I woke up from a nap in a fit of terror, realising mid-dream that I left the stove on for five hours.
A public utility waste of that degree is a rare occurrence in my home, but I do tend to leave shit on: lights in closets, electric kettles, lamps in the kitchen, towel warmers, irons, fans, vaporisers, iPod docks, rice cookers, heaters and more. Sometimes these things - like ceiling lights - are controlled by wall switches, and I just have to learn to be more conscientious or make little signs for myself or whatever. But if something's plugged into outlets, look out. I've got Belkin Conserve Sockets fighting the good fight all over my house. Simple concept: The socket plugs in between the wall and your gadget; tap the button on top of the plug to start the power flow. After a user-selectable 30 minutes, three hours or six hours, the thing shuts off. Boom.
It has particular utility for things I need on for longer than a few minutes and less than a full day - basically the stuff I need on for that perfect zone of duration where forgetting about them is probable. There's the dehumidifier I use to speed the drying of my wetsuit in the garage and the towel warmer I flip on before surf sessions. The Conserve is also good things that I would ordinarily unplug after using to avoid vampiric draw. Like the Sonos music systems in have in spare rooms - I don't use them very much, but they use about five watts an hour while sleeping. I've got these things on conserve timers too, set to six hours each. The lamp over my food prep area in the kitchen is only on for 30 minutes.
There's no display to show how much time is left but I prefer it this way for the sake of simplicity and cost. I only need to know that, eventually, whatever I've got plugged into it will be off. But sometimes I wish the device was a bit more complex: Tapping the switch again restarts the timer, but I almost wish it would shut off the device entirely - once the Conserve is started, it has to run down its clock or be unplugged before it is shut it off.
If you never leave your stuff on by accident, you may not even understand why the Conserve Socket exists; My need for the conserve is tied up with my inability to break my bad habits. But the sense of security that comes with knowing there's less I can do to screw up my electric bill is certainly worth my $US10. (Even if saving that much in electricity costs will take a few years, it's is the principle that counts.)
Home Mod is all about the biggest gadget any of us will ever hack.