Get Smart about Energy™

I am always suspicious when I hear emotive words emerging to describe what I once knew by more mundane and descriptive application of the English language. Considering that our business is energy saving, I knew something was up when I read that Vampire Power could account for up to 5% of a household energy bill.

Measuring devices - WattsUp

I am familiar with Standby Power, the energy required to keep a device ready for use (e.g. a TV waiting to be activated by it's remote). In our discussion on Charging your BlackBerry we observed that the charger continued to consume 0.75 Watts of phantom energy (now being called vampire power) after the BlackBerry was detached.

But suggesting this 0.75 Watts could amount to 5% of household energy consumption is a stretch. The cost of 0,75 Watts being consumed continuously for one year is 76 cents. Your house would have to be littered with these "old bricks" to get anywhere close.

Once alerted it was not hard to uncover the logic behind this new vocabulary. Applying our general rule of "open4energy duping" which states; the amount of marketing hype will be inversely proportional to any product value, we did anticipate a "load of rubbish", to use a quaint British expression, ahead.

There are two product families that have jumped on the bandwagon. This does not mean that there are no products offering value when correctly used, but it does mean we should beware of being duped by misinformation and exaggerated claims.

One author wrote "For those that don't know what a Kill-a-Watt is, it's one of several cheap gizmos ..... I'm not quite sure how it works, but quickly testing it on both 60 and 100 Watt light bulbs convinced me that it worked as billed." Readers beware of such "expert opinion". The Kill-a-Watt is great for understanding energy consumption across a range of home appliances. I encourage their purchase. At $20.00 they are good value for education and awareness. But the Kill-a-Watt is not suitable for measuring standby or phantom power or vampire power (whatever you name it) where the values are in fractions of a Watt.

For our testing we used a Watts up .NET, considered accurate to 1.5%.

Smart Power Strips
Fueled by Vampire Power experts armed with Kill-a-Watt (note name) measurement we are about to be duped. We are being induced to buy technology to save the (so called up to 5%) "vampire power" being sucked away by our computer equipment.

Now, I am not saying you should not save this energy. In fact I call on you to do so! We should all save any energy we can, no matter how small the amount. But this can only be done if we are correctly informed, and apply our resources in appropriate ways. I began the investigation into Vampire Power and home computing by measuring the standby and operating use of my home office equipment.

Standby Energy Consumed
HP laptop; sleep energy - less than 0.1 Watt
HP LaserJet 1300; standby energy - 4.1 Watt
LinkSys Router; vampire power - 2.8 Watt; total operating energy - 4.8 Watt
DSL Modem; vampire power - 1.95 Watt; total operating energy - 3.1 Watt

A smart power strip works on the principle of one master outlet, and a number of slave outlets. The slave outlets are automatically turned off when the device connected to the master outlet is switched off, or enters "sleep" mode. I was kindly provided a quality Green Power MDP 900 by Monster Cable for testing energy savings possibilities. (I do like their Green Power products for surge protection and power filtering.) I plugged my laptop into the master outlet and began to think about energy saving.

First the laptop. There is nothing a power strip can do for my laptop that is not managed by my operating systems power management settings. I will add that optimizing these settings for energy efficiency, in particular display brightness, screen saver and sleep settings did reveal potential savings. I will cover this in a separate discussion.

I do not want my DSL modem or Wireless Router turned off when my laptop either sleeps or is turned off. The laptop sleeps after 15 minutes of inactivity during the day, and I turn it off when I am done working. The "standby energy" used when sleeping vs. the energy consumed rebooting is worth discussion, but another time. I prefer to be certain that the laptop cannot be hijacked by internet thugs while on-line. The wireless router is needed by family members when my laptop is turned off, and getting my DSL service back after a power out is not something I am going to inflict on myself. Do note the vampire power of these two devices so you can turn them off at the outlet, or unplug them when not needed.

So far no savings from the smart strip. For information, the operating cost of the router and DSL modem, total 7.9 Watts for 365 days (assuming I leave them on 365 days) is 69.20 Kwh @ 11.5c per Kwh amounts to $7.96 I agree that there is operational energy to be saved here, but the only practical saving I have noted is to turn them both off should I leave home for a few days. Getting the DSL and Internet connection going again could be worth the risk and effort.

Printer Energy use ProfileTo the printer. Some users do a lot of printing but I do not. But being willing I plugged the printer into the first slave outlet, to see how having it managed by the state of my laptop would work out. The problem with this approach soon became clear. The printer uses 500 watts to power up, and with my 15 minute sleep setting, it was turning off and on regularly. Besides using nearly all my standby savings, it was simpler and less demanding to turn the printer on and off as needed.

I do not have speakers and other peripherals I need automatically turned off, so this ended the testing, except for one last step. And that was to test the standby energy used by the smart strip, to be smart.

Not fair they cried, it is also regulating and filtering the power, and this is true. So let me word this carefully. I will leave it to you to decide if the 1.9 Watts of "vampire saving vampire energy" and the cost of the smart strip, is good for you?


Open4Energy - Being Smart about Energy™