Author Topic: Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?  (Read 779 times)

thenewguy

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Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?
« on: January 02, 2019, 02:34:24 PM »
Long story short: my home theater's subwoofer uses 10w when in standby mode, and I'm looking for a way to automatically cut that off when it's not needed.

In years past I've used a smart power strip to completely cut power to it, but due to the way the room is laid out in our current house that's not a feasible option (audio signal is sent via a 50' cable run through walls).

I know there are relatively inexpensive smart outlets out there, but they all seem to require a smartphone app (manual or schedule based switching) and/or a home automation hub (Smartthings, Wink, etc...). What I'd envision is a control/switched pair of smart outlets that function essentially like a smart power strip, where the switched is turned on/off depending on current flowing through the control. I haven't found anything like that yet, but perhaps I'm searching using the wrong terms. Does such a thing exist? Any other suggestions to accomplish the same thing?

dhc

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Re: Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2019, 05:10:26 PM »
Sounds like this is basically what you're asking: https://www.reddit.com/r/homeautomation/comments/37sw8r/control_one_outlet_based_on_power_to_another/


If I'm reading the thread correctly, you actually need two smart outlets, plus a hub to control them (think of all 3 as acting together the way your smart power strip used to). I'd imagine this sort of thing is possible to wire directly as well if both outlets are on the same circuit (no smartness involved), although I'm not sure if that would meet code, and as expensive as smart stuff seems to be, it's probably not any more than an electrician's time.

JLee

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Re: Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?
« Reply #2 on: January 02, 2019, 05:58:58 PM »
It's not as automatic as you'd like, but I use these to control floor lamps and they're fantastic.   https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DQELHBS/

Prairie Stash

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Re: Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2019, 01:26:23 PM »
The old approach is to put the plug on a timer. It will cut power off completely for whatever time you are normally not home/not using it. So if you don't watch bewtween 2AM and 5PM, then you have the power automatically cut. It automatically goes on between 5PM until 2AM.

Its not elegant, but its cheap and works.

Looking at the economics; you use 10W/hour*8760 hours/year = 87.6KWhr/year assuming all standby. At $0.15/kwh, thats a potential $13.14 in power savings. A digital timer should cost around $10-15, the ROI is about 2 years if you program it to be off for 12 hours/day.

As an aside, the digital timers consume less power then mechanical timers. About 0.5W compared to 1.5-2W.
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/energy/2015/05/150507-home-energy-hogs-vampires-use-electricity-idle-loads/
"Plug them into a timer. A digital timer is better than a mechanical one because digital timers typically have a lower standby load."

The SmartThing Hub uses 3W, the smart outlets are around 0.5W (check the model). An automated system will save power but not as much as a simple digital timer.

Will a digital timer work?

HipGnosis

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Re: Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2019, 01:50:25 PM »
It sounds like IFTTT (if this, then that) is exactly what you're seeking.
It's a smart device protocol.  Many brands of smart devices work with it, but not all.
Your 'this' is turning on the stereo, and the 'that' you want is: apply power to the sub-woofer (some distance away).
I got a sengled smart starter kit for Xmas; hub and two dimmable LED bulbs.  They work with it.  But I don't recommend sengled, due to their terrible documentation and support.

thenewguy

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Re: Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2019, 01:58:11 PM »
Sounds like this is basically what you're asking: https://www.reddit.com/r/homeautomation/comments/37sw8r/control_one_outlet_based_on_power_to_another/


If I'm reading the thread correctly, you actually need two smart outlets, plus a hub to control them (think of all 3 as acting together the way your smart power strip used to). I'd imagine this sort of thing is possible to wire directly as well if both outlets are on the same circuit (no smartness involved), although I'm not sure if that would meet code, and as expensive as smart stuff seems to be, it's probably not any more than an electrician's time.


