Etekcity Voltson Wi-Fi Smart Outlet Hands-On ReviewBy - 06/01/2018
Smart outlets are perhaps among the most underrated smart home devices. I’ve owned and used them ever since I started testing smart home systems. In fact, they are integral to my current smart home setup. But I’ve never written an independent review of a smart outlet before. That is, until now. Etekcity offered to send me a couple of Voltson Smart Wi-Fi Outlets for testing. Curious as to what new features this smart outlet brings to the table, I decided to face the task head on. And here’s how it went.
The Voltson Smart Wi-Fi Outlets arrived in a small, rectangular box. The packaging isn’t flashy. If anything, it looks like a box containing something eco-friendly. And that assessment would be a fair assessment. Smart outlets can help you conserve electricity if used correctly.
Inside the box, I found two smart outlets, a mini quick start guide, and a note stating the maximum load of the outlets (1,000W) and their Wi-Fi band compatibility (2.4GHz only).
Setting Up Voltson Smart Wi-Fi Outlets
I consider myself tech savvy. Confident in my ability to set up a smart outlet, I shoved the quick start manual back into its box. Unfortunately for me, this was not a smart move. I searched and searched the App Store for an “Etekcity” or “Voltson” app, but nothing turned up. When I finally swallowed my pride and consulted the manual, I found that the app is actually called “VeSync.”
With the VeSync app installed, I followed the next four steps outlined in the manual. First, make sure your phone is connected to Wi-Fi. Second, plug in the smart outlet. Third, follow the in-app instruction to add the outlet. Finally, give each outlet a unique name. I named the first outlet “Humidifier,” and the second “Night Lamp.”
While performing the third step, I discovered that there are two ways to connect Voltson smart outlets to Wi-Fi.
The first method, which I used on the first outlet, is the easier of the two. When the outlet’s indicator LED is blue, visit the app, tap the “+” button, and your smart outlet will be automatically discovered. Once discovered, enter your Wi-FI SSID and password.
The second method, APN Mode, is a bit more complicated so I suggest using it as a backup method just in case the first method doesn’t work for you.
I used the second method to set up my second outlet. First, press the outlet’s power button for about 5 to 10 seconds until the indicator LED blinks blue. Second, head to your phone’s Wi-Fi settings and connect to the network that starts with “ESP.” Third, go back to the app and acknowledge that you’ve connected to the “ESP” Wi-Fi network. Finally, enter your Wi-Fi’s SSID and password and wait for the outlet to connect.
Testing Features: Remote Control, Schedules, and More
After a breezy setup process, I proceeded to test the features. There aren’t many, so I was able to test them all.
1. Manual Power Switch
I started with the least complicated feature, the ability to turn the outlet on or off using the manual power button. When pressed, the power button will either turn on or turn off the outlet depending on the outlet’s current state. Simply press the button once, and you’ll hear a mechanical click. If the indicator LED turns on, that means the outlet is now on. If it turns off, that means the outlet is off. So, does the feature work? Yes, flawlessly.
2. Remote Switch Via Smartphone
Next, I proceeded to test the app starting with remote smartphone control. From the app’s homepage, you’ll see a list of all connected outlets. Right beside each of them, you’ll find a power button. If the button is highlighted, that means the outlet is currently on. If it’s not, that means the outlet is off.
Pressing the virtual power button does the same thing as pressing the outlet’s power switch. The difference is that you can press the virtual button no matter where you are and the outlet will respond, assuming your phone is connected to Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G.
Does the feature work? Yes, but it was glitchy at first. Both outlets turned on just fine. But when I tried turning off the first outlet, it briefly turned off and then turned back on. I repeated the test using different appliances just in case my humidifier was the problem, but no matter what I tried, the results were the same–the outlet would turn off for less than a second and then turned back on.
I was getting ready to email Etekcity regarding the issue but decided to give it a try on my own a few more times. Eventually, the glitch self-resolved and the outlets started working as expected. Over the course of three days, the glitch briefly returned a couple of times but again self-resolved. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to pinpoint the cause of the issue, which make me question the reliability of the feature.
Verdict: Works, but with glitches
The next feature I tested was the scheduling feature. You can program each smart outlet to either turn on or turn off during set time periods. To create a schedule, tap the icon of the outlet you want to program and select “Schedule.” Next, tap on “Create Schedule.” You’ll see a form that looks like the one pictured below.
Creating schedules was fairly easy. Just select a start time and an end time and then choose whether you want to turn on the outlet at the start time and turn it off at the end time or vice versa. Additionally, you can choose to repeat the schedule every day, every weekday, or on select days of the week. You can also create multiple schedules for each outlet.
To test the feature, I first scheduled the Humidifier outlet to turn on at 8:30 PM and off at 5:30 AM. Then, I scheduled the Night Light outlet to turn on at 8:45 PM, turn off at 9:30 PM, then on again at 6:00 AM, and off at 6:30 AM. I programmed the Humidifier outlet schedule to repeat every day and the Night Light outlet schedule to repeat only on weekdays.
I tested the schedules for an entire week, and they all ran smoothly. I even tried turning the Humidifier outlet on manually before the scheduled time to see if anything would go wrong. Regardless, the schedules ran flawlessly.
Another potentially helpful feature is the Timer. This feature lets you create a manually-triggered countdown timer that either turns the outlet on or off when activated. You can use this feature to ensure you don’t leave an appliance running for too long.
Creating a timer is just like creating schedules. Tap on the outlet you want to program and select “Timer.” Tap on “Set Timer” and use the interface to set the countdown. You can set it anywhere between 1 second to 11 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Once you’re done, choose whether you want to turn the outlet on or off at the end of the countdown. Finally, tap the “Done” button.
