The Belkin Insight is an external power outlet and switch. It has a suggested list price (in the US) of $49.99.
A less expensive but similar switch, without energy monitoring is available from Belkin for $10 less. We’ve also reviewed the WeMo Switch with Motion Sensor, elsewhere on this site.
WeMo Insight Overview:
The WeMo Insight is very available – from Amazon and other online resellers to big box houses like Best Buy, even the Apple store. Or more simply stated: If you want one, they sure are easy to find! Prices seem to vary, but most places are right there at the $49.99 at this time.
Plug it in, and it lets you power on and off any device plugged into it, but in addition, it let’s you monitor power consumption, estimate monthly costs of whatever device you have plugged into it. The Insight accepts standard 3 prong US AC power cords, and requires a three prong outlet to plug it into. It will measure power consumption and control the power of both 3 prong (grounded) devices, and two prong ones as well. You can control it “in-house” over your Wifi network, but it will also work remotely.
Monitoring energy consumption is pretty cool, (and very “in” these days), and allows us to understand our usage and make changes when desired, but for most people monitoring is just an extra fringe benefit. The idea behind the Insight and other smart switches is that they allow you to control some pretty dumb equipment. You can plug in a lamp, or a coffee maker, or any other appliance that you would like to control remotely, or have turn on/off at predetermined times or under certain circumstances.
I started out, several years ago (before SmarterHomeAutomation), owning the original Insight outlet (I think it was called that, back then). That version wasn’t smart – no internet. You plugged it into the wall, then you plugged a device into it, and it read out your power consumption on its attached small LCD display.
The current Insight 2, way smarter! I can access it over my wifi with the same Belkin App that I use for their light switches, motion sensors, etc. I can also access it from the internet, when I’m remote. Like other WeMo devices it can be controlled by IFTTT (discussed later). There is also a relationship between WeMo and Samsung’s SmartThings Hub, a Z-Wave controller. I happen to be reviewing one of those at the moment as well. The short version would be that you can control the Insight using the SmartThings app instead of the WeMo one.
Amazon’s Echo (another device I am currently reviewing) also works with WeMo, so I can control the off/on capabilities of the switch via voice command with the Echo.
What I’m hoping for, but hasn’t happened (yet?) is Apple HomeKit support. That would allow us Apple Siri users, to control WeMo switches, outlets, etc, by voice. But, back to the Insight:
With this Insight switch I can turn power on and off, from the App, which will, of course, power on or off whatever is plugged into it. And I can monitor energy consumption.
When monitoring energy consumption the Insight will tell you (in the app) how much power it is currently feeding to its outlet.
It will also keep tabs as to how much power is used on a monthly basis. You can also see how much that power is costing you per month, and today.
That can be informative, useful and for some, fun. For a while I had plugged into it a small refrigerator I use for cold drinks in my home theater. That’s where the average monthly consumption comes in. Obviously a “fridge” alternates between little/no power consumption, to full power when “running”. The results the WeMo Insight measured, as it turns out, didn’t differ significantly from the official cost of operation numbers provided by the manufacturer as required by law. You know, that yellow sticker found on all new refrigerators, many other appliances, that states something like: “This device uses $37 a year. Similar products use $26 – $59 a year”).
As I’m always reviewing new smart lighting, that’s where I find the Insight most useful. For example, I recently reviewed the Lightify GardenSpot Mini RGB lighting. I wanted to have some idea of how much “juice” that string of lights draws depending on the color and brightness selected.
The Insight proved very helpful with the GardenSpot lighting. I was able to determine that even when doing white light at maximum, power consumption did not exceed 10 watts. But then, color is what those lights are all about, so with further playing with different colors I’ve discovered that even at full brightness, colors are drawing only 3-6 watts, and considering I never need full brightness, the Insight is normally telling me that I’m drawing 3 watts or less.
Effectively Using the Energy Consumption Info You Learn
Of course to know how much you are spending for electricity for a particular device, you need to know not just the power consumption, but what you pay for your electric, in terms of kilowatt hours.
Those government calculations are based on $.12 per KW although the national average is about $.13 right now. California, NY, NJ along with 7 other states are all above $.155.
Incremental costs above a very low basic tier, can get far higher.
Incremental top tier costs where I live, run around $.35 per KW so that’s what I plugged into the App to use for cost comparisons, assuming that many non critical devices are incremental. (For example, we don’t need every outside light we have, or I don’t desperately need that home theater refrigerator.) I figure any device we look at with the goal of reducing consumption should be figured at the top tier pricing we’re paying. (I would figure my main refrigerator at the lower cost per kw.) Thanks to using a high realistic cost, I was able to report to our readers that the Lightify – at $.35 looks to cost less than $4.00 a year under typical use of about 6 hours a day, 365 days a year. If I bought into the official $.12 cost, that Lightify light setup would cost no more than $1-$2 a year. Nice to know!