Product Review: Energy Saving Socket

Cut phantom power by plugging cell phones and gadgets into an energy-saving power timer

Item Tested Conserve Socket Power Timer
Company Belkin
Availability $9.99 at Best Buy

The Claim 

The energy used by Canadian households more than doubled between 1990 and 2007 to power our ever-growing collections of electronics and small appliances. Look around: you probably have up to 40 plug-in devices that are drawing power even when they’re switched off. Whatever you call it — phantom power, idle current, vampire load, wall warts — the Conserve Socket Power Timer promises to save energy by cutting power to a device after 30 minutes to 6 hours.

How does it work 

Plug your coffee maker, cell phone recharger, camera or fan into this device, which fits into an electrical socket. Choose a time interval you want the item to be powered — 30 minutes, 3 hours or 6 hours — and press start. The device shuts down automatically after the selected time.

What’s great:

  • Saves energy
    How many times have you plugged in a charger at bedtime, knowing it will only require a few hours to be juiced up? This device shuts off automatically after the time expires and it draws no power until you press start.
  • Safe
    Choose the half-hour setting to reduce fire hazards from hot-coil items like hair and clothing irons, space heaters, soldering irons, toaster ovens and coffeemakers.
  • Easy to use
    With one switch and one button, a child could master this one.
  • Low-voltage
    When in use, it draws 0.18 watts from a low-voltage LED light.
  • Multipurpose
    Use it with appliances and devices in any indoor room (not safe for outdoors). Choose 3 hours for mobile phones, MP3 players and cameras. Select 6 hours to recharge larger devices like a handheld vacuum or cordless drill.

What’s not so great

  • Too few settings
    It would be great if this came with a larger selection of time intervals.
  • One at a time
    Each Power Timer accepts only one plug, so you can’t charge multiple items at once (though Belkin makes surge protectors and charging stations that do).
  • Packaging
    Wish they’d used FSC-certified or post-consumer recycled cardboard in the packaging — and less of it wouldn’t hurt either.