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Tune Out Turn Off Drop In: Belkin Conserve

August 31st, 2009 at 12:00 AM by

I have a big pile of media equipment under my TV, so when Dieter suggested that someone try out the Belkin Conserve, I got all excited and started running around the house plugging random things into holes. Turtle-y Media CenterThe Conserve is designed to force electronic devices – which usually continue to slurp and gargle power even when they’re off – to truly dislodge and leave the power in the wall where it belongs. We have one 26” Samsung flat-screen TV, as well as an Apple TV, an electric sheep, and five video game consoles (Wii, PS2, N64, Super NES and NES), which means we have ample equipment with which to test out the Conserve.

Hardware

The Conserve includes an 8-outlet (a 10-outlet model is also available) remote-controllable surge protector with a roughly four-foot power cable and detachable cable guide along with the requisite remote switch with a wall mount.Mounted Surge Protector The remote switch comes with the always popular and widely adored A23 (12V) alkaline battery included.

Two of the eight outlets on the Conserve are unstoppable like the Hulk and have two always lit-up green LEDs next to them to make their unstoppableness extra obvious, though apparently these will turn off if the surge protector is overloaded and the circuit breaker needs to be reset (on the side of the surge protector near the cable). The remaining six outlets are switchable and have one green LED that indicates if they are enabled, as well as a manual override button that will tell the remote to shove-off, cause it won’t stand for this lollygagging—just in case, say, your remote’s A23 battery dies and you don’t have any replacements. There is also a better-dead-than-red LED that indicates if the unit is properly grounded in communist propaganda (I tested it by plugging the surge protector into an old outlet-multiplier whose ground-wiring I had removed). And a final feature that I appreciated is the back of the surge protector can be secured to a wall via rear mounting holes (screws not included).

The remote switch has a large rocker-switch labelled “I” (on) and “O” (off). A green LED shows up through the white plastic whenever the switch is used; it also serves to indicate when the A23 alkaline diaper needs changing. The remote switch wall mount does include adhesive tape on the back and has mounting holes as well (again, screws not included). Stick it to the seat of your La-Z-Boy recliner and you won’t even have to use your hands.

Remote Control

To disable the switchable outlets, simply switch the remote to “O” while making the same shape with your mouth (that’s right, give it your “O” face!). The green light on the remote should make with the blinky too.Remote Switch

As with many radio-controlled devices, the Conserve has a channel setting that needs to match on both the remote switch and the surge protector. There are three dip-switches that offer up to 8 kinky channel combinations. In this way you can configure one or more remotes in the same building to control one or more surge protectors within range (up to 60 feet, depending on interference). By default, all dip-switches are off, which you’ll want to change if you don’t want other people with the same product switching off your equipment at random.

Occasionally, the friggin’ surge protector will fail to receive the command from the remote switch. I haven’t tried to experiment with other channels to see if it improves the reception, ’cause that sounds like work and it ain’t gonna happen. I don’t even want to think about how annoying this would be if the same remote was being used to turn off multiple surge protectors.

Power Management

When the remote switch is in the off position, the Conserve effectively bludgeons the power to the switched ports, as advertised. The surge protector, itself, takes less than a watt when plugged in. “Speak softly and carry a big stick”, as they say at the Teddy Bears’ Picnic.Belkin + Kill-A-Watt

Most of my electronic devices have off-modes that are pretty effective (I only found out that I could turn off standy-wireless mode on the Wii while writing this review—it saves 10 watts of instantaneous power!). Still, I often forget or am too drunk to turn off the TV, the Apple TV, the sheep, or the consoles, and now this one-switch-to-rule-them-all can greatly simplify saving this power, not to mention, I can place the remote switch right next to our light switch. Easy-peasy.

The Conserve is a Useful and Well-designed Product, but You Probably Won’t See a Difference on your Power Bill…

The Conserve saves power depending on how many of your devices either don’t turn off or have crappy low-power modes. If your devices don’t waste much power, it can still add convenience by consolidating each of the devices’ off buttons into one big happy switch that can easily be manipulated with any sufficiently dexterous posterior.

If you start calculating where most of your power bill comes from, you will likely find that the devices that you would use the Conserve with only account for maybe 10% of your total power bill. Most of your power bill comes from making dirty things clean, cold people warm, hot people cool, cool food products hot, room-temperature food products cold, and poor people into tasty meat-pies. As a result, a small amount of the power that is wasted by your electronic devices will be conserved, but it’s likely that the difference on your power bill will be… er, Conserve(TM)-ative. I still expect the Conserve will pay for itself in a couple years, but that’s about it.

I’m happy with the Conserve, because it simplifies my device management, saves a little power, keeps my teeth white, and more-or-less pays for itself in the process. And since it is thoughtfully designed, I don’t find myself wondering: “Will It Blend?” …until just now, that is.

…And Ultimately a Hack

The biggest need I see, after spending some time with the Conserve, is for better power management infrastructure. There is no reason our standard residential power equipment can’t do much, much more for us:

  1. Give us a constant and historical readout of power usage by circuit
  2. Give switchable and always on ports for each circuit (i.e. top outlet is always on, bottom outlet is switchable)
  3. Work with one or more remote controls to switch off one or more preselected circuits
  4. Interface with computers, so as to be convenient to monitor and track

Ultimately, the Conserve is a hack that is only necessary because there is so little innovation in residential infrastructure. But like all hacks, it gives us something that is better than we had, and gives us a hint of what we could have. In this case, it helps us to develop a clearer vision for wholesome, all-American, in-home power management.

7 responses to “Tune Out Turn Off Drop In: Belkin Conserve”

  1. Min Says:

    P.S. Our cords are also a lot more tidy with this new solution, which gave us more room inside the shelf.

  2. Hugh Says:

    Whoa! I need to study this whole concept a bit. Looks interesting. Get back to ‘ya.

  3. Dieter Says:

    Bitchin; I love that switch, it’s beautiful!

  4. Min Says:

    What about my film reels? Do you like my film reels?

    (Though, personally I feel it looks a bit naked.)

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