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Energy Efficiency Dracula! Ohnoes!

Published on May 3rd, 2008 | by Michelle Bennett

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Smart Power Strips the Garlic of Vampire Electronics



Dracula! Ohnoes!

I cover a lot of upcoming or future technology, but it’s time to step into the present and aim for the past. Today we’re going to look at a technology available right now that can make some wanton energy waste history. It’s a surge protector that stakes the hearts of vampire electronics without hassling you, the sleeping victim.

Vampire appliances are pretty much anything you can plug in that still sucks energy when it’s supposedly turned off. Some are pretty obvious – the clocks on your microwave or VCR/DVD player burn all day, everyday. We know they’re not “off” because we cans see their LEDs glow. But other electronics, from your television to your cell phone charger also draw power when they’re plugged in but not in use. Check out a handy graph from Good Magazine. Some gadgets are notorious, like your plasma TV. Estimates claim that 5% or more of U.S. energy usage is insidiously wasted by “stand-by mode” or certain misleading “off” buttons. A whopping 5% may not sound like much, but it adds up to about $1 Billion dollars per year – and energy prices will probably continue to rise.

Be honest – how many times would you go around the house unplugging everything before it got old? Smart greenies have been switching off their surge protectors, but it’s easy to forget while watching your favorite late-night TV show or blogging at 4am. So what can we do about these metal-toothed Nosferatu in our midst? How about a surge protector that turns off all your appliances for you?

The Smart Power StripSmart Power Strips are easy to use: One “master” outlet on the strip controls six other “slave” outlets. When the power usage of the master outlet decreases (by a large enough amount), it automatically turns off the slave outlets. If you plug your “master electronic” like a TV or computer into the master outlet, all your periphery appliances – printers, speakers, Playstation, etc. – are automatically turned off. Oh wait, you have a Tivo and you don’t want all of your peripheries to turn off? No worries, the Smart Power Strip has three “constant” outlets that behave like normal, so you won’t miss your favorite shows. And of course, when you turn the “master” back on, the “slaves” will buzz to life. So instead of housing a legion of thirsty vampires, you can sleep soundly with a gadget that puts your electronics on a diet. For the best deal, check out Amazon.com.

This is not the first or only such gadget on the market. Your choices range from super-smart peripherals to wall monitors to watt-counting surge protectors. You can even use a low cost, old-fashioned timer. For your energy efficient computer needs, you can download power-saving freeware. These applications extend beyond home use too; businesses are jumping on the band wagon to reduce their energy costs and boost the bottom line. These steps could provide big savings for offices with lots of computers and copy machines.

EDIT: Thanks to Tim Hurst for pointing out a neat video via Ecoscraps

(Nosferatu image courtesy of LikeTelevision.com)

(Smart Power Strip image courtesy of MetaEfficient.com)

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About the Author

is an environmentalist who loves to write. She grew up across the southeastern USA and especially love the Appalachian mountains. She went to school in the northeast USA in part to witness different mindsets and lifestyles than those of my southern stomping grounds. She majored in English Lit. and Anthropology. She has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, which introduced her to a wilderness and the complex issues at play in the places where relatively few people go. She also taught English in South Korea for a year, which taught her to take nothing for granted.



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  • get a free laptop

    I have been reading your blog for many months now and i should say i’m starting to like your posts increasingly, I should get this rss thing working now.

  • get a free laptop

    I have been reading your blog for many months now and i should say i’m starting to like your posts increasingly, I should get this rss thing working now.

  • http://bitsltd.net Donald Forrester

    A great article about our product, thank you. And I’m pleasantly surprised at the direction the comments have taken, because there is often a question of whether or not some electronics should be turned off. The Smart Strip has several added sockets to provide always-on power for things that need it. As for a Wii talking to the web constantly, I for one would prefer it not do that unless I’m there to monitor the talking. So having a Smart Strip say ‘No, really, you’re OFF! Sweet dreams.’ is something I like very much.

    Thank you Michelle very much for suggesting our product!

    We’re having a fire sale on the manufacturer’s website for the SCG5. Normally it’s around $36, right now we’re selling it for the same price as the base model SCG3. We’re the original manufacturers, if you buy a Smart Strip anywhere it came through us first. We offer free standard ground shipping and guarantee our quality. Check it out at http://catalog.bitsltd.us/power_strips/

  • http://bitsltd.net Donald Forrester

    A great article about our product, thank you. And I’m pleasantly surprised at the direction the comments have taken, because there is often a question of whether or not some electronics should be turned off. The Smart Strip has several added sockets to provide always-on power for things that need it. As for a Wii talking to the web constantly, I for one would prefer it not do that unless I’m there to monitor the talking. So having a Smart Strip say ‘No, really, you’re OFF! Sweet dreams.’ is something I like very much.

    Thank you Michelle very much for suggesting our product!

    We’re having a fire sale on the manufacturer’s website for the SCG5. Normally it’s around $36, right now we’re selling it for the same price as the base model SCG3. We’re the original manufacturers, if you buy a Smart Strip anywhere it came through us first. We offer free standard ground shipping and guarantee our quality. Check it out at http://catalog.bitsltd.us/power_strips/

  • David Starks

    Over the years people have put forth the argument that it is better for flourescent lights, circuit boards and various other electrical items to remain plugged in and in idle mode. The modern truth is something quite different. In order for remotes to work the system has to be charged. Plasma and led TVs have a power standby mode constantly converting 120v to 12 or 16v. In fact the circuit board might like it better to have juice but it is the power converter or transformer that usually fails first. Flourescent lights start to save after being off for as little as 30 seconds. Turn all these off save money and the planet.

