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Energy Efficiency

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

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

(Smart Power Strip image courtesy of

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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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