• Can Smart-switches + an iPhone = a power saving idea?

    You all may have seen the adverts - ‘Save $X of dollars off your power bill just by installing this gadget’. Some of them have even been government initiatives that at least make it look like they are doing something about the ‘rising cost of living’. I’ve never had one or thought that the upfront cost balanced well enough against the potential savings. But then someone mentioned ‘iPhone-compatibility’, and like the app-addict that I am, I suddenly became a whole lot more interested.

    In some ways this article continues the ‘network of things’ idea I wrote about in January, where previously non-connected objects around our home reach a whole new level of utility when ‘smart’ or wireless tech are added. Now that the humble power plug can be included in this company, and even become ‘app-cessories’ you can control from an iPhone or iPad, I’ve decided to start researching three examples - all of which I will purchase with my own cash and then report back on to you dear Mactalk readers.

    Now the first of the three examples I intend to purchase is an Embertec AV plug (pictured above). I understand that they (and a PC version) were being installed for free in Victoria in 2011 in conjunction with the ‘Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificates’ scheme. Embertec units (which I’ve also seen branded by Kambrook) have two sockets - one for devices or computers you want to have on all the time, and one for devices that would save you money if they were not sitting around in standby mode all year. This is really were the ‘smart’ tech kicks in - the Embertec unit supposedly will turn off anything connected to this ‘power-saver’ socket if, in the case of the AV model, no remote-control activity has been detected for a pre-determined time, or if, in the case of the PC model, your computer goes into its sleep mode.

    I saw just recently that these are now on sale elsewhere in Australia - for $99 each. There are however deals for example if you are an RACQ member that bring it down to between $50 and $60. At this price, and using Embertec.net.au’s own claims that using the AV switch could save ‘$1400 over 10 years’, it doesn’t seem like a bad deal. Perhaps you are in Victoria and can speak to how much you might have saved with one or more of these? As for me, I’ve just spotted a brand new AV model for $20 on eBay from a seller with a 100% reputation level. Sold.

    Next on my list is the Belkin WeMo switch. This is the one where your iPhone enters the picture thanks to the WeMo app and the switch’s built in wifi. Too lazy to get out of bed when you can’t sleep from the guilt of knowing you’ve left all your gadgets running in standby mode? Use the app and, as long as said gadgets are plugged into the WeMo switch, you can switch them off then and there. Or, if you are an ASD type who must return home to check the iron is off, well the ability of the WeMo switch to be controlled over the internet from anywhere will save you money just in the fuel you would have used driving back home to check. IFTTT

    So, if are you an app-cessories fiend like myself, obsessed with linking the digital and physical worlds via your iDevice, then I’ll report on how the WeMo functions - yep, I’ve just spotted one for $52.95 on eBay, a slight saving on the $60 that the AppleStore has them going for. (There is also FYI a motion sensor and baby audio monitor that you can get to connect in with the WeMo if you want to start building a larger remote-controlled network).

    The last of three switches I hope to test out is a much more ‘indie’ example - but one that hopefully will be the icing on the cake. Funded through crowd site Indiegogo, the Meterplug will, when it ships in April, perform the same remote on/off and scheduling tasks as the WeMo, but also will be able to report, right to your iPhone via their app, how much power is being drawn by whatever you have plugged into it. This means that you can test out how much ‘ghost’ power your standby units are really using, and track it over time withe the app. It also means you can plug a power board with several appliances etc connected to it and measure their combined output. It can do a couple of other cool tricks via its bluetooth to smartphone capabilities also - check out there site to find out more. One issue is that they are only making US, UK and Euro plugs at the moment, so you'll need a travel adapter for one of those lying around.

    So there we have it, the Embertec, WeMo and Meterplug. As they arrive now, I’ll test them out - and especially use the Meterplug to test the others out and pledge to report back. Would also love to hear the thoughts of any existing users of the WeMo or Embertec.

    - You can read more of Jonathan's ‘jnxyz’ articles here at Mactalk, his Education blog, or at his ‘Appcessories’ review site here. Follow his #EdTech, #Slide2learn and #iPadEd tweets as @jnxyz.

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