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First Look: Efergy smart energy switch

The Efergy EGO switch combines three functions into one plug-in switch. It’s a smart switch, an energy monitor, and a “standby” power saver, all controlled through an iOS or Android smartphone app.

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Installing an EGO switch is simple. It plugs into a wall socket, and your appliance plugs into the switch. Each switch pairs to the app through your WiFi connection (you’ll need your WiFi password). You can set up names and icons for the switches to show what they are connected to, and they can be put into groups. Grouping allows you to view combined energy use or turn multiple appliances on and off together.

I set up three switches at home and another in our office to see if they worked across multiple WiFi networks. They did. I could connect to all of the switches via the WiFi at either location, or from anywhere using a cellular connection. When I opened the iPhone app, switches usually reported as “not initialised” or “not connected to a network”, but tapping the icon a couple of times reconnected them.

It’s easy to turn switches on and off from the app with the tap of a virtual button, perhaps too easy. More than once I turned switches off accidentally, which isn’t great when your PC instantly powers down!

The EGO app displays real-time energy use for each switch. At first I found this fascinating. It was interesting to see how my fridge compressor fired up after loading it with my weekly shop or how my office PC used a consistent 350 watts. But after a while I stopped checking it — there wasn’t anything I could change that would reduce the power use of my fridge or PC.

The app shows historical power use for each switch either hourly, daily, weekly or monthly on a chart. However, the charts are just simple trend lines without units — they don’t clearly indicate watts used or dollars spent. The data isn’t downloadable either.

The EGO switches were more useful installed on appliances where I could use them to save power. The switch installed on my espresso machine remotely turned it off when I forgot in the morning (which happens far too regularly), preventing power being wasted by it being on all day. The EGO app doesn’t send notifications to your phone. That’s a shame, as it would be useful to set alerts when appliances were using large amounts of power. The timer function turned the espresso machine on to pre-heat before I woke.

I also installed a switch to the power block connected to my entertainment suite: TV, Blu-ray player, media streamer, games console and sound bar. I used the “Standby” power saver to turn off the power when it had been unused for 10 minutes. On standby it used five watts, so that would save about a kilowatt-hour (25¢) every fortnight or so. But an energy meter showed the EGO switch used two watts to stay connected, so the net benefit of doing this was minimal.

I found the EGO switch worked best on appliances that were cycled on and off frequently. Power measurement was initially interesting on appliances like my fridge, but the novelty wore off. The standby timer was a neat idea, but I wasn’t convinced my power bill would see any serious savings. I thought the EGO switches were a couple of functions short of being really useful. The app needs to send notifications of power use to a phone and provide a clearer indication of historical power-use data.

Efergy EGO smart switch and energy monitor

  • $79.95 ($64.95 each for two, $59.95 each for four)
  • Available from efergy.com

First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

by Paul Smith