The Amazing Smart Plug - Automating my Aquarium Lighting

in smartplug •  3 months ago  (edited)

I'm now controlling the lighting of my aquariums with a smart plug and I want to talk about it.

A few weeks ago, I upgraded my Aquarium shelves and lights. It's a bit of a DIY project I'm working on.

Now that the heavy work is done I feel like going over some of the minor improvements I've made to the overall system.


Maybe you will notice, I have a strange looking tub next to my frog. Actually, that's new. I'm not ready to talk about it. I'm still working on it. It's the reason why the lower light isn't centred. I'll maybe introduce what's going on there sometime next month. Aquariums are all about patience. The top aquarium and some of its inhabitants are at least 7 years old and the frog is 4.

Why the Smart Plug?

smart plug.jpg

I decided to automate my aquarium lights a long time ago. I had an analog timer before, but as with the lighting, it was time for an upgrade. I have a central control in my apartment for all the lights and wall sockets. I could just turn off socket 3 in room 2 (yeah boring name), but I have other things plugged in there that should not be turned off like filters.

I considered my options which were a new analogue timer, a digital timer, or a smart plug. I'll go over my specific reasons for choosing the smart plug in a bit. However, I want to mention that I had no idea how functional the little guy was.

This shows power consumption currently 44.6W, it also tracks use over time.

What is a smart plug

A smart plug looks like something that extends the depth of a plug. I've seen these used for deep sockets, however, there is more than meets the eye. This one only has one plug, however, I have a 3plug split on top of it. I have 2 lights and a small UV filter I don't need on constantly. The only feature you can notice, maybe asides from the QR code to set it up if wi-fi fails to detect is the green light. This is to manually turn it off and on.

However, the real magic of the smart plug starts with the app. Not only does it say current power consumption (44.6W), but it also keeps track of monthly power consumption (6.85kw/h) and device temperature (36C). It can set a complex on-off schedule, be controlled from anywhere on earth with an internet connection and has AI control.

One thing it does well is making sure the program is followed. This thing won't catch on fire because it will shut off if there is a problem like to much load, too hot or just reaching a power use limit I set.

It can even send alerts to my phone. I just have the on-off alert set.

options and notices.jpg

As you can see I have a daily off and on. It can be set for every minute, but I don't want that. If it is already on, nothing happens. If it is already off nothing happens. I still get the notice that it was turned on though.

I can also set notices for power usage alerts. However, Since it is a simple light set up with a constant load this is unnecessary.

What do I use it for?

As you can see, I just keep a simple schedule of on at 5pm every day and off at 11 pm every day. I want to establish a stable pattern to see how the aquarium plants and algae :/ react to the new lighting. The animals are fine unless I make it a disco or never turn off the lights, the should get sufficient ambient lighting. I think 6 hours a day is enough.

Does it Work?

As long as there is power and the internet, it will work. The best part is it stores data remotely. If it loses the connection, it will just stay on or off. you can set it to turn off if it loses the connection or just stay in current state. It will remember the settings.

The power consumption works well enough, too. My lights are 20watts each, but draw 25 each. The tiny UV light is 2.5W on a USB plug. So mine draws 44~46W (it varies based on temperature among other things). I took the picture around day 25. 45w X6hr (5 to 11) X 25 days = 6.75kW. Considering the meter said 6.85kw/h and I've turned it on a few times during the weekend, that's pretty damn accurate. It's definitely useful, especially for things that use a constant or known amount of power.

old timer.jpg
These timers are simple to use, but you need to adjust the time every so often, especially if the power is cut. However, they maintain their setting due to the analog nature but only turn off and on. The worst part is they do make a clicking sound after a while.

Other uses

I was thinking of other uses for myself, but asides from experimenting or turning on a dumb appliance (like a coffee machine) I don't have much use for it.

  • If your coffee machine doesn't have a timer, this will work. Some brands that make the best coffee aren't automated. Also, setting them up can be a pain. The smart plug is easy after the 1st time.

  • It can be used as something perverted and evil like a remotely controlled torture device to discipline your captives.

  • If you want to spook some people, this will work. Hell, get a few and make a haunted house.

  • If you want to check how much power doing something confusing like laundry is (washing machine + some in the dryer + steamer + iron), this will help. This has great potential for business.

  • If you want to grow plants this can help with lighting and pumps. It would be great for hydroponics or aquaponics.

  • It is great for remote locations. It is a very subtle way of knowing someone tripped a motion sensor. Who will suspect the smart plug telling on them? It also lets you know if something turned on.

  • I'm sure it can be used for complex experiments. However, in that case, maybe a better control system would be useful.

