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It seems like every Smart Plug I see on Amazon (including well-reviewed ones) require me to sign up, giving a lot of device, location, and personal information to a company I don't know or trust (often in an overseas country).

I'd like to control & monitor energy usage using my mobile device (i.e., remotely). I know you can't be 100% secure with any IoT device, but I'd sure feel safer with a device that was sold by a company I know and trust (if only marginally), like Google. Perhaps I'd feel safer with a well-established company that operated within U.S. borders? I know that Google, for instance, is struggling with issues around sharing data, but I also know that they have a lot to lose and are at least making efforts to assure customers that they are protecting their data. And, I do have some Google Home devices.

Is there an "official" Google energy monitoring smart plug that doesn't require signing up with some overseas internet service? If not, I wonder when there will be?

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    In all seriousness though, you can solve "I'd like to control & monitor energy usage using my mobile device" by seeing your electric bill one month, make some adjustments to your lifestyle such as remembering to turn off lights when not in use, and reconvene during next month's bill; rinse and repeat. If you seriously load your home up with fifty dollar smart plugs just to save $3 per month then the ROI will be quite lengthy, if ever. – MonkeyZeus Feb 17 at 14:50
  • Not quite what you are looking for, but wouldn't simple LCD screen plug counters without connectivity be sufficient to monitor your usage? Do you specifically want real-time remote monitoring? – Kafein Feb 18 at 12:10
  • Thank you. I DO have a Kill-A-Watt stand-alone device which I use to chart the electrical costs of keeping my garage dry and somewhat cool. It's just a lot of fussy data collection. – jfkelley Feb 18 at 18:17
  • @MonkeyZeus To be fair, with low powered bulbs taking over, not turning off your lights is probably going to show up in increased costs with more frequent bulb replacements a few thousands hours from now, not in electricity costs. – Andy Feb 18 at 22:32
  • @Andy That's just one example. It's trivial to read through a few "How to save electricity" articles and apply them to oneself. However, per OP's comment it seems like they just want an easy way to monitor and evaluate some specific high-energy draw scenario. For this I definitely see the benefit of getting a monitoring device. – MonkeyZeus Feb 19 at 13:06
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There are plenty of smart plugs, based on ESP8266 chips, which can be flashed with new firmware relatively easily. A popular (open source) firmware that has a lot of users and community support is Tasmota. This firmware is easily integrated to a locally hosted home-automation ecosystem which can be accessed remotely via the internet. The device also will have its own mini web server which can also be accessed remotely if your router is configured properly.

https://templates.blakadder.com/ has a list of some (1012 as of 02 2020) devices that can be flashed with this firmware.

Edit: A careful search (even on amazon) will find some smart switches that are UL listed e.g Sonoff s31.

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Electrical expert on diy.se with a public service announcement / context challenge.

Don't buy anything that touches mains power on Amazon

Amazon is a river of cheap Chinese junk. Amazon lets anyone (i.e. The Ebay/Alibaba crowd) sell on their platform. This is called the Amazon Marketplace, and consists of any listing that says "Ships from and sold by XXXXX" or "Sold by XXXXX and Fulfilled by Amazon" in the fine print. The latter earns Prime shipping, even though it's not from Amazon.

Amazon is reasonably responsible with their own stuff, i.e. "Ships from and sold by Amazon.com", but it's intentionally hard to tell the difference.

Every electrical code requires equipment be approved. Approval means by a competent testing lab, and due to treaties and opening of markets, testing labs are now multinational: UL, CSA, BSI, TUV, ETL and a few others. CE is not a testing lab -- a prominent CE means the builder refuses to build to the standards required for a proper mark. The device isn't properly insulated, cheap components are used, wire and path sizes aren't to snuff, the plastic will accelerate flame or make toxic smoke, etc.

CE has some tooth within the EU, but not with anything that ships from Amazon. If you bought it retail at Wickes, or B2B direct from Siemens, then yes, but your question is specifically about untrusted Amazon vendors.

