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Smart Power Strips

© April 2009 Anthony Lawrence

I was looking at Smart Power Switches at Amazon. These things are able to sense low power draws and shut off - the supposed advantage is to avoid the so called "vampire" devices like instant-on TV's and the little black plugs that power so many things like cell phone chargers and so on.

One "master" or sensing plug controls everything else. When that goes "low power", everything else is shut off. At first I though this sounded like a good idea. As I read more about them, I'm not so sure. For example, one customer with a Mac Mini said:

My computer is a Mac Mini G4, which is basically a laptop sans monitor, very low power usage. While using the computer, the power level drops so low that the device thinks it's off, and shuts down all the controlled outlets.

Several other people had trouble adjusting the sensitivity for other devices. That could be annoying, but I also realized that the cost savings claimed probably aren't very truthful. For one thing, a device like this obviously must have its own power draw. They forget to mention that when calculating savings.

Yet another reviewer pointed out that the savings potential may be very litte:

Oh, I also purchased a Kill-A-Watt meter after the fact to measure this vampire effect and I was shocked at how LITTLE energy all these appliances use in the off position. Most of my appliances and electronic devices didn't even register a tenth of a watt while in the off/standby position. I measured my whole home theater system with my former power strip. All of the electronic devices combined barely registered a watt.

So, I could go on about what works and what doesn't with this product, but the bottom line is that it really isn't worth the extra money. Remember, having this thing shut your electronics down by powering off another device is like pulling the plug of each device out of the wall. There are many modern electronics that are not designed to be turned off in that manner.

There's also the matter that the "lost" energy of these devices has to go somewhere - it's either heat or noise, and mostly heat. As we live in New England, most of the year whatever excess heat our "vampires" emit is useful to us. Since we never run A/C, that heat never costs us cooling, so eliminating it would just decrease the supposed savings.

We'd need four of these - at around $25.00 each I'd need to save a lot of energy to recoup that cost. I then realized that I could just leave those things along and replace one 60 watt bulb with an expensive LED version or a far less expensive CFL unit and save much more energy than I could with all of these.

I think I'll pass on smart strips.

Tony Lawrence 2009-04-22 Rating: 2.0

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Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Digital Sharing Crash Course

Take Control of Automating Your Mac

Take Control of OS X Server

Photos: A Take Control Crash Course

Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course

More Articles by © Anthony Lawrence

Thu Apr 23 12:14:07 2009: 6256   anonymous

As far as the low-wattage power strips, remember that many devices, such as TVís and Laser Printers, are designed to keep a little bit of power running through the electronics in order to keep the electronic components from cooling down too much. Most of the wear and tear on electronic devices comes from the metal contraction and expansion when they are shut completely down and cool to room temperature.


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