The biggest advantage is it will automatically start up again as soon as it gets an internet connection and remember the settings.

digital switch.jpg
These are a huge pain. They are insanely complicated to program because the screen usually sucks. They remind me of the 1990s. Also, if the model doesn't have a battery or the battery is dead, it will reset whenever the power goes out. Chances are you forgot how to use it and you need to read the manual again if you have it or can find it online. This one controls the light in my bedroom as some kind of cruel alarm or something. I'm not sure what else it does, I've never set the damn thing. It just says 10:00 all the time.

Why not Digital or Analog?

As mentioned digital is complicated. Analog is ghetto (it's the current year bro). Both are bulky. Analog can make a clicking noise. You may completely forget how to set digital.

However, you do need the Internet for a smart plug. If you don't have the Internet, you probably aren't reading this review.

Also, it can be hacked or used to spy on you. I'm not too worried about someone hacking my aquarium lighting, but I wouldn't want this thing plugged into a critical medical device or my computer.

plug now.jpg

So why did I buy one?

Actually, I didn't buy it. My analog one was making clicking noises (they never last more than 2 years without doing this). I thought about getting digital, but it looked complicated and just as bulky. Then I remembered I already had a smart plug. I assumed at the very least, it could function as a timer and it was just sitting in the drawer.

My wife won a 'google at home' spy device. I told her we are not inviting google into our home. However, it did come with the smart plug. I had no idea what it could do. Oddly, Google Home cannot control this smart plug (it only controls my Xiaomi filter which also has an app).

Do I need this? No. However, it doesn't make noise and it looks nicer than the other controllers. I probably won't need to mess around with it again. Also, it doesn't block other plugs.

lower wires.jpg

As you can see, I've made my aquarium wires slightly neater. I could hide them more. I was thinking of making them climb up the poles. I don't want to use twist ties because I move them around a lot, so I would have to use hooks. In any case, it doesn't look that bad.

lowest wires.jpg

One thing I did was try to put everything electric up top to protect them from flooding. Water and electricity don't mix well. I don't want to cause a short. I also have my air pump above everything to prevent flooding.

As mentioned, it's a work in progress.

What do you think?

So what would you use a smart plug for?

  1. As a remote on-off switch
  2. As a timer
  3. To manage power consumption
  4. Something weird or evil
  5. Because you can!
  6. Who the hell wants a smart plug?

Final Thoughts

Actually I'm impressed. Maybe I'll get some more of these. They are like 15 dollars for a single or 30 for a big adapter with 4 separately controlled plugs.

It may be neat to count how many times my wife uses the kettle a week or how many hours of TV she watches a month. Then I ask her and when she says she has no clue, I can 'guess' and mess with her mind, lol

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I honestly can't think of a reason I'd get a smart plug as I don't think I have any electronics that would justify having one. I'm also not very much of a scheduler, as I don't have many daily duties I must perform, other than getting up, having a shower, breakfast, etc.

Makes perfect sense for maintaining aquariums though!

I know a few people who have small fridges in their basement or rec room for beer nights. They don't leave it plugged in. However, it does take a few hours to cool down beer. It's not always possible to know when you should plug it in on a Friday morning as you may make that decision a little later. With a smart plug, you could turn it on at work, or at least check to make sure it is turned it on by someone else.

The same goes for any other appliance. It's great for people who are always forgetting to turn on or off this and that because they can check with the phone.

It can even be a safety feature in the case of more dangerous appliances like space heaters. Or those that just waste electricity when no one is around like a fan or lights.

Those are some good examples of their usefulness. I didn't think of those kinds of things where they actually would be useful. Thanks for providing more insight! :)

Smart plugs (and lights... ) are the best! I have a few around the house... but the best ones are the lights, which my kids can use to control the lighting via a Voice Assistant. It means that they can do it without trying to jump and hit the switch.... plus, they love making them change colours and go full disco with the music!

Glad I found another smart plug supporter. I'm just begining to think of the ways they can help me
All my lights already have centralized timer and switch control, but getting a few fun smart lights sounds like an idea! Especially with voice control and random colors. My fsh would hate this however.
I've got one e26 base lamp in a very central location that would be perfect.

My other lights have weird sockets and would require rare smartlights or are in bad locations.

Weird sockets? I thought that they were pretty much all standardised now... You could teach your fish to work the lights... Alexa, Blub blub...

I think teaching my frog to do it would be easier since he is really good at croaking.

The sockets are all normal, but they aren't always in the places I want them. Aquariums tend to have a lot of things to plug in. Fortunately most use very little electricity.

I've been slowly putting smart plugs around my house as well. Love them! They're one of the best things since electricity

They are great. My last apartment had that level of control for every socket. It also had a quick shut off by the door for anything I wanted to control by that. My current one can only shut off all ceiling lights and detect total electricity use.

I do like the control and can imagine they will be standard fairly soon.

