It's about time the powers that design our increasingly high-tech world finally decided to turn their attention to switches and outlets. Those little necessities we all use daily now come tricked out with USB ports, flashlights, and other super cool features.
Even cooler: Most are pretty inexpensive and require your average homeowner only as much time and brainpower to install as the plain-old ones they're replacing -- if not, less.
Replace your old socket with a night-light that automatically turns on as your room or hallway darkens. Here's the coolest part: Push the center to remove the light source, which then acts as a flashlight -- one you can easily find during a power outage. $45 .
There's nothing but a flat square where your outlets should be. Push it, and out pops not one, not two, but three outlets, hiding along three sides of that square. Push it back in for a nice, clean look when not in use. $40
Occupancy switches automatically turn the lights on when you enter and off when you leave. The energy savings are great, but so is not having to set down that load of laundry to fumble with the switch. Vacancy sensors, however, rely on you to turn them on but automatically turn themselves off when you -- or your forgetful child -- leave. $22 and up
They look like your typical wall socket, until you look a little more closely. See those two thin lines next to each outlet? Standard USB ports, for charging your phone, tablet, and all other USB-charged devices, placed far enough away from the standard outlet that you can use both. Plus, U-Socket is energy efficient and made in the USA. $25.
Three buttons and a backlit display built into the switch let you program up to seven on and seven off times per week. The "random" mode will turn lights on and off throughout the day while you're away. Of course, you can just use it manually, too. $34.
With hooks and slots for keys, phones, mail, or other common items you want to unload in your foyer, this faceplate makes all other faceplates look like lazy good-for-nothings. $14 and up
Plug this outlet into your standard home power socket, and it'll connect to the Internet via your home Wi-Fi. (Yes, a home Wi-Fi is a requirement for this one.) Next, plug your appliance into the WeMo socket. Now, download the free WeMo app to your smartphone and you can turn items such as the coffee maker or washing machine off and on and program stop and start times, from almost anywhere.
You can also monitor usage then program appliances accordingly, such as automatically turning the TV off after a certain amount of hours or having your washing machine alert you when it's done. $60