Review: the Belkin “Conserve Insight”

Photo from Belkin's Conserve Insight webpage.

By Wilson McNeary

Christmas morning, I opened my gifts, only to find that my family had given me a small device used to monitor energy consumption of electronic appliances: the Belkin “Conserve Insight”.  To most my age, I assume this would be a rather strange gift to pull out of the box; one of those things that the slightly off-kilter great aunt would get you as an alternative to her yearly tube sock bestowal.  However, I was quite excited about this gift.  I had been eager to evaluate how much energy is consumed by the devices I use on a daily basis, and this little guy was going to let me do just that.

The Conserve Insight consists of a small screen connected to a plug/outlet unit.  In order to use it, you simply plug the Insight into a wall outlet, and then plug the device you want to measure into the outlet side of the Insight.  The screen will automatically turn on, giving you a reading on how many Watts of power your device is consuming in its current state.  Underneath the screen there are 3 buttons that let you toggle between measurements the Insight takes: power usage, operating cost over time, and carbon dioxide emissions over time.  The operating cost is calculated using your utility company’s cost per Kilowatt-hour and the wattage your device is consuming at the time of the measurement.  The CO2 released over time is calculated in a similar manner, only a “preset CO2 conversion factor based on averages for your geographic region” (sounds a little vague, eh?) is used by the Insight.  Both the operating cost and CO2 estimations can be given on the basis of a month (30 days) or a year (365 days).

If only had his gift before Christmas, we could have measured the energy use of Columbia's Magic Tree.

I decided that the best device to evaluate the Conserve Insight on first would be my laptop, since it is probably the electronic that I use most.  Upon connecting everything, I let the device go to work.  The Insight will give an initial reading for each of its categories; however, I decided to hold off on recording the measurements for a bit.  After 45 minutes, the Insight goes into “Average Mode,” which gives a more accurate reading for its time-dependent measurements, since it accounts for the device being powered off or in sleep mode.  I waited a few hours (using the computer intermittently and keeping it in sleep mode the rest of the time), and then checked to see what the Insight could tell me.

  • Wattage: 20.1 W
  • Monthly/Yearly operating cost: $1.18/$14.44
  • Monthly/Yearly CO2 emissions: 12.3 lb/150 lb

I attempted to find accepted power consumption values for my specific laptop on the Internet so I could have something to compare the Insight’s numbers to; unfortunately, such information doesn’t seem to be readily available.  Regardless, the Conserve Insight is probably as accurate a power monitoring device one could expect for the price ($22.98 on Amazon).  Even though its CO2 estimation technique seems a bit sketchy, I assume that this Belkin product can measure wattage with some reliability since it doesn’t take particularly advanced technology to make such a measurement.  The operating cost estimation merely involves it doing the math for you based on the wattage, so the accuracy of the power measurement should follow through.  All in all, I feel that this will be a convenient tool to have around so that I can get a general idea of how much power my electronic devices consume, and I would recommend it to anyone else who has a similar interest.

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