Power strips are an easy and cost-effective way to turn off your electronics. If you don’t want to unplug your devices individually when you’re done using them or if your outlets are hard to reach, power strips let you turn off the power to all your connected devices by flipping one single switch.
Many electronics go into a stand-by or sleep mode rather than turning off when you hit the power button. Many electronics need a minimal amount of energy for remote access or to speed up the boot-up time. They continue to draw power even though they seem to be turned “off”. This phenomenon is known as a phantom load or vampire load.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DoE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the average American household pays about $200 a year in utility costs for phantom loads. In average, phantom loads account for almost 10% of American residential electricity use. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average residential energy consumption in the U.S. in 2017 was 10,399 kilowatt-hours (kWh). That means every electric utility customer wasted over 1,000 kWh of electricity on devices in standby mode. At an average rate of 13.3 cents per kWh, the American households could save over $133 a year in utility cost by turning off devices in standby mode.
Switch Off With Power Strips
A power strip is a block of electrical sockets with a mains plug that allows multiple devices to be connected to one single electrical socket. Power strips come in many versions with different numbers of sockets, with or without a power switch or with USB plugs that can charge electronics via a USB connection.
Typically, power strips are used to connect various electrical devices, which are in close proximity of each other to one electrical socket. This eliminates the need to unplug these devices individually from their wall sockets after you stop using them. You can simply turn off the power strip to cut off power to all connected devices.
Like many other things in our homes today they can also be smart. That means power strips can perform more functions and they can do so autonomously. They can protect your electronics in case of an overload or a short circuit with a built-in circuit breaker or surge protector and they can help you save energy.
Types of Power Strips
While traditional power strips have to be turned on or off manually, advanced power strips turn the power to their controlled outlets off automatically when certain conditions are met. Power strips are a great help to reduce the standby power consumption for home electronics, office and computer accessories and other plug loads and to lower your electric bill.
Unlike traditional power strips with a simple on/off switch, advanced power strips (APS) and more complex smart power strips have various built-in sensors that control the individual plug loads of connected electronics. Advanced power strips save energy by shutting off the power supply to the connected devices when they’re in standby mode. Some advanced power strips even have different layers that can be switched separately.
Advanced Power Strips
There are various types of advanced power strips available for different individual needs.
A timer equipped power strip turns the power on and off based on a pre-set schedule. The outlets are controlled by programmable timers and turn on or off at the desired times.
Activity monitor power strips sense any signs of activity in the room and turn off the power when there’s no activity detected. The outlets are controlled by occupancy sensors and can turn off or on automatically when there’s activity in the room. You can program a waiting time in case you don’t wont them to turn off when you leave the room for a short time only. Activity monitor power strips can also come with infrared (IR) sensors that detect activity from remote controls.
A remote switch power strip lets you turn your electronics or appliances on or off from a distance using a remote control. The remote switch power strip still needs to be switched on or off manually. It’s basically like a traditional power strip with a remote control and can be helpful when you can’t physically reach the power strip.
Master-controlled power strips have one master outlet that controls all others. When you turn off the primary device, the master-controlled power strip automatically turns off the peripheral devices that are plugged in the controlled outlets. Using the TV as a master device, your DVD player, cable box or game console will turn off as soon as you turn off the TV.
Masterless or current sensing power strips monitor the power supplied to the controlled outlets. When they detect a drop in current, e.g. when a device is turned off or goes into sleep mode, they turn off the controlled outlet automatically. When you turn a device back on, the power strip will detect the change and turn on the outlet. Some masterless power strips also detect IR signals, e.g. from your TV remote.
Some advanced power strips use several of the above. They come with USB connectors, connect to your Wi-Fi network and often integrate into your smart home system, and offer voice control, power monitoring and other services to the plugged in devices. Some even come with wireless phone chargers. If you’re using all these functions, smart power strips are an energy efficient solution.
Not a power strip but a tool serving a similar purpose, smart plugs provide more advanced automation for individual outlets. They plug into any wall outlet and can be remotely controlled over your home Wi-Fi network from anywhere. The plugs can be controlled from your smartphone and offer similar features as smart power strips.
Saving Electricity With Power Strips
The best way to save energy with power strips is to use the right type for a set of devices. While some devices work well on a timed schedule, others will work better with an activity monitor. To minimize phantom loads in your home you can strategically place power strips around your home according to your particular needs. You may even be fine with a traditional power strip that you can turn off manually, e.g. if you put it next to your computer to switch on your computer accessories.