Tapping the “Done” button doesn’t activate the timer; it simply saves the setting so you can quickly activate it whenever you want to. When you tap on the play button, the countdown will start immediately. Once it reaches 00:00:00, the outlet will perform the programmed action.
As with the Schedule feature, the Timer feature worked well with no problem. The only catch is that you can only save one countdown timer per device.
5. Away Mode
One of the features I was most excited about was Away Mode. Away Mode is not an energy-saving feature, but rather, a security feature. The idea is that when you’re away, the smart outlets can randomly turn your appliances on and off to make it seem like you’re home, potentially warding off intruders. Unfortunately, you can’t manually set the app to Home/Away mode nor can you use geofencing. Instead, you must create a schedule for your outlets to follow.
Creating an Away schedule was a simple process. To do so, you tell the app when you plan to leave and when you plan to return. You can also program it to repeat the schedule every day, only on certain days, on weekdays, or never. Once you’re done, Away mode will run automatically. Note that you can only have one Away schedule for each smart outlet. Also, if you want all of your smart outlets to run Away Mode simultaneously, you’ll need to schedule them one-by-one. There’s no easy way to synchronize all of them.
To test the Away Mode, I stayed at home for an entire day and created a 9 AM to 5 PM Away schedule for both of my smart outlets. At 9 AM, nothing significant happened, but after around 10 minutes, the Night Lamp outlet turned on followed by the Humidifier outlet a couple of minutes later. The process was repeated all throughout the day; 19 times for the Humidifier outlet and 17 times for the Night Lamp outlet, to be precise. The on/off interval was completely random, but according to the app, the outlets switch on/off about every 30 minutes. In my opinion, the preset interval is just right. It’s not so often as to waste a lot of energy but frequent enough to spook a potential intruder.
Verdict: Works, but geofencing would be better than schedules.
6. Energy Saving Mode & Power Surge Protection
I also tested a couple of Etekcity’s hidden features: Energy Saving & Abnormal Power Protection. The two features have one thing in common: they will both shut off your smart outlet when a threshold is reached.
The Energy Saving feature will turn off your appliance when it reaches the maximum usage cost based on the price of electricity per kWh. From the app, you will need first to set the current cost per kWh in your area and then set a maximum usage cost. When the maximum usage cost is reached, the outlet will automatically shut off.
The Abnormal Power Protection feature, on the other hand, shields your appliances from energy spikes created by power surges. Unfortunately, it’s not automatic. You also need to set a maximum wattage threshold. Once the power passing through the outlet reaches the maximum threshold, the outlet will automatically shut off to shield your appliances from possible damage.
I didn’t get to test the Abnormal Power Protection feature as power surges are rare where I live. However, I did test the Energy Saving feature, and I’ve confirmed that it works.
7. Energy Monitoring
The final feature I tested was energy monitoring. Via the app, you can track and monitor your appliances’ energy usage, voltage, and power rating. For example, according to the app, my humidifier is using around 220v of electricity, has consumed 0.07kWh of energy, and has a power rating of 10W. If you tap on the small arrow on the right-hand side of the screen, you’ll also be able to access the total energy usage of your appliances for the entire week, month, or even year.
Working With Others
Aside from its built-in features, the Voltson Smart Outlets support additional features via third-party smart home devices. Specifically, the smart outlets work with voice AI’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
To activate the Alexa integration, simply launch the Alexa App, search for and add the VeSync Skill, enter your VeSync account email and password for authorization, and wait for Alexa to discover your smart outlets. Once discovered, you’ll be able to control your outlets individually using your voice. By default, Alexa recognizes the name you’ve given your outlets via the VeSync app. In my case, I can just say “Alexa, turn on Night Lamp” or “Alexa, turn off Humidifier.”
You can also add your smart outlets to groups. For example, I’ve assigned my Voltson smart outlets to the Bedroom group. To make things easier, I can simply say “Alexa, turn on Bedroom” to turn on all smart home devices in the bedroom.
Integrating the Voltson Smart Outlets with Google Assistant is similar to integrating them with Alexa. Launch the Google Assistant app, look for VeSync under Settings > Home Control, enter your VeSync-registered email and password, and wait until all of your smart outlets are discovered. As with Alexa, you can also add your smart outlets to groups using Google Assistant.
The Google Assistant integration lets you do the same things as the Alexa integration, but with the addition of one thing: you can ask Google Assistant whether an outlet is on or off. When I asked Google Assistant, “Is the Night Lamp on?”, it responded with “The Night Lamp is on.” When I asked Alexa the same thing, she said, “The Night Lamp doesn’t support that feature.”
After over two weeks of testing Voltson Smart Outlets, I can confidently say that they’re pretty great. They’re rich in features and most of their features worked flawlessly. It’s also great that they talk to both Alexa and Google Assistant.
With all that said, there’s one thing that keeps bugging me: Necessity. Do I really need a bunch of Wi-Fi-connected smart outlets in my home? I already have more than a handful of devices that connect to Wi-Fi — smartphones, computers, TV, hubs, security cameras, and more. To cover all of the appliances I want to automate, I’d probably need no less than five outlets, and if each of them connects to my router using the same band (2.4GHz), I’d end up with a congested network. So here’s what I’ll say,
The bottom line is this: if you own a lot of Wi-Fi devices, Voltson’s Wi-Fi Smart Outlets aren’t the best option for appliance automation. For such folks, I recommend getting a smart outlet that talks to a hub, not one that talks directly to a Wi-Fi network. However, Voltson is a great choice for those just building out their smart home or who want automation controlled by Alexa or Google Assistant. The device embodies what a smart home device should become while offering automation, security features, energy-saving features, and third-party integrations.