How To Get Notified When Your Smart Plug Goes Offline

Smart plugs are one of the best additions to smart ecosystems everywhere. Not only do these bring basic smart features to older devices, but they also open up new doors for people innovating in what smart technology means and how it interacts with our lives.

This leaves us with one big question. Is there a way to get notified if your smart plug goes offline?

There’s a few ways to find out if your smart plug goes offline. Hubs like SmartThings offer built-in features and apps that can track whether or not a device is responsive. Home Assistant also features a few clever tricks that can detect whether or not your spark plug is online. You can also go to your smart app and check your devices to see if your smart plugs are responding.

Let’s see if there’s any way we can make our smart plugs just a little bit smarter.

What Are Smart Plugs?

Two smart plugs Hue and Kasa side by side
Two smart plugs Hue and Kasa side by side

Smart plugs are one of the most underrated pieces of smart technology. They look a little basic, and maybe even a little simplistic, at first glance, but they can actually extend core smart features to any device with an on-off switch.

Here’s how they work. A smart plug interfaces between the outlet and an electronic device. Smart devices connect into your smart home ecosystem through hubs like those from SmartThings and Home Assistant. You can then use the apps you use to control the rest of your smart home to take control of the smart plug:

The schedule page of the TP Link Kasa smart app
The schedule page of the TP Link Kasa smart app

Why You Might Want One (Or Two)

You might be thinking that a smart plug is too basic to use in your smart home, but they’re actually incredibly useful.

Here’s a quick example of how a smart plug works. When you connect a smart plug in between a traditional standing lamp and the outlet it will instantly turn that lamp into a smart lamp. You can now use your smartphone to turn it on and off just like you would a regular smart light.

You can get really creative with these features by using smart plugs on any electronic device that has an on-off feature. There are plenty of clever hacks that rely on smart plugs. This is a great way to add automation to older devices that aren’t already built with smart connectivity in mind.

There’s another big reason to purchase a smart plug. Have you ever seen Home Alone? The classic movie actually has some pretty innovative home security tips for the age of smart devices. You can use smart plugs to turn on and off lamps, radios, and other devices that will make it look like you’re home even if you’re half a world away.

This is why smart plugs have become the core of DIY and security smart home projects. This is also why it’s important to get notifications when they go down.

The Big Problem With Offline Notifications

There is one big problem when it comes to getting offline notifications from smart plugs. When the smart plug goes offline, it’s no longer able to communicate its status to other devices on the network. This might seem counterintuitive, but an unplugged smart plug can’t let other devices know that it’s no longer online.

This can cause big problems with your smart home ecosystem. If you’re relying on smart plugs to keep devices connected, you’re going to want to know when they go offline.

Knowing that a device is offline allows you to interpret changes ahead of time. This allows you to stay on top of your own systems and helps ensure that the smart technology is making your life easier and not causing any unexpected trouble.

So, is there a way to get offline notifications from Smart plugs?

Do Any Smart Plug Brands Feature Offline Notifications?

The early days of smart technology had a lot of DIY and experimentation. You couldn’t just buy a smart refrigerator yet. you had to use smart technology to put your own together.

Before we start talking about walking to school uphill in the snow both ways, it’s worth pointing out that a lot of smart technology features are still DIY only. This includes getting offline notifications from your smart plugs.

There currently aren’t any brands of smart plugs that offer built-in notifications when it comes to them disconnecting—at least not in a direct way. But this just means we’re going to have to get a little creative and if you get updates when smart plugs go offline.

Here’s a few hacks, fixes, and DIY workarounds that will let you find out when and if you’re smart plugs disconnect.

Smart Plug Offline Notification Work Arounds

Nature abhors a vacuum and that even applies to smart technology features. If there’s a feature that the community wants, some clever individuals are going to come together and find work arounds that deliver.

Here’s a few ways that you can get notifications when your smart plug goes offline.

Check Your Device’s Menu

Just probably the easiest way to check whether or not your smart plugs are online. You’ve already got everything you need installed on your phone and all you need to do is make some innovative uses of your menu.

No matter what apps you use to check your on your smart home technology, just going to be sections that list all of the devices currently connected in your home.

