Wanted: Power Strip with Switches


It shouldn't be this hard, but all I want is a power strip with switches on each outlet. In my garage I have no less than six different chargers, and I don't want or need them to be on all the time. If I still lived in the UK, I could find such a device anywhere. However, as I live in the USA, the concept of switches on power outlets is against the constitution or something and impossible to find.

Digression: Terminology Translation
For the benefit of British readers, here is a table to translate the rest of this post between the two languages:

American English
Outlet Socket
Power strip Extension lead
Power cord Mains lead
Wall wart Power brick/Mains adaptor

Part of the problem is the incredibly bad US standard for such things. The US system for connecting devices to electricity seems to have been invented about 3 days after the electric light bulb itself. It is incredibly primitive and gratuitously unsafe, especially compared with the fabulous UK system (in use since 1962). The idea of mandatory earth pins, a strong physical connection, fuses, difficulty of inserting metal objects into the sockets, all these things are expected and standard in Britain but seemingly unconsitutional in the USA. Considering the incredibly litiguous nature of America, you'd think someone like Ralph Nader would have sued the standards body (NEMA) for being so asleep at the wheel for so long.

The problem with switches is more than just on power strips: I have never seen a switch on a US outlet. Ever. To turn something off, you are expected, nay required, to yank the cord from the outlet. You actually get sparks when you do this, and of course it places extreme strain on the cable that connects to the plug, but hey: its only 110V so no-one cares.

I think another part of the problem is the stereotypical profiligate energy usage of Americans: why put a switch on an outlet, when you can just leave the device turned on permanently instead? It has been estimated that wall warts consume 4% of electricity in the USA - even George W Bush knows it! Despite this the concept of switches on outlets remains foreign to the American electrical industry.

In summary: if anyone knows of a US power strip with individual switches, please post a link in the Comments section. Save my sanity (and a little bit of my electric bill).

For details of all the different standard plugs & sockets in the world, see the great page on Wikipedia.

Comments (59)

  1. Greg Wishart says:

    I bought a power strip with switches when I went to Japan last year.  You might also want to try IKEA.

  2. Andy-Pennell says:

    Fabulous! Thanks so much Aaron. Looks perfect.

  3. Jeff Parker says:

    http://www.graybar.com/

    They are the place I tend to go to when ever I need something electrical that you can not pick up at the hardware store. They supply everything from CAT 5 cable to outlets to phone cords. There is usually a local Graybar warehouse in most major cities. You can find thier locations here

    http://www.graybar.com/howtoorder/default.html#here

    Just looks for the Visit Graybar Counter section.

  4. Donald Proud says:

    Here’s another one that might interest you.

    http://www.hammondmfg.com/1580.htm

    — Don Proud

    P.S. — Your description of the differences between the U.S. & England’s electrical outlets, etc. — and of the U.S. system’s deficiencies — is very interesting.

  5. Andy-Pennell says:

    Thanks Donald, very utilitarian looking but ideal for my garage.

  6. pc says:

    Andy,

    The first link above in no longer available.  For the second link, you must find a distributor… Graybar’s website led me to unavailable pages.  This link shows several, but they’re pricey.

    http://www.alliedelec.com/search/ProductDetail.asp?SKU=533-7196&desc=UL209BC&R=533%2D7196&sid=453AB4805380617F

  7. We do have switched outlet in America.

    I have wired many outlets on a switch usually in bedrooms and living rooms. a lot of home buyers like living rooms without ceiling mounted light fixtures and the only alternative is to wire for a switched receptacle where they can plug in a floor lamp or desk lamp. what we usually do is wire the bottom half of a duplex receptacle to the switch assuming the home owner will leave the light plugged in all the time and wire the top half of the receptacle "hot" all the time because it will be easier to plug and unplug items into the top half without having to reach around the cord of the light. in the bedrooms we do the same so one can plug in a light in the switched half of a duplex receptacle and leave an electric clock or radio plugged in at the top, "hot" half. we also use switch/receptacle combination devices to control motors. as far as using "earth pins" we do what is called grounding and been doing so for decades. as an electrician I am forbidden to install ungrounded receptacle except in a location where no ground is available do to the old system only having a two wire system where the ground is unavailable, usually found in very old homes. most American appliances come with there own on/off switches and instructions that come with these appliances recommend turning these switches off before plugging or unplugging same.

    by the way you are no supposed to "yank" on the wire to remove a plug from a receptacle. you are supposed to grip the plug molded to the end of the cable and use that parts as a handle!