It's not as automatic as you'd like, but I use these to control floor lamps and they're fantastic.   https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DQELHBS/

It looks like any of these routes would allow me to switch two outlets in unison... I'd turn on both the A/V receiver and the sub by a single wall switch, signal to the hub, or by the outlet's remote control. I'd prefer that the A/V receiver stay unswitched though, so it (and ultimately the sub) can be turned on and off by the same remote control I use for the rest of the functions.

The old approach is to put the plug on a timer. It will cut power off completely for whatever time you are normally not home/not using it. So if you don't watch bewtween 2AM and 5PM, then you have the power automatically cut. It automatically goes on between 5PM until 2AM.

Its not elegant, but its cheap and works.

Looking at the economics; you use 10W/hour*8760 hours/year = 87.6KWhr/year assuming all standby. At $0.15/kwh, thats a potential $13.14 in power savings. A digital timer should cost around $10-15, the ROI is about 2 years if you program it to be off for 12 hours/day.

As an aside, the digital timers consume less power then mechanical timers. About 0.5W compared to 1.5-2W.
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/energy/2015/05/150507-home-energy-hogs-vampires-use-electricity-idle-loads/
"Plug them into a timer. A digital timer is better than a mechanical one because digital timers typically have a lower standby load."

The SmartThing Hub uses 3W, the smart outlets are around 0.5W (check the model). An automated system will save power but not as much as a simple digital timer.

Will a digital timer work?

That hadn't even crossed my mind, but great idea! I had a mechanical timer already sitting in the garage (payback time = instant!), and the Kill-a-watt says it actually only uses 0.6 watts. I went ahead and hooked that up for the time being (possibly indefinitely).

It sounds like IFTTT (if this, then that) is exactly what you're seeking.
It's a smart device protocol.  Many brands of smart devices work with it, but not all.
Your 'this' is turning on the stereo, and the 'that' you want is: apply power to the sub-woofer (some distance away).
I got a sengled smart starter kit for Xmas; hub and two dimmable LED bulbs.  They work with it.  But I don't recommend sengled, due to their terrible documentation and support.

I have come across IFTTT while searching and comparing products. In my limited understanding, the question still remains though - how does the hub know that the A/V receiver has been turned on (or what's the 'this' in IFTTT)? Is there an IFTTT device that can define an event when the A/V receiver's power consumption rises above some threshold?


Perhaps I should add that I'm already controlling the A/V receiver, Roku, and TV with a Logitech Harmony Hub. It's capable of sending IR and WiFi signals (and appears that it can respond to but not trigger IFTTT events), but smart outlets and switches (even WiFi based ones) are conspicuously absent from the list of natively supported devices. For that, Logitech wants you to buy their $90 Hub Extender, which will then interface with Z-wave or zigbee devices. I believe that would accomplish what I have in mind, but the timer is far more mustachian :-).

JLee

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Re: Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2019, 10:10:02 AM »
It looks like any of these routes would allow me to switch two outlets in unison... I'd turn on both the A/V receiver and the sub by a single wall switch, signal to the hub, or by the outlet's remote control. I'd prefer that the A/V receiver stay unswitched though, so it (and ultimately the sub) can be turned on and off by the same remote control I use for the rest of the functions.

The remote kit I have came with five outlets and two remotes that each have five on/off buttons, so you can switch all five independently. I have two floor lamps on individual circuits and my TV on another (it's a smart TV that sometimes goes stupid and power cycling fixes it, so that's way easier than unplugging it).

Prairie Stash

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Re: Is a smart outlet what I'm looking for?
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2019, 08:46:32 AM »
I went home and checked my electric timers, thanks to your prompting. The mechanical style (with the pins) was at 2.6W, the digital was at 0.5W. Then I got into checking all the random really low stuff in my house, my microwave was at 3.5W, my TV was at 1W. It seems funny to me that the microwave is higher.

Running the numbers, if I put the microwave on a timer for 8 hours (overnght), I'll save $1.40 with the timer that is currently sitting on a shelf, retail value is about $10 for the timer. In my location that also saves 5.3 kg of CO2/year (out of 4000 kg that my house currently consumes).

Admitttedly small numbers, but I like calculating random stuff.