I will not blame anyone in the west for unfamiliarity with Tuya. It’s a massive automation platform that originated in China (also present in other regions now) and its user base dwarfs anything we see in the west. Chances are, you had used Tuya before, even if you never installed their apps, as their automation framework is available to others as a service (think Smart Life etc). A long story short – they want to promote the Tuya Expo initiative, where they promote IoT-orientated products, manufacturers and services – and that’s over 500k SKUs to pick from – for consumers and resellers – so check these out!
Meet IFREEQ [BSD29]
Behind the rather edgy brand name, hides a manufacturer of smart home gadgets that uses Tuya to deliver products and services to the customer. And while they may look like your standard smart plugs, at first sight, both connected relays (16A and 20A versions) bring power metering to the table. It’s something that can be of interest to anyone living in a country that just got its electricity prices raised to infinity (Hello UK!).
I always complain about the UK’s versions of the sockets as many of them I had the pleasure to use in the past, make it nearly impossible to use on extension strips or even some wall sockets. Turns out, living in the country with the “safest” plug design virtually unmodified in 100 years has its… perks… Thankfully, IFREEQ is sensible about the shape and they fit well with multiple of them deployed.
What’s on offer – are very inexpensive plugs that connect to 2.4GHz WiFi and use the Tuya framework to provide you with cloud services.
More about the Tuya app
Tuya integrates well with Alexa, Google Home and other smart assistant systems thanks to relevant skills. If you use any smart speakers, as soon as you add your IFREEQ plug to the cloud, you can control the relay state via voice.
The Android app will also have typical smart controls and power use data displayed in the device menu. Apart from ON/OFF controls scheduling options to allow for timers and delays, inching and random internal to simulate activity at home when you are away. It’s handy to have.
Thanks to the built-in Tuya sharing framework the device can be easily shared between different accounts to support multiple users at home.
Power meter, consumption and historical data
To confirm that the power meter inside the IFREEQ smart socket reports accurately, I brought a kill-o-Watt meter with me. I should get a pretty accurate representation of the metric, especially since I will measure it against the known power consumption of a 10W light bulb.
Without any load, the smart socket draws 0.3W which goes as high as 0.6W when energised but you can save an additional 0.1W in both states by disabling the internal LED light. Obviously, that power use won’t be included in your power data, so when I plugged the smart socket via the kill-o-Watt meter, I could see a margin error between the devices corresponding with the socket’s consumption. It’s accurate.
Live consumption is available on the main screen, but the additional daily breakdown of the data is displayed as a bar chart. Unfortunately, charts are limited to daily consumption breakdown in kWh and you can’t access more granular data ie: per hour, to figure out when during the day the consumption is the highest. Something that would be very useful for devices like this.
One thing that caught my attention was an automation scene possible with Tuya and IFREEQ plug. In triggers, you could set the standard options like switch state, power and current values but also Add Electricity option. A little vague at first, the option acts as a custom tariff meter letting you know when the usage threshold is met. While implementation could be better (units are presented in a bit odd way – 0.100W = 100Wh), the trigger activates when the device consumes enough power over time. Really cool automation for anyone looking to micro-manage the power consumption of individual devices.
If you want to extract some of that data from the cloud and use it for your own purposes, I wrote about the perks of using Tuya API in the past – an excellent way of interacting with their cloud ecosystem with NodeRED, Home Assistant or virtually anything that supports REST.
Another take would be to take a look inside and see the flashing options – something I tried but quickly abandoned the idea as the IFREEQ smart sockets are sealed and very difficult to open without breaking the enclosure. It’s not the best plug for that attempt.
Regardless of what you think about Tuya, it’s a household name in Asia just as much as Google Home and Alexa ecosystems are in the west. With localised services and servers for users in Europe and US, devices from Tuya Expo are definitely worth considering as they come with good cloud support and interesting choices usually supplied at very reasonable prices (these smart plugs are only $4.40 each). Are you looking for smart sockets with power meters? IFREEQ may be for you! Let me know your thoughts in this Reddit thread.
🆓📈💵 – See the transparency note for details.