So, if you’re anything like me you probably have a small transformer farm hiding behind you TV cabinet. Not including my TV I have over ten other devices connected to one double GPO stuck away in the back of my TV. Like most people, once my bum hits the couch it’s not getting off again. So what does this mean about the small transformer farm? It means it buzzs away for 24 hours a day, 7days a week, 52 weeks a year.
Ten or so years ago this wasn’t a big deal. Firstly, you didn’t have that many devices connected to the telly (well at least I didn’t). Secondly, we weren’t all worried about climate change and lastly power cost diddly squat. However, today that’s not the case. The effects of Climate Change are rife and the cost of power is going through the roof. So what do I do about the devices that are multiplying like rabbits around my home theatre? Do I actually get of my behind and turn everything off that I’m not using every night and then remember to turn it on again in the morning? The answer is hell no – you buy a smart socket.
So what is a smart socket? It’s one of the many home automation devices coming onto the market to help make our lives simpler. Specifically, a smart socket plugs into your power socket and lets you control how and when you energises the devices plugged into that socket via your smart phone. What you can do and see from your smart phone all depends on the smart socket you are using.
When looking for a smart socket to test and then ultimately use I wanted to find one that fit the following criteria as closely as possible:
- WiFi Connectivity (I didn’t want to stuff around with Bluetooth);
- Set Timers;
- Remote switching;
- Form factor that allows double socket outlets to both be utilised;
- Current power consumption display;
- Power consumption history;
- Being able to control multiple sockets at once;
At the moment there are a few devices on the market. At the forefront is the Belkin Wemo series of sockets. This device was the pioneer in the the smart socket space when it was first released in the US. In Australia we have been waiting for Belkin to release a compatible version of the Insight for over a year. Aside from the Insight the only other devices really available are the Efergy Ego and a number of Chinese smart sockets available on eBay.
After trawling through the eBay offerings I couldn’t find any that met my criteria (basically none of them provided any power consumption stats). So I went ahead and grabbed an Efergy Ego instead off TopBuy. At $59 AUD a pop the Energy Ego doesn’t break the bank but is it useful or just a gimmick?
Unlike previous reviews I’m not going to rate this product or really review it. This article is going to be more like a discussion. To help structure this discussion though I’m going to break it up into four parts:
- Form Factor;
- Application and Use; and
- My usual – Final Thoughts.
The Efergy Ego comes in a nice environmentally friendly looking box. The package looks great and when you open it up you see the Ego looking back at you. I’ve popped a pic of what you can expect to see below.
As you can see from the pic above the Ego is nice and narrow which is great. I plugged this unit into a number of different types of wall sockets and power boards. No matter which on I used I had no issues plugging in other power cords and power packs next to it.
The Ego unit itself is the usual vacuum formed plastic shell you would expect from a double adaptor or transformer. Its not sexy but it is functional and looks like it’ll last a fair amount of time no worries.
Setting up the Ego was dead easy. First – plug in the Ego into an unused socket. Then install the App on to your Android or Apple device (whoops did I forget to mention you are going to need one of these!). Next – start the App and pop in your WiFi Network credentials. The screenshot below is what saw on my iPhone.
Once you’ve whack in your password, press connect. At the same time your going to need to press the pair button on the Ego and then your off. If you have done everything right you should see the below after its setup.
Okay – once you get to this point you can then edit the switch to your hearts content – all you need to do is select the menu button on the top right and choose edit.
From there you’re all set.
Application and Use
Once the Ego is setup and you’ve plugged a couple of devices into it – then the fun starts. On the ‘Appliance’ start page you can cut power to Ego from the app at any time from anywhere. I tried this a few times using both WiFi and 4G. Its great fun to turn TV on and off when I am at work and the kids were watching at home…….but according to my wife this got old pretty fast…….its still fun though.
When you’re sick of playing with the on/off switch tap on the switch in the ‘Appliances’ page and it takes you straight to the Ego’s ‘Now’ page. I got a screen shot of it below.
Here you can see the current power output, power consumption from the last 24 hours and estimated power cost for the devices this Ego is tracking. To ensure you get an accurate ‘Estimated Cost’ value you need to enter your current power tariff into the Apps general settings. I grabbed mine of my latest power bill.
You can also access the ‘History’, ‘Time’ and ‘Standby’ pages from the ribbon menu on the ‘Now” page. The ‘History’ page seen above is interesting but not really that informative. What I did find it useful for however was making sure that the timers I set for the Ego were working.
Creating timers for the Ego was a straight forward process. All you need to do is select the ‘Add time’ and you get numerous options. The one I have created in the example above is a basic nighttime scheduled timer. One thing that can be a trap for beginners is how the timers are set. I first thought that I was setting the time period for when the timer was turning the Ego off. However, what you are actually setting is the time period the Ego will be energised for.
There are two other timer types you can set on the Ego for the Efergy App. The first is a ‘Random time’ which is great if you want a house to look like it is occupied when it actually isn’t. You can pick a period of time for the Ego to turn on and off three times. The countdown timer is pretty self explanatory – I can’t think of a situation when you would want to use this timer though.
After using the Efergy Ego for a month or so now I’m finding it pretty cool. With the timer application, I found the Ego was a set and forget process. After tracking a week of using the timer function versus a week of not using it, according to the Efergy App I would be saving $1.02 a week. This means I should pay for the device in just over a year.
I tried the Ego in two other sockets with various always powered devices around the house. Each time I got around a $1 a week saving. So for an outlay of about $180 AUD I could hopefully put a large dent in my power bill. As well as saving money the Ego makes me feel pretty good about doing something good about the environment.
Finally, I would recommend the Efergy Ego to my mates. Its easy to use and has some great benefits both environmentally and in regards to power bill savings. I’m looking to buy a few more and I recon they would make great presents.