    I love America and I think we have done a lot in the electrical field to make improvements in the SAFE use of electricity. we have a code book which is added to and otherwise improved every three years. This National Electrical Code book is our bible and often approved for use in other countries.

    Al Bruning

  8. Andy-Pennell says:

    Thanks Al, but I am after individual switched outlets, not the "light switch controls half the outlets in the room" type of switching.

    We’ll have to agree to disagree about the safe use of electricity in the USA. Even if you pull on the plug as you claim we are supposed to [this was news to me], the damn things still spark like mad, which can’t be good.

  9. Gary K Fromm says:

    These are available at mcmastercarr.com and can be obtained the next business day if ordered by 3:00 PM by UPS delivery service

  10. B. Freeman says:

    I’ve been looking for the same thing.  The ones I found from the above link struck me as pricey, but then I’m probably on the cheap side.

    Individually switched outlet on a surge supressor are available for computers (usually the computer sits on top).  These probably are as prices as any above, but being "computer hardware" may be more readily available, and hence may be available as junk.

  11. Tao Yue says:

    I’d stumbled on this blog posting while looking for these a few months ago.  The reason the strips seem so expensive is: the links above are from from hardware/electronics suppliers!  These look like heavy-duty outlets, for things like vaccum cleaners, motors, etc. in the garage.

    I located one for a much lower price for use with consumer electronics (cell phone chargers, NiMH battery chargers, that sort of thing), but the retailer was out of stock and the distributor had removed it from the catalog.  This annoyed me to no end, like it did Andy (are we so Americans so profligate with energy that they had to drop the product line for lack of a market?).  I half-toyed with buying a thousand from China, driving a van over to the Port of Seattle to pick them up, and selling them on eBay to fellow power-savers.

    But it’s back in stock!  For a mere $15 plus shipping, which is about 1/4 the price of some of the heavy-duty ones already mentioned on this blog posting.  Good thing I was able to track this posting down (cough cough: your post was link #1 on Google, Microsoft Live.com didn’t find it in the top 10).

    Here it is: http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/item-details.asp?EdpNo=914023

    Let’s all buy half a dozen and show them that there’s demand for this sort of thing even in the US of A!

  12. Tao Yue says:

    Oops, didn’t notice Aaron Robinson already posted the same thing.  Didn’t follow the link at first since people mentioned it was out of stock.

    Well, anyway, they’re back in stock.  Get ’em while they last.

  13. Jim D says:

    Andy – I owe you and Aaron.  Just today I was trying to find a power strip with individually switched outlets.  I just ordered 3 of them from tigerdirect and since I signed up for shop-at-home (Shopathome.com) I get a 2% cash rebate too.  Sweet!

  14. MSDN Archive says:

    Individual switched outlets are simply a Switch/Recepticle combo (http://electrical.hardwarestore.com/14-53-switch-recepticle-combos.aspx) with the correct wiring configuration (hot -> switch -> outlet).  One reason they’re not common in the US is that our recepticles are almost always close to the floor, where a switch isn’t convenient.  In the UK I believe the "socket" is typically higher.  I expect there is code to this effect.

    You’re right in your assessment that the US recepticles are crap, though.

  15. Nick says:

    You guys are all great … I was getting so frustrated looking for a fully switched power strip!  I bought 3 from Tiger Direct for $14.99 each plus shipping.

    Thanks a lot … this is what makes the Internet great!!!!!!

  16. John says:

    Ebay has one for auction now. Each outlet on the strip has a switch.

  17. Next trick: What about a power strip with USB-switched outlets?  Then I can turn on my lava lamp from my PC!

  18. Try the X10 devices.  They have a controller that plugs into your serial or USB port and can be programmed.  x10.com

  19. Glenn says:

    I’ve been looking for one of these for several years… without finding one, except from an exporter in Hong Kong… kind of gave up looking for a while, and today I was reminded to search again, and found your page.  Thanks!

