The idea behind Belkin's Conserve surge protector is pretty simple. Instead of having your electronics sit there in standby mode and each sip a little bit of power, the Conserve lets you completely shut down components so power drain is cut to zero. At the same time, it leaves two outlets active for those products that you indeed want to keep on (or leave in standby mode)--items like DVRs, wireless routers, fax machines, and cordless phones.
Two models are available: a shorter strip with a total of eight outlets and a longer one with a total of 10 outlets and a coaxial RF input/output for cable and satellite TV feeds. Both models have 4-foot cords, and all outlets have a sliding safety switch that closes off the socket when not in use, which is good if you have small children or pets. The Conserve protectors are covered by a lifetime $100,000 connected equipment warranty as well.
Both Conserve models also come with a light-switch-style wireless remote control that allows you to turn off your components with a flip of a conveniently placed switch (rather than having to bend down underneath a desk and hit an on/off switch on the surge protector itself). The remote is wall mountable and can also control multiple Conserve protectors, so you can shut everything down in your house at once. Belkin says the range on the remote is about 60 feet (line of sight is not required) but we only managed to have it work properly within a range of about 30 feet. Additional remotes will soon be available for $13 each.
We hooked up a PS3, a 50-inch LCD TV, and an AV receiver to the Conserve along with an iHome clock radio that we wanted to leave fully powered. With a flip of a switch (the remote is wall-mountable like a light switch, with screws or a sticky pad--both included), the PS3, TV, and AV receiver all went completely dark. We flipped the switch again, and they returned to standby mode.
To be clear, standby mode is already a very low-power mode, so completely shutting off the power to the unit isn't going to save you much money. How much energy a component burns in standby mode varies from device to device. The general rule of thumb is: the newer the device, the more efficient the standby mode will be. We calculated the cost savings for the average LCD or plasma TV for the year and it came in at around 75 cents based on having the TV on for 5 hours a day and in standby mode for 19 (energy consumption costs are higher in certain states). If you own a PS3, you should save $1.13; an Xbox 360, $2.16 (yes, the Xbox 360 is a standby hog, relatively speaking). You might save more with other items, like paper shredders and printers, which potentially suck more energy in standby mode. Still, you probably lose more change in various people's couches over the course of a year than you might save here.
So, how long will the Conserve take to pay for itself? As we said, that depends what type and the number of components you have plugged into it. But you're probably looking at three to five years.
The protector does have a few small downsides. For starters, there are no ports for protecting phone or networking lines from surges. Also, the Conserves lack some of the features found on Belkin's other surge protectors. For instance, some Belkin models feature an outlet that's compatible with powerline Ethernet adapters. Likewise, we like the hideaway aspect of Belkin's Conceal protectors. However, this model looks like your basic double-wide surge protector with a little cord-control accessory attached at one end. There's no way to cover your ungainly power plugs and AC adapters.
All in all, however, the Conserve is a good concept for surge protectors--and good for the environment in a very small way. You may pay a bit of premium for the extra "conserve" feature, but you should make up that dough in due time. Hopefully, Belkin will combine some of the features (e.g. a cover for concealment and powerline compatibility) of its other protectors in the next version of the Conserve. But that's more a wish than a major gripe.