ThinkEco's Modlet Aims to Gauge your Power Consumption

By  |  Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:51 am

Walking around the CEA Line Show and the Pepcom media event that were held in New York on Wednesday, it became clear to me that several companies see a potential market in creating “smart power outlets.” These are not just your normal plug-it-in-and-forget it surge protectors, but actually allow you to monitor usage and even turn plugged in appliances and electronics on and off.

Belkin’s Conserve Insight is one of those products, as well as Tenrehte’s PicoWatt. But the simplest and most powerful smart outlet is the Modlet by ThinkEco.

The device is a two outlet power strip that plays a dual role as a timer and power consumption meter. The device uses a form of wireless networking (802.15.4, or Zigbee) to connect to a USB dongle that is plugged into your computer, and will send information including power consumption and cost and timer information to and from the device.

ThinkEco claims that using the device can save you 10 to 20 percent on electric bills by monitoring power usage, and will even recommend when the device should be turned off to save electricity. The company pointed out to me that the biggest wastes of electricity are the ones we don’t know about–those involving products that are on standby but still drawing a good deal of power.

The true value of the device, however, is in the Web application that drives the Modlet. A real-time graph shows the power usage (broken down by individual power outlet) of all used Modlets and provides remote control of plugged-in appliances from any computer with a browser, and even shows the cost if you have provided cost per kilowatt hour information.

Modlet’s Web interface can also make suggestions on when to schedule the power to be cut to the device. All in all, it’s aimed at giving users more control over their power consumption before they find out about it on their next electric bill.

I was thoroughly impressed with the product, and its price–expected to be around $40 when it launches this fall–isnt prohibitive. ThinkEco also said that a traditional power strip model is planned. I’m definitely interested in that: I’d love to know how much my home office is really costing me in terms of electric consumption, and saving money is never a bad thing.



2 Comments For This Post

  1. Bob Henderson Says:

    I think this would be a great idea if it cost 80% less.

    A kill-a-watt ($20) will tell you how much electricity you’re using. Doesn’t make a graph, but then you don’t really need one– the usage of most appliances doesn’t change much (they usually have 2 or 3 modes). It will also tell you how much you use over a given amount of time, and calculate the cost.

    Appliance timers cost maybe $10 or $15. You plug them into your outlet, spend two minutes setting them up, and then forget about them for the next several years (while they turn your power off to your unused devices). I own a few. They are helpful. And, incidentally, I didn’t need a computer to tell me what time I watch TV.

    I’d far rather have three standard analog appliance timers than one modlet– they are about the same, functionally, and obviously three is better than one.

    Its also important to note that the “save 10 or 20% of power bill” is total BS (take it from a guy who owns a couple of appliance timers). I’d love to use my appliance timer on my microwave or oven (both use power when off) but can’t– because they are wired in such a way that the plugs are inaccessible. Likewise, I can’t measure the power of my overhead lighting, electric water heater, dishwasher, chandeliers, etc– because they are not plugged into outlets. And I’d have to put all these on monitors (costing maybe $500 if using modlet) to save that 10 to 20%.

    Instead, I just use a whole-house monitor, which shows me how much power the house draws (I use TED; yes, it also has a real-time graph. Actually two, if you count integration with Google Powermeter). It didn’t take me long to figure out that the big spike that happens when I turn on my computer is caused by the computer, and hence to figure out how much that costs. I have a few $15 appliance timers to turn stuff off overnight, and its fine.

    The modlet would be a decent product if it were cost-competitive with other appliance timers. But at multiple times the price, I’ll stick with what works.

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