With little variation to speak of, outlets typically haven’t been thought of as home selling points. But as life has become increasingly plugged in, with the average number of devices per home only growing, more capable outlets are hitting the market.
Brio made waves at the Consumer Electronics Show with its safe and smart outlets, which only deliver electrical current when a valid plug is present and can communicate with home sensors to detect hazards like smoke or carbon monoxide; an increasing number of smart home companies, like SmartThings and Avi-on, now offer portable outlet plugs that link to users’ mobile devices.
One notable new arrival is the SnapPower Charger, with a deceptively simple design—a sleek USB port built into the bottom of a standard outlet cover plate, eliminating the need for bulky wall adapters.
The 1-amp charger’s USB components are custom-built into the cover plate, which keeps the design nearly flat. Since the port is accessed from the side of the outlet rather than the front, both outlets and the USB charger can be used simultaneously, even if an oversized item, such as a three-plug adapter, is in place.
Following the successful launch of the SnapRays Guidelight, overwhelming interest from consumers as well as professionals helped the startup decide that the USB charger was the next product to bring to market, says CEO Sean Watkins. “We sent out a survey to about 9,000 customers with a list of products that we were thinking about doing next, asking what they would like most. By far, it was the USB charger.”
That response was prophetic: the charger’s Kickstarter campaign met with resounding success, far surpassing the company’s $35,000 goal. In fact, as of April 20, over 15,000 backers had contributed over $690,000—with almost a month left to go. Clearly, user demand for outlets that work a bit smarter is present.
“We all thought there was a chance that the charger could do just as well on Kickstarter [as the Guidelight], but it’s definitely done better than what any of us had anticipated,” Watkins says. “It’s already by far exceeded our expectations for what we thought we would do the whole time.”
Like the Guidelight, the SnapPower Charger offers easy installation in retrofits or new construction by keeping the same profile as a standard outlet cover plate, with no additional wiring or batteries needed. The outlet uses two prongs to draw power from screw terminals on the side of the outlet and is available for duplex and decor (pictured, left) outlet styles. GFCI outlets, which don’t have the required screws, are the only outlets not compatible with SnapPower products.
Given the overwhelming response, the team at SnapPower is excited to bring the charger to market and receive feedback from consumers and builders to inform the next generation of products, says Watkins. The company is currently working with a multitude of builders, including top 20 builders like Standard Pacific Corp., to include the outlets in new home construction, he adds.