Published on January 27th, 2012 | by Greg0
USB: Coming Soon To An Outlet Near You
More and more devices these days are relying on USB plugs for power. Imagine if your smartphone could simply plug into the wall directly, without a need for that extra transformer! All it would take is a slight change to your outlet to add USB plug-in capability, which should be pretty simple- so why aren’t these in every home or hotel yet?
Well, expect them to spread… but perhaps not as quickly as you might think. We tried out the first UL listed option, the NewerTech Power2U USB Outlet, and found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. When it works, it’s nifty- but does require some wiring and planning and possibly more.
We popped open the package and found an outlet where everyone charges their phones. After reading the instructions, we noticed this fine print: “Electrical boxes typically range from 15 to 16 cubic inches. To determine the size of the electrical box you intend to install a Power2U into, turn off power to outlet, remove faceplate cover, and measure height, width, and depth of the box. Multiplying those measurements together will equal the cubic inches or volume of the electrical box. If you are unsure of how to do these and/or cannot follow all safety precautions, you should consult an licensed electrician.”
Several of our boxes were 15 inches, though we did manage to find one with 16 to spare. Then we realized that one of the boxes wasn’t really deep enough. After some scurrying about, we did get it installed… But we had some trouble with one of the USB ports not providing power, until we jiggled the connection just so, and it seemed to work. Of course, DIY skills are great, but we definitely would caution an average renter against attempting to install these at home. We could use the other outlets then, freeing them up (for some things, like lamps, larger plugs may block access to the USB ports). And we were able to charge our iPad 1 and 2, iPhones, Blackberry, and even GPS devices.
Note that the Power2U only comes in a bright white, which may not match your existing fixtures. But for $30, it’s a nice way to ditch the wall warts and plug your smartphones and other devices directly into the wall.