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Smart surge protectors

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Smart surge protectors

Postby Shorty » Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:05 am

Alliant energy says we should buy smart power strips to plug in our home electronics (PCs and periperals, dvr's, tv's):

http://www.alliantenergy.com/UtilitySer ... ers/023980

But I don't understand how these power strips would save us energy. The ones I see in stores have a master outlet with slave outlets, and Always On outlets. Do we plug our desktop PC into the Master outlet? Will the PC then stop using all electricity when we turn it off? What peripherals do we plug into the slave outlets? My printer, speakers, and monitor don't have a remote so aren't they fully off when turned off?

It says these smart protectors will help with DVR's and tv's but they are remote controlled so need to be in an Always On outlet. If they are always on, how will the outlet save energy for these?
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby TheBookPolice » Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:13 am

I've had my eye on a Belkin Conserve (beware, auto-loading informational video) for a while now, and this is what they describe as the ideal setup:

HOME OFFICE
Always-On Devices (need constant power)
Wireless router
Phone
Clock

Switched Devices (waste Standby Power)
Computer
Monitor
Printer
Scanner
External Hard Drives
Powered Speakers
USB Hubs
Power Bricks (transformers)
Other Peripheral Devices

HOME THEATER
Always-On Devices (need constant power)
Set-Top Box
Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
Clock

Switched Devices (waste Standby Power)
Television
DVD Player
AV Receiver
Video Game Console
Amplifiers
Powered Speakers
Power Bricks (transformers)
Other Peripheral Devices

The Smart Strip is another product I'd been considering, as it uses an intelligent outlet to tell related outlets when to shut off power. But the freeware they used to add extra usability (Northern Softworks) has been defunct for years and SmartHome still links to the Northern site as if it was active. So that concerns me.
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby mrak » Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:33 am

I have a smart power strip (bought at Costco last year, forget the brand). I use the slave outlets for external hard drives and speakers, all of which have brick-type external power supplies that typically draw a fair amount of power.

(My printer is a combo unit that needs to stay on so it can receive faxes.)

I found it took a modest amount of calibration to get the slave outlets switching on and off reliably with the computer. I also had to learn that it sometimes takes several minutes for the strip to switch off the slave outlets.

I'm not sure how much it may actually save me in electricity, but it's a handy, automatic way to switch off gear that I don't want powered up all the time.
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby Shorty » Thu Mar 18, 2010 2:05 pm

Thanks for the replies. I didn't think my Computer, Monitor, Printer, External Hard Drives, Powered Speakers, or USB Hubs used power when they are off since they are not remote controlled. You are saying they should all go in slave outlets to save power? Does the PC go in the Master outlet?
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby TheBookPolice » Thu Mar 18, 2010 2:32 pm

Whatever product you buy will have recommended outlet assignments, but according to Belkin (as I posted above) the PC would go in a slave outlet.

Everything uses power when it's off: toasters, hair dryers, subwoofers and printers.
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby fisticuffs » Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:09 pm

Everything uses power when it's off: toasters, hair dryers, subwoofers and printers.

Not this new USB charger:
http://gizmodo.com/5495454/att-zero-cha ... pire-power
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby TheBookPolice » Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:23 pm

Nifty!
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Mar 18, 2010 3:56 pm

TheBookPolice wrote:Everything uses power when it's off: toasters, hair dryers, subwoofers and printers.

This is not entirely true. Printers and subwoofers = these DO use power when "off" - they have DC power supplies that are wired to the 110VAC mains. But toasters and hairdryers don't work like this.

Pushing the lever on your toaster is exactly the same as flipping a light switch - you switch on/off the 110VAC to the wire heating element in the toaster. It is conceivable that a very complicated toaster exists that has a separate power supply for some kind of electronic control system, but most toasters do not. Other things that fall into this category - lamps, blenders, extension cords, simple electric fans - these do not consume power when not in use.
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby TheBookPolice » Thu Mar 18, 2010 4:15 pm

Further investigation tends to argue in your favor. Interesting--another folk-truth busted.
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby fisticuffs » Thu Mar 18, 2010 4:18 pm

Thought this thread could use a few tricked out toasters.
Image
Image
Image
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby mrak » Thu Mar 18, 2010 4:32 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:It is conceivable that a very complicated toaster exists that has a separate power supply for some kind of electronic control system, but most toasters do not.

Inexplicably, my workplace does have such a fancy toaster, with a couple of LEDs constantly glowing to indicate whether it stands ready to toast bread, a bagel, and/or a frozen item.

As Arturo writes, a toaster like this is probably rarely seen in real life - except maybe on wedding gift registries.

And regrettably, it's nowhere near as cool as the toasters fisticuffs posted.

As for hairdryers, I did some quick Googling to see if the anti-shock plug they're equipped with consumes any power, but I didn't find any meaningful results. I'm guessing it's pretty negligible when balanced against the safety benefit.
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby ArturoBandini » Thu Mar 18, 2010 5:32 pm

TheBookPolice wrote:Further investigation tends to argue in your favor. Interesting--another folk-truth busted.

Hey BP, just to be clear - I am totally supportive of efforts to learn about (and then reduce) wasteful energy consumption and, thus, utility bills. I'd recommend the Kill-A-Watt meter device for beginners. They're usually around $20 and display actual power consumption in real time, and can integrate over a period of time to gather power information about devices that use power intermittently (like a fridge that turns on and off during the day).

http://www.amazon.com/P3-International- ... 025&sr=8-2

The smart surge protectors are fine too, but only really provide convenience. You could do this with simpler gear and accomplish the same goal - buy two cheap surge protectors (or one with the surge protection, and one plain power strip). Daisy chain them. Put your "always on" devices on the first one (plugged into the wall), then put your slave devices on the second one, and only switch the second one on and off. Not an elegant solution, but it delivers the same benefit.

Keep in mind that a remote-controlled "slave driver" switched outlet probably relies on a small DC power supply to actuate the relay that does the switching, which will consume a bit of vampire power itself. This shouldn't be more than 1-2 watts, so it's not a big deal. But, if you're only talking about eliminating a few watts (e.g. cell phone charger...), then you're only going to be breaking even.
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby TheBookPolice » Thu Mar 18, 2010 8:04 pm

ArturoBandini wrote:The smart surge protectors are fine too, but only really provide convenience. You could do this with simpler gear and accomplish the same goal - buy two cheap surge protectors (or one with the surge protection, and one plain power strip). Daisy chain them. Put your "always on" devices on the first one (plugged into the wall), then put your slave devices on the second one, and only switch the second one on and off. Not an elegant solution, but it delivers the same benefit.

Having learned my lesson, I looked up whether this practice was in truth the no-no I'd always been told it was. 10-1, the hits say that no, it's not particularly dangerous.

My world is crumbling.
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Re: Smart surge protectors

Postby KidCapitol » Fri Mar 19, 2010 2:57 am

TheBookPolice wrote:Everything uses power when it's off: toasters, hair dryers, subwoofers and printers.

I knew you were WRONG about that Mr. High and Mighty Book Cop.
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Someone's got a secret admirer...

Postby TheBookPolice » Fri Mar 19, 2010 8:53 am

Aww, well then you should have said something before I was politely corrected and admitted that I was wrong. It would have been much more crippling to my fragile ego.
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