I hope this "Smart Plug" can work on PC, as I am busy designing a "Cube" for mushroom growing and I need a timer to control the temperature and fogging inside the cube.

Here's a shot of the cube.


That thing looks really neat. I hope to hear more about this.

I grew mushrooms before, but never as sophisticated. Good luck.

The smart plug I have can work with PC (you will need wifi at home and a wireless adapter for your pc) or even a tablet.

It seems like for temperature and humidity control you would need something else as well for that data (a wireless thermostat) unless you are just going to run them a few hours a day. The plug just monitors electricity consumption and controls time.

I am working on a big master box with an electric element inside.
The box (PVC) will have a water inlet system with a level float valve.
A dual suction and reverse fan will be mounted on the lid of the plastic box to perform the hot fogging, or the cool spraying functions inside the cube.
Oh! and a 50mill PVC pipe will lead from the master box to the top part of the cube.
The master box will also have a pump connected to an ac/dc converter and it is at this connection that I want to place a timer that is connected to two thermostat probes inside the cube.
Should the temperature drop or rise in the cube, the timer will activate the entire system to perform the corrective action.
I hope this makes sense my friend!

That seems like a very interesting project.

There is something called govee for around 15$ on amazon that monitors temp and humidity and sends alerts. You could then turn on a smart plug based on those. It may even be possible to automate. Or just get a temperature or humidity smart plug for around 30$

Thank you for the advice my friend.
I will have a look at all of the options.
Luckily still in the design stage and have to ensure that I stay withing budget, but I am not willing to compromise on quality.

I work for an energy management company and of course I definitely would want the whole house running smart. If only our products weren't so expensive lol.

I find the smart plug is a somewhat affordable option. It may be good on something really energy-hungry like an air conditioner.

However, there are much better things to upgrade first. All lights should be LEDs and all energy-intensive appliances should be efficient. Houses and hot water pipes should be properly insulated, etc. I'm sure you know all about this from your experience.

It seems like a great place you work at. I also work in the energy industry.

WHAT WOULD WE DO WITHOUT OUR PHONE HAHAHAHall the apps we have for all the things we own , i love it

It really is great, but it is annoying when I get a system update and I see that I have 300 apps to update. I have apps I've completely forgotten I have or why I have them.
Actually, some of these types are recognized by google home, but they have less functionality. For example, I can check if my air filter is on and even turn it on and off, but it doesn't allow me to adjust it or tell me how dirty the air is or the temperature or humidity. A lot of these companies refuse to make APIs for google to use cause they want to advertise.

Cool post. I enjoyed reading it. 😊😊

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Thank you~

Right on awesome project my man!

For my aquariums, I have them on a timer but not really watching the energy consumption or the like. I am transitioning to LED lights for money and energy savings as well as some controllable hues for the stuff the plants like. HAve to make sure they are kept away from moisture which is a challenge with aquariums.

Great info there! Won't win too many wifepoints in my household being able to quantify things like kettle boiling though ;)

My plants are all simple, so a daylight bulb should do. They were $6 each and can easily be repurposed if I don't like what they turn the plants into.

Controlledwrs are really coming down in price. I find the moisture isn't so bad arpund my aquariums because I keep my tanks a little cooler than I should and 2 are just at room temperature.

I'm just imagining what I will do with my next smart plug. I'm thinking of maybing a fancy alarm clock.

Your aquariums are cool @abitcoinskeptic 💕

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Thank you, sir! 😎🤗

I've never even heard of these! Cool info about the aquarium. I could only manage to keep mammals and birds alive. You're funny too!

Thanks. Fish are easy to keep. But, unlike birds and mammals, they have very different atmosphere requirements from people. I just change their water once a week and avoid polluting it.

I can automate feeding, too, which I do when I take a trip.

Howdy sir abitcoinskeptic! That looks like a good investment in efficiency.
Well done. I'm assuming the internet service over there is very dependable?

The application I'm currently using it for doesn't really save energy. However, it can be used to save energy and make people aware of what uses a lot of energy.

The Internet in Korea is among the most reliable and fastest in the world. It is extremely fast and rarely interrupted. Mobile data is great, too. I pay around $26 a month for high-speed internet, a 5g (1gb/s) wireless router, and cable TV. If I just took the internet it would be like $22. It's rarely interrupted and I have unlimited mobile data anyway (it does get throttled to 1mb/s after 10GB or something).

Holy smokes! We have a long way to go before our service gets anywhere near as good as that. Especially here in the country.

Wow this is a great education, @abitcounskeptic! What a neat innovation. Let’s see, as for how I would use it, I will vote for reducing power consumption because that’s good for the planet.

I agree. Just being aware of how much energy something uses helps people make better choices. I learned it is not just large noisy things that use a lot of energy.

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