  20. Nick says:

    Anyone seen one with the outlet on one side of the box and the switch on the other?

  21. Ajit says:

    Finally bought the one from Tiger Direct – Thanks a lot!

    Funny – I had called up Fry’s and asked for it – and the guy told me that they no longer carried it – he happened to be looking for one as well.

  22. David says:

    Wow… and the saga continues…. I was looking for one to use with some lighting when I gig. I’m a professional musician…. and found this blog and ordered 3 from Tiger Direct!

    Thanks to everyone who commented!

    David

  23. Patrick says:

    Thank you folks! I appreciate the links!

  24. Tim says:

    Thanks to all, but especially to Steve.  These were not coming up on search engines.  To ice the cake, I had a Christmas gift certificate from Radio Shack which was burning a hole in my pocket.  It’s spent now on individually switched power strips!

  25. James says:

    I know I’m coming in a few months late, but all the links above no longer carry them.  Why?

  26. Andy-Pennell says:

    Someone sent me this link, which looks good but says it is "currently unavailable" http://www.ultraproducts.com/product_details.php?cPath=35&pPath=172&productID=172

  27. Chii says:

    Glad to find this blog, but all the links above show either "unavailable" or not found,

    except the pricy $67 one.

  28. Carl says:

    Just bought an Ultra 7-outlet with individual switches from Amazon.com. It was $23. By adding a $5 LED flashlight (which i needed anyway), the total cost was over $25, resulting in free shipping.

    Sorry, but I think I grabbed the last one for the moment.

  29. Roger One says:

    I purchased a four switch power unit with six outlets from Radio Shack for Approx. $32.

    It sits under my computer monitor enabling me

    to control printers, etc. It also serves as a surge protector.  By ordering the unit from a Radio Shack store one can avoid the shipping costs  The unit is not stocked in the store but can also be ordered on-line from the manufacturer: Tripp-Lite. It’s displayed on the Tripp-Lite web site.

  30. Annette says:

    I’ve looked at the links in this tread and have not found one that still offers the power strip with individual switches on each outlet.  Anyone found them in 2008?

    Thanks

    ~a

  31. Ernest says:

    I emailed the company that produces the Ultra 7-outlet power strip and inquired if/when their distributors will be back in stock. They said that they are still producing the units and will stock most of their major distributors on March 15.

    I still can’t believe that there is only one company producing an affordable power strip with individual switches. Seems like there is enough demand and justification for other power strip companies to take note.

  32. JB says:

    I recently bought an HP printer that hisses when it’s both on and off.  It stops it’s high pitch hissing when it’s unplugged.  So that’s how I found this blog.  Thanks for the TigerDirect tip!

  33. EE says:

    I don’t like how those switches all have lights, so you get a Christmas tree effect when it’s on.  How about a low-power LED, for minimal power draw.  And put the plugs on the back, so it’s useable. Sheesh. Maybe I’ll make one.

  34. steve archer says:

    Finally, I found a nice power strip with individual switches.  Hammond Manufacturing part number 1580H7A1X   .  Call Brenda at 1-800-433-5700 and order it with a credit card, costs about $83.  This is good info June 11, 2008.

  35. greenslash says:

    I emailed Ultra products (ULT31570) —

    Dear Customer:

       These units will be in stock on http://www.tigerdirect.com on 8-14-2008.

    Thank you for contacting us.  If you have any further inquiries please reply to this email.

    Sincerely,

    Richard

    Ultra Products Tech. Support

  36. L~ says:

    I bought three of the individually switched power strips from Tiger Direct.  At first they were great.  Eventually, all three of them developed problems.  Two have defective switches and one stopped working completely. All are less than one year old.  I was able to take the dead one apart, unsolder a switch, and fix one of the other ones, but this was a very difficult repair, since all if the switches are soldered directly to the circuit board.  I cannot recommend the ones from Tiger Direct

  37. Randy says:

    I want a switched power strip WITHOUT illuminated switches. I am after all trying to save electricity.

  38. Linda Ogren says:

    Just wanted to thank everyone for persistence in locating what ought to be everywhere but isn’t, and to point out a simple alternative I discovered while searching.

