power strips with individual on/off strips?
December 22, 2005 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Can you buy power strips in the US that have separate on/off switches for each socket?

In the UK, it's common to find extension leads (aka power strips) that have individual switches for each socket. In the US, the only things I've seen with this feature are either rack-mounted or designed for industrial use. Am I looking in the wrong places for a switching power strip, or is there a reason why US models don't have this feature?
posted by holgate to Technology (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It must be some sort of law. In the UK it seems like every power outlet has a switch, which is definitely not the case in the US & Canada. But I'm not up on comparative electrical codes.
posted by GuyZero at 2:17 PM on December 22, 2005

I've never seen one so I don't think your just looking in the wrong place. Why is this a desirable feature?

GuyZero writes "But I'm not up on comparative electrical codes."

Power bars in Canada are considered to be temporary devices and are, in theory, supposed to be unplugged whenever your not using them. This fiction is required to avoid running afoul of the limits on the number of sockets per circuit.
posted by Mitheral at 2:20 PM on December 22, 2005

Not quite what you're looking for, but this seems quite interesting... (Review here.)
posted by disillusioned at 2:21 PM on December 22, 2005

Yep, it's likely a law in the UK they must be switched every socket.

The design of power bars here is incredibly cheap. Basically, three separate strips of copper are punched with tabs to make physical contact with all three pins of a plug. Each strip is then hooked to the appropriate conductor (hot, neutral, ground [earth]) on the cable which you plug to the mains. There are only the three strips which serve *all* the plugs. A circuit breaker is optional (although most power bars I have seen here include a 15 amp breaker, which is a bit pointless considering almost all home wiring is 15 amps here).

So, you can imagine, with that design, separating the little strip and including switches would increase the cost dramatically. Power bars here can be had for as little as $0.99 (if you're really lucky... often they sell for about $3 - $5).

In Canada, yes, it was illegal to have more sockets on a circuit than were originally on the outlet. That would mean a daisy chain setup was fine (such as audio receivers have power plugs in the back for plugging in another component, like a turntable) but power bars weren't legal. That was changed and the power bar was legalized! (Fun note: The term "power bar" was invented by my girlfriend's dad, who worked at... Hammond! Before they had some horrible name like "multisocket outlet adapter").
posted by shepd at 2:50 PM on December 22, 2005

Best answer: I have one of these, but it doesn't really look so much like a "power strip" as it does a "bigass platter of electrical death"...

It is old, and I forget the brand name (I'm at work right now), but I'll see if I can find it...

Basically, it's a console that's about the size of a (older, bigger) DVD player... it's got labels and switches for each port (i.e. computer, monitor, aux 1, aux 2...) and a toggle button (press in for on, press again for off) with a power light for each socket. It also has an amperage meter that lets you visually see when lotsa juice is flowin'...

Of course, that doesn't help you find one for purchase.. but at least I can tell you they exist? When I go home I'll try to remember to look up the brand name to aid you in your search.
posted by twiggy at 2:54 PM on December 22, 2005

It's definitely not the law in the UK that they have to be switched, it's just an option. E.g. Argos sells these and these.
posted by patricio at 3:08 PM on December 22, 2005

Best answer: Not quite a power-bar, but I have a surge protector for my computer that's a little flat thing that sits under my monitor. Plugs get plugged in behind. In the front are a bunch of switches: master (shuts all on and off), monitor, computer, printer, aux1, aux2.
posted by duck at 3:13 PM on December 22, 2005

Response by poster: This is a better example of what the UK equivalent looks like.

disillusioned: I'd seen that bit of kit, and it's very clever (esp. for a PC setup so that all the peripherals get switched off) but a bit overkill.

duck, twiggy: Like this? If so, it may be the closest equivalent on the US market.
posted by holgate at 3:30 PM on December 22, 2005

Like this? If so, it may be the closest equivalent on the US market.

Well that's the basic idea, but mine isn't as pretty and high-tech looking. It has the same orange LED-lit type switches that you would see on a regular surge protector or power strip.
posted by duck at 3:32 PM on December 22, 2005

The PowerKey Pro is very much like that, except for the whole computer control and ass-expensive part.
posted by trevyn at 5:11 PM on December 22, 2005

I used to have one of these - i think it's the same thing that twiggy described.
posted by helios at 7:04 PM on December 22, 2005

Best answer: They have "Outlet Strips with Individual Switches" (2nd last item on page) at McMaster-Carr. The cost is $40-80, which is probably why they are not very popular.
posted by Yorrick at 12:16 AM on December 23, 2005

Meanwhile, I didn't realize that having a power brick plugged in draws power even if you're not actively connecting it to its mated device.

Thanks for asking, because, you know... The More You Know™... (and... shooting star.)
posted by disillusioned at 2:30 AM on December 23, 2005

"bigass platter of electrical death"...

Safety engineers call them suicide strips, because they are fairly likely to lose the ground connection inside where you can't see it. I like yours better, though. It really conveys a better sense of the thing.
posted by deep_cover at 6:03 AM on December 23, 2005

This doesn't answer the original question but is a cool power-strip nonetheless:

Tabletop SmartSockets Premium power strip
posted by jacobsee at 3:18 PM on January 3, 2006

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