Product Review - Future Switch

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Product Review - Future Switch

Postby zzsstt » Thu Dec 24, 2009 12:59 pm

I bought a couple of "Future Switch" systems to test. The details can be found at http://www.futurerange.com.au/ but basically it comprises a battery powered "wireless" switch and a pair of sockets. Quite simply, the switch is mounted on a wall (it comes with sticky pads and screw holes for more secure mounting if required), the socket plugged in to a normal mains power socket and an appliance or a powerboard with several appliances are piggybacked in to it. When the switch is operated, all items connected via the socket are powered up or down. The idea is to remove the "standby" power usage.

There are other such systems available, all do a similar job but with different degrees of customisation available.

The Future Switch allows several sockets to be connected to a single switch. In the "starter set" is supplied a switch and two sockets, all pre-linked. Instruction are included to allow additional units to be linked together. A single switch can control an unlimited number of sockets, and each socket can be linked to up to 60 switches. This allows a fair degree of customisation, such that one (or more) switches can be used to control all the appliances in a room, or across an entire floor of a house, whilst another switch (or set of switches) controls another group of appliances. It is not included in the instructions, but the web page has the directions to tell a socket to forget all the switches it has been linked to.

The power consumption of each socket is stated as being 0.6W when "off" and 0.9W when "on". The difference is presumably because when "on" a red LED glows on the socket to indicate that power is being supplied. This means that for a low power MEPS certified power supply, the Future Switch may use as much or more overall power to control the device than it would use if simply left on standby, but for larger items (the uture Switch can handle 10 amps) or several items on a powerboard, there are savings to be made. Where used on a individual appliance, it would be sensible to check that appliance with a PowerMate to make sure that the 0.6/0.9W is indeed a worthwhile saving over the devices own standby power use.

In use, I found the Future Switch required some getting used to. The switch unit itself is a rocker switch, configured the same way as a standard power swich (i.e. push the bottow half to switch the socket ON, and the top to switch it OFF). Whilst this is totally standard, I found myself wanting to press the top half of the switch for ON... The switch itself is not marked on/off, but when the switch is activated it has a momentary LED to indicate the state of the circuit. This also seems counter-intuitive, as it displays from an "energy saving" point of view, so when the appliance is powered OFF the unit blinks green, and when the appliance is switched ON it blinks red. On the socket a red LED also indicates that power is being supplied. This usage of red/green is entirely opposite to any other use of those two colours, where normally RED would be off (or stop!) and green would be on (or go!). It just takes a bit of getting used to!

The switchs are reasonable in appearnace, not too plasticky. The sockets also look reasonably well made, but as a "piggy back" device that is nearly 50mm in depth, the entire unit with a plug in it starts to "hang out" from the wall a bit! This could cause problems if the power point is behind a TV unit, but in this case the Future Switch socket could always be used on the end of an extension cord.

The other issue is simply that because the system is not in general use, it confuses people:
"Why does the TV not come on when I use its remote?"
"Because the entire system is powered off by that switch on the wall."
"Oh! Why?"

The range of the remote is quite good, depending on walls and so forth as with any wireless system. I found one spot that involved a very oblique path through a concrete block wall and then through a metal rack, and it simply wouldn't work. Moving the socket to another power point 250mm away solved the problem!

Price wise the Future Switch varies a bit, around $50 to $60 for the starter kit. I bought mine from Greentopia, and their pricing was such that it was cheaper to buy a third starter kit than the two extra sockets that I needed.

I have the system configured in our small cottage with all the living room items (except the Austar box that needs to remain "on") on one switch, and all the kitchen items (coffee machine, microwave etc.) on another. As I leave the house, a press of both switches ensures that all those "standby" watts are removed, or at least reduced to the 0.6W that each Future Switch socket draws! It's certainly easier and quicker than having to check each device individually.

As a "final check", or where individual power sockets are hard to reach (behind TV units etc.) or on any other items with a large "standby" power draw, I think the Future Switch is a useful piece of equipment.
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Re: Product Review - Future Switch

Postby Tracker » Tue Mar 30, 2010 6:24 am

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BTW -- There are other similar systems on the market.