    There is a single little block AC outlet adaptor that has a switch.  It does not accommodate grounded (3 prong) plugs, and it won’t address all needs, but it might be useful here and there:  COOPER WIRING DEVICES BP4404V OUTLT PLUG-IN.  I bought some at the local Ace Hardware, where one costs $6.  Packaging is one per hanging card.  On-line it costs less until you add shipping.  It works.  Leviton also makes one.

    I’ll probably also buy the switched strip from Tiger Direct.

  39. Kara says:

    To answer the question some are asking about individual outlets, this is what you are looking for:

    http://www.twacomm.com/catalog/model_1469.htm?sid=174D241446B96D4569F0C9ACB89BA009

    another model is found here:

    http://www.wdrake.com/walterdrake/Shopping/ProductDetail.aspx?CID=Home&SCID=Lighting,+Climate+%26+Adapters&ProductID=BC00314805

    I’m an american who lived in the UK for a couple years and have sinced moved back.  I seriously do not understand why the USA does not have this kind of ‘technology’.  And, to address another comment, UK outlets are not located in significantly different places than USA ones.  I thought it was a brilliant way to avoid phantom usage of electricity.  

  40. Andy-Pennell says:

    Thanks Kara, weird/worrying that neither of these switches has an earth pin though.

  41. Dave says:

    The Ultra 7 Outlet Surge Protector is available from Radio Shack. 6 outlets are independently switched.  If there is a store near you, order on line and then they offer free shipping to the store.

  42. Jeremy says:

    The Ultra ULT31570 which has individual switches is available at Amazon.  Thank you to everyone who posted information.

  43. Chris says:

    Andy, I read your request and laughed, as a fellow Brit I’ve noted exactly the same problem. I have a couple of the single socket adapters – oh for it to be built into the switch. I’m still looking for a strip though …

  44. Chris M says:

    Spoke with Ultra Products (manufacturer of ULT31570) and they are still manufacturing the product but it is on backorder until the start of April. According to their tech desk they don’t have any other equivalent product.

  45. UFV says:

    All this info is great, but the best one if from the guy who gave the Guitar Center link! $30 at your local guitar center; plug your items in one end, the power switches are on the opposite end of the block. It’s perfect!

  46. Tim says:

    I think I like the one linked at MCM Electronics, but it’s currently backordered.

    http://www.mcmelectronics.com/product.asp?product_id=555-2930&catalog_name=MCMProducts

  47. Tim says:

    I like this one which has a 3-prong socket for each plug and room for blocky plugs.

    http://www.x1up.com/.sc/ms/bdd/ee/155/EPS-2066MN — 2′ 6 Individually Switched Outlet Power Strip

  48. zephyr says:

    Ultra ULT31570 is currently back at TigerDirect, though I just depleted their stock by two.

  49. Wayne says:

    Take a look at this one on ebay, 250435658936.  This person also has two other styles listed.  I purchased 2 of the above number.  These are well made, quality components, made is USA.  Price is good, depending on which one you want, $28.88, $28.88, and $19.88.

    Wayne

  50. Al says:

    Remember the guy above that had three out of three of the ‘ULT31570’ Radio Shack or Tiger Direct go out on him — You get what you pay for. The wiremold

    http://www.alliedelec.com/Search/ProductDetail.aspx?SKU=5337196&MPN=UL209BC

    is heavy duty industrial strength.

  51. Bill says:

    I, too, have been searching feverishly for the switched outlets when I came across your blog. Thanks for having the same problem and for all of the comments.

    My problem has been solved and items purchased. Thanks again.

  52. dan pritts says:

    Based on my web searching "DJ power strip" is a good way to look for this.  Several different ones on ebay.

  53. James says:

    I picked up the Ultra Powerstrip at Amazon: http://amzn.to/crPjXC . This is a great power strip for only $23, I wish I bought one a long time ago. Thanks for all the other comments on this blog, I didn't think I'd find power strip info on the MSDN blog!

  54. Mike Irwin says:

    I'm also an ex-pat Brit. Part of my household wiring here in the US is actually British (running on 110v) for all the reasons Andy mentions.

    Thanks so much, Aaron, for  the link! I just never thought of looking in TigerDirect!

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