Smart plugs are great devices that offer a great amount of flexibility to a homeowner, however, one cool question remains:
Can you use a smart plug to turn on your set top box? Yes, a smart plug can turn on your set top box when you request it. The smart plug can only switch the power on or off for the set top box just like you manually walking up to a wall outlet and flicking the switch on or off.
Important – only some set top box units will work with Smart Plugs. The section below discusses how to work out if your set top box will work with Smart Plugs.
There are also other ways of turning what is essentially a dumb set top box unit into a fully integrated smart set top box. This includes the ability to completely control your set top box using voice commands too. This article will explore the options available.
How to know if your set top box is compatible with a smart plug
As smart plugs sit between the wall outlet and the device, they can only regulate the electricity being passed through to the device i.e. turn on the power or turn off the power. This is essentially just like manually flicking a switch on and off.
Therefore, if your set top box unit does not switch itself on when the power is turned on for the unit, then that particular set top box won’t be compatible with a smart plug.
If it does startup when it is powered on then you are good to go.
The quickest and easiest way of checking this is to simply plug in the set top box and see what happens.
If it is compatible, then read the sections below to know how to make your set top box super smart so that you can even use it with Amazon Alexa!
How to connect your set top box to a smart plug
As we have discussed earlier, a smart plug is a fantastic device to use for all of your devices including your set top box as you can use it to provide power to your set top box as and when you wish.
Follow the steps below to connect your set top box to your smart plug.
- Plug the smart plug into the wall outlet and flick the power switch on to turn on your smart plug.
- Follow your smart plug manufacturer’s instructions to connect your smart plug to your home WiFi network.
- Plug your set top box’s power cable into the smart plug.
You will now be able to use an app on your phone or tablet, such as the Smart Life app.
If you have purchased a voice assistant smart device such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, you will be able to extend the use of the smart plug and set top box via voice control which is really cool.
How to fully control your set top box with Alexa without a remote?
This section of the article will show you how to control your set top box with Alexa instead of using the set top box’s remote control. The method below will allow you to switch your set top box on or off, as well as turn the volume up and down, etc.
Please note that you do not need an set top box compatible with Alexa for this to work. This method extends Alexa’s capabilities to what is otherwise a dumb set top box.
Prerequisites for using Alexa with your set top box
There are two things required to get this to work. These are:
- Amazon Echo Dot or Amazon Echo
- Broadlink RM Pro+ Universal Remote
Amazon Echo Dot
You don’t need a full Amazon Echo for this to work. We would recommend purchasing the cheapest Echo device on the market, the Amazon Echo Dot, as we only need the simplest solution to interface with Alexa.
If you already have an Amazon Echo Dot or Amazon Echo device then this will do.
Broadlink RM Pro+ Universal Remote
Broadlink RM Pro+ Universal Remote is used to simply replace your handheld set top box remote. As the Broadlink device is an Infra-Red (IR) transmitter that also can join a WiFi network and interface with Alexa, you can use this to send IR signals to the set top box that otherwise would have come from the set top box remote.
Step 1 – Install Broadlink App to your phone or tablet
If you are based in the US, download the Broadlink e-Control app to your phone or tablet.
Or if you are based in the EU, install the Intelligent Home Center For EU app on your phone or tablet:
Step 2 – Connect the Broadlink RM Pro+ to your home WiFi
Next, connect the RM Pro+ appliance to your home WiFi. To do this, follow the following instructions:
- Power on the Broadlink RM Pro+ and wait for the Blue LED to start flashing. If it doesn’t press and hold the Reset button for 5 seconds.
- Open the Broad e-Control or IHC app on your phone and select Add Device.
- Select Universal Remotes.
- Select RM Pro+.
- Select your home WiFi SSID and type in the password to join the network.
Step 3 – Add your set top box in the app
Next, you need to set up a Universal Remote for the set top box itself. Follow the steps below:
- Select Universal Remote (RM Pro+).
- Select Set Top Box.
- Enter a name for the set top box. It’s this name that you will use to interface with Alexa. E.g. “Alexa, turn on set top box”.
Step 4 – Program the Broadlink RM Pro+ functions
In this step, you will program the RM Pro+ with the actual set top box remote functions. This is so the Broadlink will know what IR signal to send to the set top box when you issue a voice command.
For example, when you say “Alexa, turn on set top box”, the RM Pro+ will transmit the correct IR signal to your set top box.
To match these settings up, follow these steps in the Broadlink e-Control or Intelligent Home Center For EU app:
- Select the ellipsis icon i.e. three dots and select Learn.
- Select the remote control function that you would like the RM Pro+ to learn. In this example, we will use ON/OFF.
- Select ON/OFF. An orange LED will appear on the unit.
- Point the set top box remote to the RM Pro+ and press the Power button.
- Select Test to see if the set top box switches on.
- If it does, go through the rest of the functions that you would like to add.
Now all of your buttons will be added to the Universal Remote on the RM Pro+.
Step 5 – Install the Amazon Alexa App
The next step is to install the Amazon Alexa app onto your phone or tablet. Follow the links below to these apps:
Log in to the app using your Amazon account.
Step 6 – Enable the BroadLink Remote Control/IHC skills
Next, enable the BroadLink Remote Control (US-based users) or IHC skill (EU-based users) to your Alexa app/account. To do this, follow these steps:
- In the Alexa app, select the menu icon (three horizontal lines).
- Select Skills & Games.
- Select the search icon and type BroadLink Remote Control or IHC for EU.
- Select Enable.
Step 7 – Find your universal set top box remote
Next, we will link the Alexa service with the Broadlink RM Pro+ set top box remote. To do this follow these steps:
- From the Amazon Alexa app, select the Devices option.
- Select the + icon.
- Select Add Device.
- Scroll down and select Other.
- Select Discover Devices.
Congratulations! You have now linked all devices and you will be able to fully control your set top box using Alexa.
What are the other features of a smart plug?
There are a whole host of other features when it comes to using smart plugs. As these devices can be linked to other clever services such as IFTTT, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant etc, then the sky’s the limit when it comes to thinking of ways of using these devices.
Below are a few features to get your imagination going:
- Act as a timer – We’ve all used mechanical timers which are very faffy to setup. They are often a real pain to reprogramme too. Smart plugs remove all of the pain from this though as you can easily adjust timer settings using the manufacturer’s app. If you want your lights to turn off at a specific time? Easy!
- Monitor energy consumption – Quite often we don’t realize how much energy consumer electronics are using at any given moment or over time. Well, smart plugs can monitor the amount of electricity used as they are the conduit between the device and the wall outlet.
- Turn devices on just before you get home – By connecting your smart plug to an automation service such as IFTTT, you can configure your coffee percolator to switch on as you approach your house from work. Now you have a smart coffee machine as well as a smart plug!
- Limit family screen time – So you don’t want your son or daughter to be playing Fortnite on their PC or game console after a specific time? No problem! Set the smart plug to turn off at bedtime!
- Act as a security deterrent – Again, using the timer options, it will be possible to set up multiple timers for multiple smart plugs thus giving thieves the impression that you are moving around the house switching lights on and off.
- Be lazy – So you want to switch the light (or any device for that matter) on or off but you can’t be bothered to get off the sofa or out of bed? That’s fine just use your phone or favorite voice assistant to do the hard work for you!