Belkin has recently invested in electric vehicle-charging and energy-sensing technologies, but its main line of green business consists of consumer electronics chargers that kill vampire power. To that end, the maker of wireless electronics and Apple accessories has unveiled four new additions to its Conserve line of power-saving devices. Three of them — a power strip, mobile device-charging station and wall socket timer that help save on standby or wasted power — look a lot like the existing Conserve power strip and surge protector for offices.
The fourth device, the Conserve Insight monitor (see image), is a bit more interesting. For $29.99, the Insight lets you measure power use by watts, dollars and cents and carbon footprint from any appliance or device that plugs into a wall socket. In short, it’s Belkin’s first offering that actually shows consumers how much energy they can save using the rest of its Conserve gear.
Whether or not the average consumer is willing to pay $30 for that privilege remains an open question. Right now, home energy management remains the realm of do-it-yourself early adopters and utility pilot projects. Estimates of just how much either consumers or utilities are likely to spend on managing home energy use range from $50 to $200 per home, depending on how much detail and control the systems offer. Pike Research predicts that the home energy management market will grow fairly slowly, with only some 28 million energy-aware homes worldwide by 2015.
Even so, devices to monitor home energy usage are on sale from startups and home electronics giants alike. Canadian company Blue Line Innovations in January started selling its $99 PowerCost Monitor energy management device in Fry’s Electronics stores. Energy Inc., maker of the $200 Energy Detective device for measuring household current, has a partnership with Google’s PowerMeter and an investment from 3M to its credit. AlertMe, another PowerMeter partner, has been selling a home energy management kit for months that costs £69 ($112) plus a £30 ($50) annual subscription.
There’s no doubt that more are to come. January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) saw General Electric, Whirlpool and Best Buy announce new home energy devices and partnerships. Dozens of startups are working on home energy management networking, software, displays and controls with partners that include broadband, telecommunications and home security companies. On the horizon, Intel Labs has a concept device to monitor appliances’ energy use via their voltage signatures, and Apple has a patent for a home energy interface that transmits energy data over household wiring.
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