If burning your house down wasn't bad enough, fires are investigated. You may find your fire insurance doesn't pay. Right now, these vendors are using Amazon's dropship-to-Amazon fulfillment to do an end-run around product safety laws. That doesn't make that OK.

I mean look. I use the cheap junk-stream for all sorts of stuff, but it's all low-voltage hobby stuff in metal chassis, that's watched when run. I would certainly never connect it to AC mains. Mains electricity is not to be trifled with.

If you don't trust the company to respect your privacy, don't expect them to respect your safety.

And if you don't see a traditional UL-style listing with a file number, back it goes.

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  • Not sure I completely agree. Many products from oversees producers "only" carry CE logo. Essentially CE is basically a delegation of trust. If I trust the manufacturer, I may trust that it only put the CE logo there when it met the requirements. "Competent testing" is quite expensive. So while absence of an independent test certification is a warning sign for me it's not a sufficient requirement to send stuff back. If I either trust the "engineering capability" of the manufacturer (for whatever reason) or the product is simple enough to be reasonably evaluated by myself I'll keep it. (1/2) – Helmar Feb 19 at 18:17
  • Not every "sold by XXXX" is a nobody. Some of those companies are actually bigger than the usual western suspects and have subsidiaries with which they'd have considerable financial interests at stake. Furthermore, especially around IoT there's a lot of stuff with "connectivity on top". When the base product has a proper TUV testing for example it doesn't carry over to I put a WiFi chip in. From my experience it's quite usual to find these products without extensive testing certificates.(2/2) – Helmar Feb 19 at 18:22
  • @Helmar We're talking things which attach to mains power. Note how you have self-inserted as the "trustworthiness decider". Your relevant authority decides what is approved for mains use, not you! (obviously every cheapskate would "approve" the entire Alibaba catalog, lol). Exactly what's safe on Amazon is too complex for this answer, but it's a hoary mess, and yeah, you have to use best judgment. Amazon is no help: if you order a J12345 hoozit from Amazon but they're out, if a Marketplace seller claims to have the same SKU, Amazon will ship it instead. Even if defective or counterfeit. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Feb 19 at 19:25
3

Instead of looking to Wi-Fi-connected smart plugs, there are Z-Wave solutions which functionally do about the same thing. You'd need some sort of Z-Wave "hub" to connect to it and collect the running information though. Something like OpenHAB can do this, although I imagine there are finished products that can do it to (although you'd have to look into how "cloud-connected" those products are).

Example: https://www.devolo.co.uk/devolo-home-control-starter-pack (which includes a smart plug, "hub" and a door/window sensor). The plugs are available separately, and presumably you can have lots of them connected to a single hub.

As a side note, it seems the general trend in "IoT" is to cloud-connect pretty much everything via Wi-Fi. It's a very convenient choice, but can affect privacy and security. If you want to do anything "private", you will have to run the "cloud server" yourself in some form or other. In practice, that means some sort of "hub" device on your network. As I say, having a hub doesn't mean you're guaranteed privacy or security, but at least it's possible that way.

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3

If you want a US-based smart plug/switch company why don't you go for Wemo switches/plugs, a subsidiary of Belkin.

You can also make your own smart plugs then there will be no issue of privacy and security. You can customize as you want.

You can create it using a simple AC outlet of your choice, ESP-12, Hi-Link 240AC to 3.3V DC, 3.3V relay and some wires.

Please refer to this answer of mine.

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  • 1
    +1 also, another good thing about the Wemo devices is that they don't need to contact Belkin's servers after the initial setup: once they're configured to connect to a wireless network then they can be controlled by another device on the LAN. I have a few of the plugs and two light bulbs. They're configured to connect to my Raspberry Pi's wireless access point. The firewall on the Pi stops them from communicating on the internet. I use Home Assistant to control them. I control Home Assistant with a Telegram bot. It's all very convoluted and confusing and completely unnecessary - I love it! :-D – Aaron F Feb 18 at 18:07
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    @AaronF Oh nice and Thanks. Looks interesting I will create one too. – Lucifer Feb 19 at 5:30

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