A U.S. company is planning to offer consumers a wireless device which will automatically turn off appliances when they're not in use.

ThinkEco Inc. of New York said the "modlet" (or modern outlet) can save 10 per cent on an electricity bill, depending on the types of appliances and how much the modlets are used.

"We’ve seen plenty of people who have been able to save more," the company said.

The device, which looks like a wall socket, plugs into a regular socket and then consumers plug their appliances into the modlet. It monitors electricity use, then sends the consumer's computer a plan to turn off power to appliances which are typically not in use during certain hours.

thinkeco-plugin

ThinkEco's modlet can save 10 per cent on an electricity bill, the company says. ((ThinkEco))

If the plan is acceptable, the user hits OK and  the modlet executes the plan. Consumers can program their own plan, and easily override or change it.

The modlet is expected to launch in the spring in the U.S. for $50. The company has applied for approval in Canada and hopes to launch here at the same time, a spokeswoman said.

Targets phantom power use

Appliances that are plugged in but not in use continue to draw power. The Ontario Power Authority said devices such as computers, printers and VCRs can account for 15 per cent of a home's annual electricity usage. But a poll conducted for the agency last year suggested that three out of four Ontario residents weren't aware of the power loss.

A household consuming 1,000 kilowatt hours a month could be paying up to $100 a year for what amounts to phantom power, the OPA said.

ThinkEco is already working with large companies to introduce the modlet and recently reached an agreement with the utility Con Edison to use the modlet with window air conditioners.

There are alternatives to the modlet. Some consumers are open to plugging appliances into power bars with automatic shutoff, the Ontario Power Authority said, and P3 International sells the Kill-A-Watt, which monitors usage.