Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Electronics and appliances waste a lot of energy when they’re plugged in but not being used. There’s even a term for all that waste—“vampire power.” A home entertainment center in standby mode, for example, can draw as much electricity as a refrigerator.

A range of new devices offer to help you manage this problem. The latest is ThinkEco’s Modlet, a gizmo little bigger than a “wall wart”-style plug that packs enough brains to continuously monitor the energy usage of any device plugged into it. ThinkEco claims the Modlet can reduce a household’s overall energy consumption by 6 to 10 percent.

Via an interface on a desktop computer or mobile device, a homeowner can shut off Modlet-connected devices and set on-off schedules for them. The devices are controlled wirelessly through a short-range wireless standard called ZigBee that’s designed for home automation.

A Modlet communicates with a user’s computer wirelessly, through a USB dongle, doesn’t require a smart meter, and can operate independently of a computer. It will arrive in big-box stores and a major online retailer sometime in October.

Its functionality and price—$45 for a Modlet, or $50 for a Modlet and USB connector—make the Modlet a hybrid between full-on home automation and a simple timer switch.

Simpler devices already on the market, such as Belkin’s Conserve, consist of power strips and individual plugs that can be switched off manually (or put on a timer) in order to stop devices from drawing power when they don’t need it.

General Electric is rolling out a more sophisticated energy-management system, in which a device called the Nucleus acts as the hub of a home’s energy-management features. The Nucleus is a three- by four-inch computer that plugs into any wall outlet. It can connect wirelessly with a home’s smart meter (if it has one), and with compatible appliances, providing a user with the same information that utility companies receive.

0 comments about this story. Start the discussion »

Credit: ThinkEco

Tagged: Energy

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me