By Michael Gray, Tecca
Conserving power at home helps protect the environment and save money on your electric bill, so it’s a no-brainer for most families. We want to do it. We try to do it. We do our best to be green. We flick off lamps, we keep the thermostat set to a reasonable temperature, and buy green appliances. Everyone seems to agree that saving power is a good thing.
What makes conserving power around the house difficult is that you rarely know exactly how much you’re actually using. It’s obvious that turning off an appliance when it’s not in use goes a long way. But does turning a heater on low really make a difference? How much of your monthly bill is run up by the microwave? How much electricity is the hot water heater guzzling because you have it set to 135 degrees instead of 125 degrees? Most home owners can easily think of dozens of examples where they’d like to know exactly how much juice is getting used.
That’s where Belkin’s Conserve Insight comes into play. The Insight is a simple device that plugs into a standard residential power outlet. A small LCD monitor is connected to the Insight by a 6′ cord. Plug any electric device into the Insight outlet, then plug the whole thing into the wall socket. Since the electricity must pass through the Insight to get to the device, the Insight can record power usage.
What it measures
The Insight measures CO2 emissions equivalencies, watts, and dollars spent, and it calculates monthly and yearly predictions for those items. You switch between the modes with the three buttons on the front of the monitor. The system is intuitive and quick to use.
Obviously, the Insight is just a usage monitor attached to your power cord. It doesn’t test the air to tell you how much carbon dioxide is spewing into the atmosphere; it actually gauges your power usage and converts that into the approximate amounts of CO2 required to create the electricity.
If you’re like us, you’ll mostly want to know about the dollars setting. The Insight comes preloaded with some regional guesses about your local electrical costs. However, to get a more refined, accurate reading on your energy use, you can input your own cost (in kilowatts per hour) from your power bill. Setting up the specific cost gives you a much better result in the end, so it’s worth taking the time do it when you buy an Insight.
The Insight is an invaluable tool. It works smoothly and easily, and it doesn’t take much work to set up a custom electricity cost in the monitor. Using the Insight to gauge your electricity use quickly becomes almost addictive; you’ll want to know how much power everything uses.
We found the Insight worked best when used with a single device for about a week. This is because the Insight works in two different modes. The instant mode tells you about the power consumption of a device right now. If you leave the Insight plugged in for longer than 45 minutes, it goes into averaging mode. In this case, the Insight continues to measure power use both when an device is on and when it’s off, giving you the average power use over time.
The averaging mode is important for devices that use varying amounts of power. Water heaters are a good example. The heater doesn’t burn power nonstop; it turns on and off as needed to keep its water contents at a given temperature. If you take an instant reading, the results will be wildly different according to whether or not the water heater is currently heating. Keeping the Insight plugged in gives you the best results.
The biggest trouble we found with the Insight is that the included user manual isn’t very clear. It’s printed in a small format that does a great job of being green but makes flipping through to find the right instructions a pain in the neck. Once you’re expert in setting up the Insight, that’s probably not a big deal. When you’re just getting started, though, the user manual is inconvenient.
The outlet plug-in only has one power socket, so you can only use it with one device at a time. While that’s probably a matter of necessity, having only a single outlet available will significantly restrict device-heavy areas in your house. That being said, we tend to think of the Insight as a diagnostic tool, not a long-term addition to your outlets. It’s reasonable to expect a minor inconvenience when you’re working to potentially save a lot of money.
Should you buy it?
The Belkin Insight is only $30. If you are serious about saving money around the house by cutting electricity use and making smart power decisions, then the Belkin Insight is the tool that will help you get that done. You can plug all manner of electrical home appliances into the Insight, giving you huge opportunities to produce savings. At a mere $30, the Insight is a huge, powerful investment.