Belkin’s Energy-Use Gadget Will Change How You Live [Review, Earth Day]

Belkin’s Energy-Use Gadget Will Change How You Live [Review, Earth Day]

This is how much it costs in electricity to run my 13’ MacBook Pro per year, if it were continually left on: $11.20. My 32-inch flat screen TV? That’s a whopping $100/year, if left on; but when it’s off, it’ll only drain to the tune of about 75 cents per year (similarly, my MBP only drains about $2/year in sleep mode).

How do I know this? I’ve been (lame-pun alert) charging around, giddily testing everything in the house with Belkin’s Conserve Insight, a brilliant, $30 tool that measures the energy use of any gadget or appliance that plugs into a wall outlet  — and the results have been (oh, and again) electrifying enough for me to really change my habits.

The Insight is comprised of two components connected by a 5-foot cable: a three-pronged plug combined with its own outlet, and a three-buttoned screen. Plug the Insight into an outlet and the gadget you’re measuring into the Insight’s outlet, and the Insight’s screen will light up with data. There are three basic ways the Insight can interpret energy flow (represented by the three buttons): cost per year (or month), the amount of CO2 released in to the as a result of the electricity consumed feeding your gadget, or actual wattage. Leave it plugged in for about an hour and it’ll average energy use for that particular gadget. The longer it’s left plugged in, the more accurate a picture you’ll get.

The Insight supposedly figures out rough geographic location to determine electricity rates in the area, but we haven’t figured out how it does this (and Belkin hasn’t replied yet with an answer); but it can also be programmed with exact rates.

Every home should have one of these. Its relatively inexpensive price, stupid-easy interface and incredible usefulness make it a no-brainer.

UPDATE:

Belkin got back to us with answers to our questions regarding its accuracy and how it determines the user’s location:

1.      The Insight comes installed with the average country electricity rate. However, for those who want to configure it to their electricity provider rate you can easily enter the $/kWh on your bill.

Which s pretty broad; probably best to take the suggested approach and enter info from your electricity bill. As far as accuracy, which we also polled them about, Belkin says this:

2.      For the Insight we get the following accuracy when loaded in the following manner.

<5 Watts power accuracy is : +/- 0.1 watts

>5 Watts Power accuracy is : +/- 2%

For example, 4.5W load, the tolerance will be 4.4 to 4.6 W.

For example, 100W load, the tolerance will be 98 to 102 W.

For a residential measuring device this is within what is required to give people they information they need. Also, I have seen from testing the accuracy seems to be better than this, so these numbers represent the extremes.

Rating: ★★★★½

Belkin’s Energy-Use Gadget Will Change How You Live [Review, Earth Day]

Belkin’s Energy-Use Gadget Will Change How You Live [Review, Earth Day]

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  • Matt Ackeret

    Why is this any better than the cheaper kill a watt?
    http://www.amazon.com/P3-Inter

  • elimilchman

    For one thing, the Insight’s screen and plug are connected by a five-foot cable, making it more practical to read. Also, at about $30, the Belkin unit is actually less expensive, if I’m reading the MSRP of the Kill-A-Watt ($35) you linked to correctly.

  • Josh Ward

    I would like to see both the Insight and the Kill-A-Watt have the ability to program in time-of-use pricing into consideration. 

About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

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