The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch is the successor to the existing Belkin WeMo Switch – a Wi-Fi-enabled smart plug that lets you remotely control your home devices from your phone, set custom rules and receive status notifications. The WeMo Insight Switch adds energy tracking to the mix, enabling you to monitor your usage to help you slash those energy bills.
It also connects to IFTTT to let you create triggers and “recipes”. For example, you can set it up so you receive an alert when your device is left on for longer than it should be, or tell your Nest thermostat to crank down the temperature when your space heater switches on.
Belkin recommends using the WeMo Insight Switch with TVs, washing machines, lights and space heaters, but in fact there are no rules for what you can and can’t plug into it for remote control and tracking. So is an energy-monitoring smart plug worth the investment?
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The plug itself is a boxy affair, which protrudes around 2 inches from your mains socket. This is a design caveat that you’ve probably come to terms with if you’ve already considered purchasing some smart plugs: they’re all hopelessly chunky.
It didn’t prove a problem for me, given that it’s plugged into an unobstructed socket above my kitchen worktop. If you’re planning to plug it in behind a piece of furniture, however, prepare to have to move that piece of furniture about 3 inches away from the wall to make space.
Be aware, too, that the WeMo Insight Switch sits above the top of an average-sized wall socket, so it probably won’t fit into a socket that’s squeezed in somewhere tight.
With positional obstructions dealt with, you’ll be pleased to discover that getting the WeMo Insight Switch working with your devices is a relatively straightforward affair.
First, download the WeMo app. Then push the WeMo Insight Switch into a mains socket, and plug your device into it. You’ll see three Wi-Fi bars flash green on the WeMo’s display while it searches for Wi-Fi, then a green power symbol when it’s ready to connect.
Next, open the WeMo app, tap “Get Started”, and you’ll be taken through a few steps, which include connecting to the WeMo network in your phone’s Wi-Fi networks’ list.
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The only minor setback I experienced during setup was when the WeMo app asked me to disable Wi-Fi scanning on my Android phone in order to continue. I had a frustrating few minutes scouring my phone’s menus, before finding the answer through a Redditer who also had the problem setting up the WeMo Insight Switch on the same handset – the Samsung Galaxy S7.
In case you’re wondering, that particular setting is actually in Settings > Privacy and Safety > Location > Improve Accuracy. Happy days.
So now that you’re plugged in and connected, in order to track energy usage as accurately as possible, the app needs to know how much your energy company charges per kWh. I retrieved this information by logging into my account on my energy supplier’s website. In my case, EDF charges around £0.114.
Note that it’s also possible to change such details as your device’s name and add a photo of it in the app, which should prove handy if you’re managing multiple WeMo devices.
The WeMo app is there to make it easy to control your device, track its energy usage and customise notifications. And it is easy – once you’ve figure out how it all works. Aside from Belkin’s online support articles, there’s really isn’t any help available on getting started within the app, so it was trial and error for me for the first few days of use.
At the top-right of your device’s menu within the app, there’s a power icon for toggling the plug on and off. When you tap it, you actually hear a little click inside the plug as it turns on. That green power symbol on the plug remains on the entire time the device is on, which is a useful at-a-glance status indicator.
Turning the plug on and off from the app is impressively instantaneous, and always worked first time for me. So far, it’s been a reliable remote control.
The system works over 3G and 4G too, so you have the luxury of being able to turn off your space heater from the supermarket if you suddenly fear you may have accidentally left it on; you can even schedule your living room lamp to turn on while you’re sipping a cocktail in the Bahamas.
If you have a washing machine, TV or kettle plugged in with a default mode set to “off”, the app will register a “Standby” status until you actually turn on your device.
On the main page of the app, you’ll also see a rundown of your device’s energy usage, which actually makes for fascinating reading. I now know that boiling the kettle costs roughly 1p, while a “cottons” wash at 40 degrees costs 6p.
You can also view your average monthly cost, which will become more accurate the longer you use the WeMo Insight Switch. My current monthly forecast for doing the washing is an estimated 49p.
There’s a real-time indicator of the exact hours and minutes a particular device has been on, which is an obvious boon for parents wanting to crack down on kids’ TV time or games console usage.
One of the infinitely handy features of the WeMo app is notifications for when your devices have switched off. The WeMo Insight Switch can actually determine when your device has stopped using power so, for example, I can set it to send out a notification when my washing is done, or even once the kettle has boiled.
Such notifications are set up in the “Rules” section of the app, which also lets you create timers, schedule your device to come on at a custom sunrise or sunset time, and inform you if the WeMo Insight Switch senses power.
Once I’d familiarised myself with all of the apps various menus, navigating and setting up rules and schedules was easy. The app would benefit from some polishing, though. Aside from the all-important power icon that works perfectly all the time, it often doesn’t register that I’ve tapped a button or menu, which was initially annoying when I was still trying to work out what was, or wasn’t, a button.
If you want to stretch the WeMo Insight Switch beyond the limits of the WeMo app, you can do so via the recipe-making app IFTTT (“if this then that”). Or, you could even get it to play nice with other smart home devices, such as your Nest thermostat or Amazon Echo speaker.
There’s a direct link to IFTTT from the Settings menu in the WeMo app, which prompts you to download the IFTTT app if you don’t already have it. IFTTT then automatically detects your WeMo Insight Switch and prompts you to start creating recipes.
By recipes we mean, “Turn off the device after X minutes”, or “Add a line to a spreadsheet when WeMo Insight Switch does X”.
I set up an IFTTT recipe to receive an email report when my washing machine usage exceeded 20p in a single day. However, you can make all kinds of smart (and more exciting) things happen, depending on the device you have plugged in, or using some of IFTTT’s preset WeMo Insight Switch recipes.
Having your smart heater turn on when your phone location detects you’re at home is handy, or simply having two WeMo devices work in harmony with each other – such as your WeMo Insight Switch and your WeMo Motion Sensor.
You can even get the WeMo Insight Switch to talk to Amazon Alexa through IFTTT, which could enable you to toggle the plug on and off at home with voice control, if you have an Amazon Echo.
The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch is perfect if you’re concerned about certain power-chugging home gadgets burning a hole in your wallet, and if you’re becoming tired of the hassle of actually switching them on and off. For big families who seem to constantly have the washing machine running or often find the TV playing to an empty living room, I can see it being a welcome intervention.
In addition, it’s a relatively straightforward foray into home automation for beginners, with no monthly subscription or complicated installation required.
A simple, useful entry point to home automation.
Thank you to B&Q for providing the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch