Odds are, you don't give your electrical outlets and switches much thought beyond safety and an occasional surge protector purchase. However, many new kinds of switches and outlets are now on the market, any one of which could be a major boost to your home's convenience and ambiance, and could even make your home a little more fun to be in.
USB Outlets - Many of our cell-phones, laptops, tablets, and other personal electronic devices utilize a USB port for charging purposes. With the addition of an outlet with a built-in USB port, the days of trying to find room to charge your electronic devices is over. No more unplugging items in order to charge your phone or laptop. If you choose to wire this new outlet yourself, you're only looking at spending $20-$40 dollars per outlet. This plug in model is available for $40.
Programmable outlets and light switches - Not only are these outlets and switches a great way to manage your home's power usage, they are also quite affordable. These types of outlets safely turn off power after a certain amount of time, and most come equipped with a built-in surge protector.
Programmable light switches work in the same fashion, which makes them ideal for kid's rooms. Both of these will run an average of $25-$50, depending on the features.
Hands-free light switches - These have been around for a while now, but while the idea isn't new, the technology has improved greatly. Some come with body-heat detection, motion sensors, AND a time delay, which fixes the earlier issue of the lights shutting off once they didn't detect movement.
The infrared light switches are paired best with smaller rooms, but sound-triggered switches (remember The Clapper?) work very well in large rooms. For versatility, look for a unit that offers multiple lights settings. Also, be sure that spontaneous noises, such as a loud TV or crying baby, won't accidentally trigger the lights to shut off. These switches start at $20 dollars for simple sound-trigger options to as much as $200 for the infrared models.
LED touch panel lighting - LED touch panels allow you to simply touch a panel to turn on a light, or a stroke of a finger to adjust the amount of light in a room. Not only do these varieties make your home look sharper, they also save a lot in utility costs. While these have been enjoyed in Europe for some time now, American manufacturers are starting to take a keen interest in developing these technologies here. These can be ordered online for about $70-$100 per panel, and are starting to catch on here in the states. The price will eventually become more affordable once domestic manufacturers start churning them out.
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