SmartSwitch Takes Human Error Out Of The Energy Efficiency Equation


The quest for low-impact, efficient living is often at odds with the human flaws of sheer laziness and absentmindedness. This couldn’t be more poignantly-illustrated than in an average American home. Much electricity is wasted each and every day by very simple, avoidable behavior. One of the most common examples is the vast amounts of electricity that are essentially thrown away due to unnecessary lights and appliances being left on. There’s nothing purposeful or malicious in this basic behavior, it’s just simple human forgetfulness. The SmartSwitch is a unique, new light switch design that aims at eliminating the forgetfulness from the equation.

Designed by Brandon Wypich and Peter Russo of Stanford University the SmartSwitch was a semi-finalist in the recent Greener Gadget Design Competition.  It is a slider switch that uses an internal brake mechanism to make it more difficult to switch on when energy consumption is high. The switch uses a network connection and electrical lines to transmit data on the energy consumption level. It can be set to reflect either communal consumption or the consumption of your home. When energy consumption is low, the light switch flips like you’d expect any light switch to.
While the SmartSwitch will never impede you from actually turning the circuit on, it will be a very tangible reminder to cut down on your home energy, prompting the quick question of whether you actually need the light on. The switch will also remind you to shut off any unnecessary lights or appliances that happen to be on at the time. It’s a very simple nudge to do your part and cut down on wasted electricity. ]
Though quite simple, the concept behind the SmartSwitch is solid and intuitive: people don’t leave energy-consuming products idly running on purpose, but merely don’t give it a second thought. The SmartSwitch makes sure there’s a tangible change.


10 thoughts on “SmartSwitch Takes Human Error Out Of The Energy Efficiency Equation”

  1. How about an electroshock collar? The collar turns on if the person leaves the room without turning off the light.

    You can also employ an army of mini penguins that live inside closets. If a light is on and no one is in the room, they go out of the closet and turn it off. But you have to leave opened cans of herring around the house in order that the penguins feed. The penguins’ guano can be used as fertilizers for your garden.

  2. I agree with the others. I have been working on figuring out the best approach to get my family to turn off the lights.

    The first bit of this is awareness of consumption, and there are now a number of very good devices that will sit on your counter-top and give you a real-time reading of electricity use.

    The second bit is that you have to be motivated to make the change. I am saving well over $100/month on my electricity bill from the changes we make. Incentive programs and dinner-table discussions with the kids help them see this as a fun thing.

    And if incentives don’t work, there’s always corporal punishment — it seems to work for my wife to keep me in line, can’t see why it shouldn’t work for the kids too 🙂


  3. This is one of the most over-engineered things I have ever seen.

    Especially “The switch uses a network connection and electrical lines to transmit data on the energy consumption level.” So the light switch needs to be connected to a computer to tell someone that the bathroom light was left on too many times? Also what happens if the network was down, could you not turn on the switch at all?

    I get the point, but disagree with the approach. A timer switch would work much more efficiently, and would eliminate the need for any other external power drains. Alternately, something as simple as a digital readout of the meter would have a similar effect.

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