I think by now just about every tech person has either heard of or seen pictures of wall power outlets with supplemental USB power. The first images of these products hit the web a couple of years ago and it became very clear from message boards and chat discussions that the concept was going to take off.
What wasn't so clear at the time was the negative aspects of these early USB power plugs. The first designs powered the USB ports all of the time. This slow but significant power draw kept your power meter spinning and as a result your electric bill increased like the national debt fused with an Energizer commercial - it just kept going and going and going.
Newer Technology has come up with a solution and a rather brilliant one at that. They figured out that you could put a micro switch inside the unit and only power the USB ports when you have a device plugged into the USB port.
The Newer Technology Power2U is designed to be an easy to install product that is perfect for the capable DIY person.
Today we'll look at the Power2U and walk you through a difficult install from my own kitchen.
Specifications, Pricing and Availability
For space reasons I've condensed Newer Technology's specification list by removing a large list of compatible electrical boxes. You can see the full specifications list on the Newer Tech product page.
Newer Tech gives us quite a bit of information on their specifications list. Everything is pretty much standard for power outlets with a bunch of codes and specifications. For the unique part of this product, the USB portion, we see that the power provided is 5.2 volts at 2 amps. This is the power required for Apple's iPad products and what is considered a 'quick charge' for smart phones.
The NewerTech Power2U does not have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) capabilities, but you can install the unit downstream from a GFCI plug like I did today. This is somewhat important if you are installing you unit in a place where water is present. I wouldn't recommend replacing a GFCI unit with a Power2U and in many places building codes might not permit it.
Finally we have pricing. A single unit costs $29.95 and you can even purchase in large lots. There isn't much of a discount when ordering in bulk, though. All three color choices of almond, ivory and black cost the same.
Newer Tech uses a blister pack for the Power2U. You can see the actual unit through the clear plastic casing.
A simple description is given on the back of the charging capabilities as well as a link to an installation video.
A paper installation guide is included in the package.
Newer Tech Power2U
Here we get our first look at the actual outlet. You get two standard three prong plugs. Off to each side is where the USB plugs are. Aside from the two USB doors the outlet looks like a regular outlet.
Here is the secret to the Newer Tech Power2U. This is an image of the back side of the face plate. In the middle we see the doors to the USB power ports. When the doors open they activate a micro switch that turns the power on the USB port.
The straight on shot shows the micro switches on each side for the USB ports.
We call them micro switches because the actuation motion isn't very long, just a few millimeters.
The unit itself gives you clues while you go through the install process. If you forget that the white wires go to the silver screws there is a handy 'W' right next to screw.
The black wires go to the brass screws.
Ground goes to the green screw on the bottom.
Thoughts on Installation
Thoughts on Installation
On the specifications page I omitted a long list of known compatible outlet boxes. The big requirement is your box needs to be at least two inches wide.
You will also want a box that is deep enough as well. Here we see a standard box that I purchased months ago for my home theatre construction. There isn't much room at the top and bottom, but it's more room that what you'll get from side to side.
Here we see the room left side to side, there isn't much.
When installing your wires you'll be better off going from the top and bottom and then dropping your wires down to the grooved cutout block that is then screwed in to secure the wire.
Before we get started remember a few things. The wire you'll be working with is solid core and can be difficult to bend the way you want. Take your time, installation isn't a race. Finally, SHUT THE POWER OFF AT THE BREAKER!!! If you are not comfortable with and knowledgeable about electronics, we highly recommend you hire a professional to do this work for you.
Welcome to my kitchen. This is the second outlet in a chain, the first one is a GFCI unit so the Power2U will be protected. In my install the box is much shorter than what the recommended specifications call for, but the additional depth provided by the 1/2 inch drywall and tile make up for the limitation. When installing the Power2U this way you should really wrap around the screws with electrical tape.
We ran into another issue with the installation. The inner box was offset to the right of the opening. To get around this we needed to file back the tile and grout to make the opening a little bigger and a little more uniform.
There is an octopus coming from the wall! In this image you can see that the inner box is offset to the right.
Here we are trying to make it fit before filing the tile back... it just isn't going to fit.
With the opening filed back and the wires secured again we are finally ready to proceed. The included screws for the outlet were a little too short for our installation so we used the old, longer screws from the previous outlet.
Success! We are in and everything is lined up perfectly. If I had one complaint it is the paint on the screws. We didn't exactly use kid gloves, but we didn't use an impact driver either. Here you can see that the white screws scratch easily.
With everything in place and our fingers crossed we flipped the breakers back on.
We are charging!
We made it through our installation without too much hassle and the Newer Technology Power2U managed to charge my phone from 30% to full charge in less than an hour. I'd say we did pretty good today, not burning the house down and all. Truth be told, the installation process in most situations is rather easy. There are three screws on the outside and five screws on the inside with a few wires along the way. The installation instructions and plain old common sense will get you through transforming your plain old outlet into a 21st century outlet in less than an hour safely.
For now the Newer Tech Power2U has lived up to its reputation of being a high quality, energy efficient and convenience providing product. We've only had the unit installed for a few hours, but already its quick charging function has paid off, charging a cell phone in about half the time of a PC's standard USB 2.0 port.
Then there is the price. At close to $30 the Power2U isn't cheap, especially when compared to the cost of a traditional power outlet. Newer Tech doesn't give you a very big break on the volume discounts either, so you can't save too much by going that route.
Sadly though the price isn't going to be what holds most people back from purchasing this product. Most people just aren't comfortable working with power from the wall. If that sounds like you have no fear because an electrician charges around $80 an hour and will only take 20 minutes to finish the job. If have ever used a screw driver before though, you should be fine.
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