I spent most of the early 2000s vaguely worried that I’d left the house with my flat iron on, and that I would return to the whole place having burned to the ground as a result. I did indeed leave the dumb thing on three times in those eight or so years, and my bathroom counter still has scorch marks. Yes, there are some fancy flat irons out there with auto shut-off switches, but my beloved Salon Tech flat iron was almost $200, so I wasn’t too keen to just replace it. I was just about to buy the beautiful Harry Josh flat iron when my dad (who is tighter with a dollar than any man you’ll ever meet) told me to buy this auto shut-off outlet that kicks power to the socket off after 30 minutes. I’ve never thought about my stupid hair straightener — or curling iron — in the middle of a workday ever again.
You push a button to turn the power on, use your device as you ordinarily would, then walk away when you’re done. It’s like an egg timer for your electronic devices, and comes in a power-strip version, too. If you’re a person of the future, there’s a Wi-Fi enabled option. I appreciated the peace of mind so much that I bought a second one last winter to make sure the tiny space heater I use in the bathroom on chilly mornings doesn’t run all day long, then a third one for the lamp next to my bed that I’m always too sleepy to turn off at night. I don’t think I’ve ever been so satisfied with something that cost so little. (They’re two for $19, too, if you want to save fifty cents.)
Once, convinced I needed to upgrade to something a bit fancier-looking, I almost put money down on a fancy brand-name version of this humble device instead. But after spending two minutes skimming the Amazon reviews, the first half-dozen of which were all people posting photos of singed outlets that almost started fires in their homes, I thought better of it. My $10 outlet doesn’t do much, but it’s never allowed that.
More Strategist-Approved Electronic Doohickeys
Etekcity WiFi Smart Plugs ($37 for 4)
Writer Lindsey Weber convinced us to get Etekcity smart plugs as stocking stuffers for all our friends last year: “All of my lamps can now be turned on and off with a swipe — I even set timers so that they turn on automatically, both to avoid arriving home to a dark house and to give the appearance that someone’s home even when no one is. I’ll switch on my air conditioner while out and about, as to hit that sweet 69 degrees before I even step inside. Or let’s say you have a slow cooker you need to turn on at a certain time to get dinner happening before you arrive home. That can happen! Maybe you leave the house terrified that you left a curling iron plugged in, or the iron on. A smart plug could eliminate that fear.”
Lightning cables are often too short, but Freer found a superlong ten-foot version: “For two years, I’ve used it every single day. In my house, I’ll drag it along everywhere I go. I can lie on any end of the couch and still charge my phone, or lie all the way down in bed (rather than awkwardly perch on one elbow next to the power strip), or even just ride in the back seat of a car with the phone plugged into the cigar socket and still use my phone while charging it. (Why are power outlets always located in the least convenient places possible?) Two full years of heavy use later, it hasn’t split, torn, bent, or even started to fray — and I’ve yanked, twisted, stretched, and dropped it repeatedly.”
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