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Feature Tour

The modlet's bread and butter is its Savings Plans feature. There are four ready-made templates, one for office occupied during the day and another for office unoccupied during the day and similiar ones for the home. Like all templates, they are there just to help make your life a little easier and require a little bit of customization to be exactly as you'd like them to be. I chose the Home unoccupied during the day. While not always true, the coffee maker is not used after the morning hours.

mymodlet.com Savings Plan templates
Figure 3: mymodlet.com Savings Plan templates

Figure 4 shows the template for Home Schedule One (home unoccupied during the day). Using the Advanced Controls button, it was relatively easy to delete the secondary schedule and set up the schedule for on from 5 AM to 9 AM. I was a little concerned as I looked at it because we do use the toaster past the morning hours. But the Finish Scheduling, Choose Appliances button allows you to remove one or both outlets from the schedule. So our coffee maker can be off while the toaster is still usable.

mymodlet.com Savings Plan Home summary
Figure 4: mymodlet.com Savings Plan Summary

The results in Figure 5 do not accurately reflect savings with this schedule because I set the plan start date as Jan 27, 2012, but actually set the plan up today. My thought is that it calculated power usage during those times, saw no difference, so reported no savings.

mymodlet.com Savings Plan Home unoccupied template
Figure 5: mymodlet.com Savings Plan summary

However, I may be giving the modlet too much credit. It may be that because the start date was in the past and it simply does not take those dates in to account. Regardless, you can see that total energy usage is reported, along with total dollars spent. Thinkeco provides some nice comparisons such as lbs of CO2 removed, gallons of fuel saved, number of bags popcorn popped, etc.

The thinkeco Android app is very nice. (Figure 6 combines all four screens into one image.) For simply checking quick status of the modlet, I found it more user-friendly than the web portal. I probably wouldn't be too inclined to adjust schedules on it, but for quick looks it worked well and seemed to be fairly well thought out.

thinkeco Android app
Figure 6: thinkeco Android app

As far as support of the product goes, I found it a bit strange that there was no support option within mymodlet.com where I would be accessing my modlet. However, there are Contact links on both themodlet.com and thinkecoinc.com that indicated support was available. I didn't have to contact support, so I don't know the extent of support that could be provided.

Closing Thoughts

I believe the thinkeco modlet has value, especially as more and more devices come in to the home and consume power 24/7. themodlet.com claims that the modlet typically pays for itself in about 6-12 months, but my coffee-maker experiment says that's very optimistic.

But what about if I plugged our Bang and Olufsen stereo and Logitech Squeezebox into it? I know the stereo takes about 20 W with the power switch on but nothing going on. I also know that the Squeezebox takes about 5 W when on (if I remember correctly).

The modlet costs about $49.99 before tax and shipping. So at $0.143 per kWh (Xcel Tier II billing of >500kWh per month), I would need to save about 350 kWh to get my investment back. At 25 W of constant draw, one hour equals 25 Wh, so it would take 40 hours to equal 1 kWh.

Since I would probably schedule the modlet to shut the stereo off from 9 PM to 9 AM, that's 12 hours of the day with the modlet saving power. So it would take 3.33 days to save 1 kWh (40 hours) and 1166 days or 3.2 years (!) to reach the 350 kWh break-even point.

This obviously could change with higher idle power draw, but most devices don't draw that much "phantom" power. A better target for power savings might be incandescent lights that tend to be carelessly left on. But with its outlet-based design, the modlet can't do anything for wall-switch-controlled lighting.

There are other products that let you monitor power consumption such as the Kill A Watt Wireless. But it's more expensive, isn't remotely accessible and doesn't have power scheduling. The Save A Watt does allow you to set schedules and is significantly less expensive, but all programming is at the device with no remote management.

The bottom line is that the modlet's value is probably more in its monitoring and remote access/control features than its energy cost savings. If you've been wanting to experiment with home energy monitoring and elementary control, the $50 modlet isn't a bad way to start. Just don't go looking for it to pay for itself anytime soon. And with availability only via BestBuy and direct from thinkeco, you won't find it discounted, either.

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