01.Future Switch FST2R2400-2 and Belkin Conserve AV AG108040au2M
Please note: this information was current as of July 2009 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
Capacity: FutureSwitch: 2 plugs supplied Belkin: 8 point power board
Price: FutureSwitch: $55 per pair Belkin: $250 per board
Contact: www.futurerange.com.au and www.belkin.com/anz
Imagine a world where everything is wireless – even turning off your appliances is done wirelessly. But don’t we already do this with remote controls? Not quite. Switching off with a remote leaves many appliances in standby mode, still using a small amount of energy, which adds up over millions of households.
These two devices save you reaching behind your audio-visual gear or all the peripherals around your computer to turn off the power switch, in turn saving you money on your energy bill. Both products, in one case a plug and the other a power board, turn off with a wireless remote. But to use wireless you need batteries for the remote and power for the device. So just how much do the power savers save?
CHOICE hooked up both products to an entertainment system and found they work well, allowing devices to be turned off from up to 10m, with multiple obstacles such as doors and walls in between. The FutureSwitch plugs into your mains socket, and you plug in whatever power board you want to be able to turn off. Two plugs are supplied in the package we bought and both work on the same radio frequency, so you can have two areas in the house working off the same remote. You can easily add other plugs to the same remote. Both plugs and the remote worked out of the box, with no setup required.
The Belkin Conserve consists of an eight-socket power board and remote. The board simply plugs into a power point and you then plug your gear in the board. The Belkin claims surge protection, which we didn't test, and also has two sockets separate from the rest, so they stay on when the remote is used. This means appliances that need to remain on, such as a router or PVR, can be plugged in and remain on when you turn the others off. You can also add more Belkin power boards and switch them to the same channel used on the remote, allowing for more devices to be turned off with the one remote.
We tested how much energy each device draws based on 19 hours of standby power, where they are still using energy listening for a signal, and five hours of being powered whereby a current runs through to the attached appliances. Based on today’s energy prices they each cost about a dollar per year to run to, whereas our configuration of appliances used over $27/year in standby power. If your power switch is difficult to reach, however, one of these may save you much more in convenience.
These switches may be useful for difficult to reach power switches, however, there are cheaper alternatives. A well-positioned power board attached to an extension cord can be switched off easily. Although clever, these switches are an extra piece of hardware you have to pay for, both upfront and in the long run with battery replacement and power. And do you really want another remote? It all comes down to weighing up the amount of materials that go into producing these energy savers as opposed to reaching behind your goods and flicking the power switch where possible.