I have bought a couple of different ones from ALDI, when they had them on special.
Another popular one is the x10 system..

http://www.winplus.com.au/pdfs/Support/x10technicaldata.pdf
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Re: Product Review - Future Switch

Postby zzsstt » Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:40 am

Indeed there are similar systems, Jaycar sell something very similar.

X10 however is a far more complex and powerful system.

The future switch system (at least at present) consists of a self adhesive switch designed to be mounted on a wall, and a piggy back socket. Multiple sockets can be used with each switch, but that was about the limit of the system when I made my purchase.

X10 at it's most basic does the same thing, but the options are far more extensive. The last time I looked there were dedicated light fittings as well as GPO piggybacks, motor controllers, high current controllers, remote controls of various shapes and sizes and interfaces to allow a system to be controlled by a computer - and therefore potentially to be both automated and linked to the internet or phone network to provide "away from home" control. It is a system designed to enable whole house automation, albeit in an ugly "retro-fit" way compared to systems incorporated in the build, such as Clipsal's (massively powerful and expensive) C-Bus.

I have, in the past, considered X10. Every time, however, I have eventually decided that really I can live without it. The Future Switch appealed because it was a simple solution to a simple problem - I wanted to be able to make sure that a number of small appliances that use standby power were switched off when I went to bed or left the house. By mounting a Future Switch "switch" next to the doorway, and employing a small number of piggy-backs, I can achieve this aim in a simple and straightforward way. Whilst this could equally be achieved with X10, to be honest I am not sure that once I embarked on that route I would not end up with my entire house being operated by remote control, at great expense, for no good reason, and probably using more power than it did to start with!! When I built my house I did a lot of research and made a decision not to use C-Bus or whole house automation, because the gains were an utterly unnecessary luxury, whilst the cost (financial, resource and ongoing power) were large. The Future Switch (or a similar device) on the other hand, seems a suitable product that allows the "final exit" shutdown of those stand-by devices without any significant cost or power usage.
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Re: Product Review - Future Switch

Postby Tracker » Tue Mar 30, 2010 7:55 am

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zzsstt wrote:The future switch system (at least at present) consists of a self adhesive switch designed to be mounted on a wall, and a piggy back socket. Multiple sockets can be used with each switch, but that was about the limit of the system when I made my purchase.


You do have a point.. the simple concept is often the best.

Finding the TV remote, is a big enuf problem, let alone looking for a tiny X10 remote.

I did go the other way, by using a sensing-power board, that when the main appliance (TV) is turned off, all the sound gear also powers off. That to me make better sense, as I don't have to ever remember to "Flick the Switch"
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Re: Product Review - Future Switch

Postby bpratt » Tue Mar 30, 2010 8:59 am

Tracker wrote:.

I did go the other way, by using a sensing-power board, that when the main appliance (TV) is turned off, all the sound gear also powers off. That to me make better sense, as I don't have to ever remember to "Flick the Switch"


Yes, that makes things a whole lot easier by the sounds of it.... turn off the biggest sucker of power, and the other components get the power removed automatically... just have to ensure that your PVR is not plugged in to one of those boards and you're right! :)

I don't suppose you have some links or more details on such powerboards ?
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Re: Product Review - Future Switch

Postby Bthree » Tue Mar 30, 2010 1:22 pm

I have a box of X10 modules, remotes and all the bits that make it work including PC interface left over from a previous home which has sat idle for a while.
Decided to have a play when I got my solat PV system in an attempt to reduce those phantom loads.
Unfortunately I came across two major problems.....

X10 works by transmitting a 120khz signal through the mains cabling system of the house. New homes have ELCB's earth leakage circuit breakers on most circuits and they act as a large attenuator for 120khz not allowing the signal to pass from one circuit to another or indeed not too far from one power point, light fitting to another.

