecting draws more than that, (or whatever the max for your smart plug is) you are only asking for trouble.
  • If it is an indoor plug, keep it indoors. Outdoor plugs are built slightly different and can withstand the elements. Indoor plugs are not. If its is not built for outside use, keep it inside. You can read more about outdoor smart plus here.
  • Check the clearance from your furniture. This is where having that good ol common sense really comes into play. Give your outlet some space. Make sure you give anything with cloth or anything that could be considered flammable some space.

While looking into this topic, I found a pretty interesting fact that I wanted to add. It was found that 8% of fires were were started intentionally, from 2011 to 2015. This was from a study by the NFPA. Check out their site, they have a ton of great information around fire and electrical safety.

Security cameras might be a good addition to your smart home if you are really worried about those rogue arsonists.

Related Questions

Can Smart Plugs be Overloaded?

Yes, smart plugs can be overloaded. Any electrical outlet can be overloaded. To prevent this from happening, be sure to buy quality, known branded products. Counterfeits are out there and most of the time these products are not built the same.

Overloading can also be the result of user error. Take note of what you have plugged into any outlet. If it looks like its taking on to man devices, it probably is. Common sense, folks. Use it!

Can You Safely plug a Power Strip Into A Smart Plug?

You can plug an outlet strip into a smart plug. The smart plug will then control that entire strip. The total draw of the outlet should be within the rated amperage and wattage of that smart plug for it to be considered safe.

If you think you have to much power being drawn from that outlet, you are probably right. One last time for the people in the back, COMMON SENSE!

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