Idea: Powerline-networked Outlets/Switches

Power Outlet Cropped

With the advent of powerline LAN from various manufacturers for a steadily decreasing price, designing network-connected products becomes much easier. Once the price of hardware for powerline networking drops due to wide acceptance, some standard “dumb” appliances and pieces of hardware could be easily and cheaply networked, allowing for a “home automation” of sorts, such as lightswitches and power outlets.

We already have twittering “tweet-a-watts,” but powerline networking could extend this functionality and add control to every switch and outlet in one’s house. Just think–a house having all of its outlets and switches networked would be fully customizable, controllable, and monitorable. A homeowner could see power usage on a per-outlet (or even per-plug!) basis, which could make saving electricity much easier. In addition, power outlets and switches could be actively controlled over the network, allowing a computer to regulate power savings by, let’s say turning off or dimming a light, completely autonomously.

Despite many utility providers beginning to deploy “smart meters” (meters that let report, and often let you see, your power usage), monitoring power on a per-outlet basis still has great advantages. The “smart meter” can only report the energy usage of an entire household, and homeowners must unplug devices and check their energy usage monitor to determine how much power a device is using. With networked outlets and switches, users could see power usage on a per-outlet basis on a single screen, live. Networked outlets and switches could provide crucial energy-saving information to homeowners, saving them money and saving the earth from pollution.

Image Credit: / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Ethan is a computer engineer and open source hardware/software developer from Michigan. He enjoys AVR and linux development, photography, mountain biking, and drinking significant amounts of home-roasted coffee. Find out more at

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