Grid Connect ConnectSense Smart Outlet
|At a glance|
|Product||Grid Connect Connect Sense Smart Outlet (GC-CS-SO ) [Website]|
|Summary||Dual outlet smart outlet with USB charging port|
|Pros||• Two outlets can be controlled and monitored individually|
• Supports loads up to 15 Amps (including charging port)
• Firmware and app updated for iOS extended features
• Supports Homes/Rooms/Zones hierarchy
• Able to turn on/off all other installed SmartPlugs
|Cons||• Awkward user interface|
• Limited power information
• No data export
• No instruction manual
• Limited FAQs
• Can't delete scenes or rules
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Of the three products covered in this review, the Grid Connect ConnectSense Smart Outlet is unique. Measuring approximately 5" X 3" X 1 3/16", it features two individually controllable outlets. You can also monitor the power for each outlet separately and each outlet has a different Siri name (defaults names: Outlet 1 & Outlet 2).
On the right side of the outlet (photo at the top of the review), there are individual switches for manually turning each plug on or off. Immediately to the right of each outlet, there's a blue LED to indicate power status. Each LED is dimmable. Also on the top of the unit are LED indicators for status and Wi-Fi. Those LEDs are only used during setup, and remain off in normal operation.
On the left side of the outlet, there's a single 2.4A USB charging port that supports rapid charging for Rapid Charge-capable iPhones and iPads. The USB port frees up an outlet and eliminates the need for an individual charger. Since the ConnectSense has two outlets, you would think its rear three pronged power plug would be positioned so that the new outlets lined up with the outlets they block. Instead, the ConnectSense ends up being offset slightly above or below wall duplex.
Setting up a HomeKit device is fairly simple, but the ConnectSense differed slightly from the other two. With your iOS device connected to your home Wi-Fi network, the quick start guide directs you to go to Wi-Fi settings. If you scroll down to the bottom of the list of wireless networks on your iOS device, you'll see "Accessory Name" along with a unique name for your ConnectSense outlet. If you click on that, the ConnectSense outlet will automatically be configured for your default Wi-Fi network.
Grid Connect ConnectSense network setup
After connecting to your network, the ConnectSense program will ask permission to access the HomeKit data on your iOS device. To finish setting up the device, you click on the "+" icon to add it and select the unconfigured ConnectSense device. A window will pop up that either allows you to manually enter a unique eight-digit code or use your iOS's camera to frame the number to scan it in. The code is included on a separate insert in the package and also appears on the bottom of the plug. This code allows the ConnectSense to set up an encrypted peer-to-peer connection between the outlet and your iOS device. Note: Each of the three SmartPlugs in this review used the same registration method (scan or manually enter) to create the peer-to-peer connection.
Grid Connect ConnectSense - enter or scan eight digit code
When you launch the program after completing the installation, you land on the Devices page that shows all of the installed HomeKit devices in the HomeKit database on your iOS device. There are four HomeKit devices in the screenshot below, with each device organized under its assigned room. The ConnectSense Smart Outlet is in the Living Room with the default name. This name shown may or may not be the name that's recognized by Siri. In the case of the other three devices, I've given them other Siri names. While those names don't appear here, you can check or reconfigure the Siri name for any HomeKit device from within the ConnectSense app.
Grid Connect ConnectSense Devices page
You control the ConnectSense's state using the outlet toggles. For other manufacturer's products, you can't tell the status of those devices nor turn them on/off unless you open up the device detail page for those products. Using the ConnectSense app, I confirmed I was able to successfully turn on/off the outlets on the other two Smart Plugs covered in this review as well as the previously reviewed iHome SmartPlug ISP5.
If you tap on one of the ConnectSense outlets, a detail screen for that outlet appears. From that page, you can turn the outlet on/off, check the average power consumption and the "on" time, change the device's name and type, and change the brightness of the associated LED indicator on the ConnectSense outlet. If you slide the power outlet data strip to the right, it shows the actual current power usage. The screenshot below shows the detail page for Outlet One.
Grid Connect ConnectSense device detail
The amount of energy usage data available in this version of the ConnectSense app is quite limited. There isn't any historical tracking nor are there any estimates of costs. Grid Connect said these issues are addressed in its iOS 10 app version.
Across the bottom of the each screen in the ConnectSense app, you'll find a navigation bar that takes you to other sections of the application. I'll briefly describe each.
This menu takes you to the Home hierarchy. You can have multiple Homes, each with rooms, zones and service groups. In this menu, you can add/change/delete rooms, zones and service groups. Here you add devices to rooms, and you can add rooms to zones. For the purposes of this review, I created two zones (first floor and second floor), and three rooms (living room, office, and bedroom). Using Siri, you can control individual devices by name, control devices by zone name (Siri, turn off the first floor), or by room name (Siri, turn on office). Siri also recognizes and executes scene names.
Scenes allow you to create an event that performs specified actions on individual devices. You can activate a scene by tapping on the activate icon shown below (left), or using Siri. For example, with Siri listening, just say "Good Night" and that scene will be executed. The "Good Night" scene (right) turns off all devices when activated. Note: for other manufacturer's devices, the Siri name appears below the device name in the screen configuration example below. The Siri name for the Eve Energy device is "Fan", for example.
I created scenes using each of the applications for the other manufacturer's products, and I was able to edit and execute any of the scenes using the ConnectSense app or via Siri.
Grid Connect ConnectSense Scenes summary (left) and Scene configuration (right)
The rules menu allows you to create rules based either a timer or and event. Each rule can be enabled or disabled. The timer event is the simplest form of a rule. For a timer event, you create a trigger time, set the frequency for repeating, and select a scene or multiple scenes to activate when the trigger timer is reached.
In the example below, I attempted to set up a rule that would turn on everything at 9:00am on weekdays. I had no problem configuring the timer, but under the repeat configuration, my options were Never, Hourly, Daily, Weekly or Monthly. I wasn't given the option to select the individual days of the week for the schedule to run. Nor could I use the Timer to create a schedule based on sunrise/sunset. Interestingly, I discovered that I couldn't delete a rule from within the ConnectSense app once I had created it.
Grid Connect ConnectSense Time Rule setup
You can also create a rule based on an event. The form is, "If" trigger, "When" constraint, For the "Then", you specific a scene. Sound confusing? I thought so. I played around with it and created an event. The trigger was "power state on outlet On for 3 minutes". The constraint was "since sunrise". I set the scene to "ConnectSense Outlet 1 Off". So, to summarize, if the power on outlet 1 is on for 3 minutes after sunrise, turn it off. The logic in this rule keeps running, so if you turn on Outlet 1, the rule will turn it off again 3 minutes later if it's after sunrise. You can add other constraints, but those are limited to whatever states of other devices that the ConnectSense app knows about. For example, you could add an additional constraint "If the iHome Smart Plug is On", and both constraints would have to be met for the action (scene) to be executed. You can also multiple scenes to be executed if the rest of the conditions of the rule are met.
The event-based rule ran as expected, but I feel that setting up a conditional rule isn't immediately obvious. There's not a user manual, and the FAQs on the ConnectSense website don't provide any examples of how to create an event.
The gallery below shows a few screenshots from the event rule creation.
The settings menu is a bit of a misnomer. There are only two sub menus. One allows you to invite people to share control of HomeKit accessories in your home. The other menu provides examples of things you can say to Siri to control a device or to activate a scene.