  • David Starks

    Over the years people have put forth the argument that it is better for flourescent lights, circuit boards and various other electrical items to remain plugged in and in idle mode. The modern truth is something quite different. In order for remotes to work the system has to be charged. Plasma and led TVs have a power standby mode constantly converting 120v to 12 or 16v. In fact the circuit board might like it better to have juice but it is the power converter or transformer that usually fails first. Flourescent lights start to save after being off for as little as 30 seconds. Turn all these off save money and the planet.

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  • PCL

    Thanks for calling attention to this device. I’ve been casually looking for something like this recently. Radio Shack, Lafayett Radio, and probably a bunch of other HiFi outlets used to carry something similar in the ’60s and ’70s for people who wanted their stereo receiver to shut off after the last record had been played by a separate automatic turntable (a characteristic that was usually wired into systems that were sold as a single unit). Today this will make it convenient to shut off my sub-woofer when it’s not being used. Unfortunately, many of today’s appliances make it harder than it should be to power them down, some lose much of their configuration when the power goes down for longer than a few minutes while others (like DVD recorders) take forever to come up after being powered off. Hopefully, with more use of flash memory, manufacturers will be able to rid future appliances of these bad habits.

  • PCL

    Thanks for calling attention to this device. I’ve been casually looking for something like this recently. Radio Shack, Lafayett Radio, and probably a bunch of other HiFi outlets used to carry something similar in the ’60s and ’70s for people who wanted their stereo receiver to shut off after the last record had been played by a separate automatic turntable (a characteristic that was usually wired into systems that were sold as a single unit). Today this will make it convenient to shut off my sub-woofer when it’s not being used. Unfortunately, many of today’s appliances make it harder than it should be to power them down, some lose much of their configuration when the power goes down for longer than a few minutes while others (like DVD recorders) take forever to come up after being powered off. Hopefully, with more use of flash memory, manufacturers will be able to rid future appliances of these bad habits.

  • Jimbo

    The Beamingsun USB Ecostrip is another product that can help slay these vampires. It is designed specifically for computers and is good in a business setting because it can be controlled individually.

    See: http://www.beamingsun.com/ecostrip/

  • Jimbo

    The Beamingsun USB Ecostrip is another product that can help slay these vampires. It is designed specifically for computers and is good in a business setting because it can be controlled individually.

    See: http://www.beamingsun.com/ecostrip/

  • MichelleBennett

    John:

    Actually with this smart strip, if your remote-controlled electronics are plugged into the “master” or regular sockets, the remote will work just fine. Only the “slave” sockets are deprived of electricity when the “master” is turned off. Those sockets are designed for periphery devices anyway.

  • MichelleBennett

    John:

    Actually with this smart strip, if your remote-controlled electronics are plugged into the “master” or regular sockets, the remote will work just fine. Only the “slave” sockets are deprived of electricity when the “master” is turned off. Those sockets are designed for periphery devices anyway.

  • John

    I want most of the electronics in my living room to respond to the remote control when I press a button. If the power is switched off at the socket then the remote won’t work.

  • John

    I want most of the electronics in my living room to respond to the remote control when I press a button. If the power is switched off at the socket then the remote won’t work.

  • MichelleBennett

    Bob:

    I could see the argument for old fashioned TVs, but for modern models (especially flat screen), this should not be an issue. The same is true for computer monitors (essentially the same technology anyway). Some appliances stay on to display the time – that would have to be the user’s choice. Money or time? But others, like the Wii, stay connected to their network and update things like the weather, whether users are using it or not. Phantom loads, like your DVD player, have no purpose for the energy they draw. They light some LEDs and that’s it.

    The good thing about the Smart Power strip is you can use your discretion. If you want something to stay plugged in, or if you’re not sure, you can plug it into a normal outlet.

  • MichelleBennett

    Bob:

    I could see the argument for old fashioned TVs, but for modern models (especially flat screen), this should not be an issue. The same is true for computer monitors (essentially the same technology anyway). Some appliances stay on to display the time – that would have to be the user’s choice. Money or time? But others, like the Wii, stay connected to their network and update things like the weather, whether users are using it or not. Phantom loads, like your DVD player, have no purpose for the energy they draw. They light some LEDs and that’s it.

    The good thing about the Smart Power strip is you can use your discretion. If you want something to stay plugged in, or if you’re not sure, you can plug it into a normal outlet.

  • Hollywood Bob

    There’s a reason these electronics stay on after you’ve turned them off. About 30 years ago a TV came out that stayed partially on so that you didn’t have to wait so long for the picture to come up when you turned the TV on. Turns out that this type of TV lasted longer and suffered fewer problems than a unit that was completely turned off.

    Maybe board designs have improved since then, but I think the principal still applies that if you have a little bit of current always flowing,the components on the circuit board last a lot longer.

  • Hollywood Bob

    There’s a reason these electronics stay on after you’ve turned them off. About 30 years ago a TV came out that stayed partially on so that you didn’t have to wait so long for the picture to come up when you turned the TV on. Turns out that this type of TV lasted longer and suffered fewer problems than a unit that was completely turned off.

    Maybe board designs have improved since then, but I think the principal still applies that if you have a little bit of current always flowing,the components on the circuit board last a lot longer.

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