Most control modules consume approx 5 watt (all day) this adds up and each remote or sensor has AA or AAA batteries which don't last all the long

Gave up the idea as a failure

PS anyone want to try they can have all the stuff, catch is postage costs = high
Network = Powercor .. Retailer = Origin .. Installed Christmas 2008
Latronics PV-1200 feed by 8xTrina TSM DC-01 .. 170watt = 1360watts DC in .. 1096watts AC out .. 5+years later 990watts ac out
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Re: Product Review - Future Switch

Postby zzsstt » Tue Mar 30, 2010 4:59 pm

bpratt wrote:Yes, that makes things a whole lot easier by the sounds of it.... turn off the biggest sucker of power, and the other components get the power removed automatically... just have to ensure that your PVR is not plugged in to one of those boards and you're right! :)

I don't suppose you have some links or more details on such powerboards ?


These devices are a great idea, if they are implemented correctly. Unfortunately I tested one (sorry, I don't remember which brand and it has long since been "retired") that used more power 24x7 than the four or five plug-pack PSU's that it was supposed to be switching off. Any such device from a reputable suppliers should (I would have thought) specify it's own consumption, which can then be compared to the standby consumption of the switched devices.

The latest plug-pack PSU's and associated devices (for example computer related accessories) have minimal consumption on standby, so any automatic switching system (including the Future Switch and similar products) has to be VERY efficient to make any reduction! Older devices use more power, but then the question is whether it's better to simply replace the entire device (or at least the PSU), thus saving "operating" power as well as "standby"........
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Re: Product Review - Future Switch

Postby synergie7 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 2:31 pm

Hi

I was surprised that the "Future Switch" remote socket would take 0.6W when in standby.

Looking inside these sorts of units they all seem to contain a capacitive power supply which could be tailored to just be able to supply the max power needed to energise the relay (which isn't going to be very much

The 433Mhz reciver would take less than 1mA and the generic decoder IC's also take very little power i.e also less than 1mA.
I've measured the power taken by a wirless door bell unit, and its only 0.3mA, and it does the same job in standby.
This equates to about 1.5 milli Watts in standby.

However the relays in these units will need about 75mA, so the power required when the socket is on, will be something like 0.375W.

All I can guess at the moment is that the power supply circuit in the Future switch isn't designed with maximum efficiency in mind, and is perhaps capable of supplying power power than is necessary to the internal circuits.
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Re: Product Review - Future Switch

Postby offgridQLD » Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:34 pm

I played with the x10 units a while back. Like others have mentioned if your trying to reduce standby consumption by hitting one button and having all phantom loads switched off x10 isn't that good. The units often consume more power in than the phantom load they are switching off . Just hold you hand over one after its been switched off for a few hrs and feel how hot it is...wasted energy.

Most modern appliances have very good standby consumption in most cases the same or less than a remote switching plug.

Another story about home automation. We attended my wifes work xmass party this year. It was held at her managers home. He had just purchased a very expensive home automation package. The kind with a 10" full color touch screen controlling lighting,tv, music, Internet, security, garden watering the lot. Anyhow he had music playing through it and speakers throughout the house ceiling.

Then time came to give a end of year speech . So he went to his fancy screen on the wall and started pressing icons to get to the volume screen that took 10 or 20 seconds then he tried sliding the volume icon and there was a lag and the music volume didn't change . Everyone watching on as he franticly struggled with the touch screen. Then there was a small changed in volume but not much. He then had to go get his ipad mumbling something about how it is less laggy then the main touch screen and works better. So 2 min later we had the music turned off. :roll:

It made me thing of my simple system at home that looks just as elegant but consisting of a 10 year old Yamaha receiver sitting in a book shelf along side my living room. It would have taken me less than 10 seconds to walk over and twist the generously sized volume knob to the left and the volume would be off. Not to mention anyone in the room could have turned it down for me as its very self explanatory and intuitive:D

I do like my gadgets and I have my pc running through my TV-stereo. that said keeping things simple is always nice.The elegance of a simple light switch at the door hasn't changed in a long time :D

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