Does the ebb and flow of your energy bill have you searching for an affordable way to reduce or better control your use? If you answered yes, then look no further because we’re taking a quick dive into a practical and affordable device that allows you to better manage your home’s energy use. We’re talking about energy-saving outlets!
These next-generation devices afford the same surge protection as their predecessors, but also tie in the “smart” functionality of an internet-connected device.
There are several different kinds of energy-saving outlets available, but there are two factors you should consider. First is size; there are many different sizes ranging from a single external outlet to a power strip with multiple sockets. The second thing you’ll want to consider is Wi-Fi connectivity; internet-connected outlets, commonly known as smart plugs, may enable you to fully realize the potential of these energy savings. This is because you’ll have greater remote control of the outlet through your smart phone, tablet, or home assistant (like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa).
You’ll also want to consider where you’ll be using the energy-saving outlet and what you’ll be using it for. Answering these questions will make it easier to choose the device that works best for you.
With smart plugs or smart power strips, a few clicks and swipes on your smart phone will enable you to fully shut down the electrical currents to your high-powered devices to prevent them from consuming electricity even when switched off. Several devices found inside your home are commonly referred to as “parasitic loads,” “phantom loads,” or “energy vampires.” In fact, most entertainment systems consist of several parasitic loads, such as televisions, DVD players, and video gaming consoles. These outlets can potentially curb these loads, which can cost the average household an extra $200 per year.
(left)ThinkEco offers smart, energy-saving outlets. Shown here is the modlet (or modern outlet), which can be controlled remotely and even adjust to your personal schedule. Photo credit: ThinkEco
(center/right) The Insteon® On/Off Outlet is one of many options for smart, energy-saving outlets. Both outlets can be controlled remotely, but consumers will need to purchase the Insteon Hub first, which costs about $40. Photo credit: Insteon®
In addition to preventing unnecessary energy consumption, these energy-saving outlets are affordable for most folks who are looking to trim their use. The average smart outlet costs around $10 to $20 on Amazon.com and has the potential to pay for itself within two years or less depending on how often you use it.
As previously noted, convenience is also a major factor to consider when thinking about your next efficiency upgrade. Smart plugs typically come with simple instructions to download an accompanying app on your smart phone and then connect the plug to your home’s Wi-Fi. The convenience in being able to turn the device on and off using your phone cannot be overstated. Advanced smart plugs and smart plug apps also have the ability to automate the use with your schedule and even your presence in the home.
You can also have large-load devices turn off at a set time each night and turn on every morning when you’re ready to use them. If you want to use your television, for example, at a time that’s outside of the preset hours, you can easily switch the device on through the smart phone app. Through automation, you’re able to power down these energy-intensive devices and prevent unnecessary energy use.
For folks who are looking to optimize their energy use and eliminate vampire loads, smart plugs may be your best option. For others who want more of a hands-off option to save additional dollars, energy-saving outlets and power strips without the Wi-Fi connection may be a better choice.
Either way, energy-saving outlets are just one of many energy efficient options out there, and as technology continues to evolve, we’ll likely see additional options emerge in the future.
Kaley Lockwood writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.