You can use this list of devices in order to check up on your smart plugs. All you need to do is tap on the smart plug in your apps to let you know whether or not the devices are currently connected. In the below case, it is showing up fine:

Toggling the Hue Smart Plug on and off within the Hue Bluetooth app
Toggling the Hue Smart Plug on and off within the Hue Bluetooth app

But naturally if the icon is greyed out, or says something like “device not found”, there might be an issue. Sure, this doesn’t offer push notifications that let you know instantly when a smart plug goes offline, but it is a great way to check if you have a device you’re worried about.

Tricks With Home Assistant

Screenshot taken of the desktop view of Home Assistant's demo.
Desktop view of Home Assistant’s smart hub demo.

Home Assistant is a free, open-source, tool that allows you to get very detailed with your home automation. Smart plugs are at the center of how Home Assistant operates. They allow you to extend home automation to devices that don’t have commercially available smart options like humidifiers and portable air conditioning units.

Home Assistant can track the status of smart plugs and the devices connected to them. This software can even monitor power usage and a variety of other factors for both the smart plug itself and the devices connected to you.

The exact approach here unfortunately gets a little tricky, because it will change based on the manufacturer of your smart plug. There are different statuses for each smart plug, but there are a few key concepts that you can use to get a head start.

Variables like states.sensor and state_attr can check information about the status of your smart plugs. You can use these variables to track things like whether or not the device connected to your smart plug is “on” or how much energy is benign used by these devices.

The extent of the utility you get out of Home Assistant depends on how much you’re willing to learn about this free software. The good news is that, as with almost every open source program, there is a thriving online community.

If you want to dive into this area (which may require some basic programming), the following two threads are good starting points:

You can find forums and Subreddits full of people asking, and answering, questions similar to the ones you have about using smart plugs with Home Assistant.

Working Smarter With SmartThings

SmartThings 3rd Generation Home Hub box and SmartThings phone app
SmartThings home hub (3rd gen) plus mobile app.

SmartThings actually offers a lot of utility when it comes to determining whether or not a device is currently online.

This comes down to two features within SmartThings. These are the health check feature and the device monitor app.

The health check feature only works with certain devices. You’ll need to double-check to make sure that the smart plugs you want to run are compatible with SmartThings health check. Health check simply looks for whether or not devices are connected and reports that information back to you.

Things get really interesting when we look at the device monitor app. You can program this app to check your devices on regular intervals ranging from a few minutes to a few hours. The device monitor will alert you if any of your connected devices are not responding.

Limit Downtime With The UpTime Robot

UpTime Robot is an interesting choice that works with certain, Wi-Fi enabled smart plugs.

UpTime Robot is an online tool that does what its name suggests: automatically monitors the uptime of websites. It does this in a unique way. It monitors the websites based on their IP address.

Every device that connects directly to the internet has its own IP address. Without an IP address, other devices on the network won’t be able to find it. You can think of an IP address like a mailing address. No address, no mail.

If your smart plugs have unique IP addresses that are externally available, you can track them with UpTime Robot. UpTime Robot tracks IP addresses in five minute intervals. Every five minutes, it checks to see if a device at an IP address is up.

If your device is down, UpTime Robot will send you an alert.

This only works for smart plugs that directly connect to the web. Smart plugs that are Wi-Fi enabled or a smart outlet that has a direct connection might work with UpTime Robot. Devices that use ZigBee, Z-Wave, and other protocols don’t connect directly to the internet. This means they don’t have IP addresses and can’t be tracked by UpTime Robot.

However at this stage, we’re getting into a quite technical area. The key thing here is the term “externally available” above. You need your smart plug to be accessible outside of your local network, and then you need to know that external IP – and pass it to UpTime Robot.

You will also have to rely on the external IP address not changing. Whilst this can work (especially if your router allows you to publicly expose local devices), Home Assistant might be a more reliable approach.

About Tristan Perry

Tristan Perry is a software developer who is passionate about tech gadgets, DIY and housing. He has therefore loved seeing smart homes hit the mainstream. Tristan also has an academic background (in Math & Computer Science), and so he enjoys digging into the technical ways that smart home devices work.

Tristan owns close to a dozen Amazon Echo devices, way too many Philips Hue bulbs and lightstrips, a boat-load of Ring Cameras and Doorbells... and a bunch of other smart home devices too (from Reolink, Google Nest, GLEDOPTO and others).

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