I've used two different types of "smart" power strips designed to save energy, traditional "trickle" strips and timer strips. Depending on what type of device you want to manage, you need to get the right type of strip. The video I posted above and this short journal shares a little about what I have learned about these two types of strips as well as eight other types I have seen.
1. Traditional Smart Strip
I think this is the most common type of smart strip http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/sustainable/smart-power-strip.htm. These types automatically monitor one device that is plugged into a control outlet. When that device is powered down, the power strip completely turns off energy to other outlets. For example if a TV is plugged into the control outlet and a DVD is plugged into the switched outlet, then when the TV is turned off the smart strip automatically cuts power to outlet running the DVD. If the DVD uses lots of energy when it is not being used then this type of strip will save that wasted phantom energy. You can get one of these types of strips for about $25.
2. Timer Smart Strips
Timer based strips work by cycling the power to the outlets off and on based on times set on the device http://www.home-energy-metering.com/shop-power-strips.html. I bought a mechanical one that you see in the video for about $12 on eBay (haven’t found these sold locally). The one I bought has tabs that you flip up and down to mark when power should be turned off and turned back on. You can set it to cycle as many times in a 24 hour period. I have seen electronic timer strips and they cost about $50 a piece.
There are other types of power strips that may suit your needs better. Here are a few of the other types I have seen:
3. Motion Detection Strips
These strips have built in motion detectors that turn on and off when people enter and leave a room http://www.engadget.com/2010/09/23/motion-sensor-equipped-hisaver-power-strip-cuts-power-when-you-l/. These may be good for offices that don’t need things running when people are not working.
4. Individual On Off Strips
These strips have individual on and off switches for each outlet http://www.amazon.com/Ultra-ULT31570-Outlet-Surge-Protector/dp/B0006HBBF0. I am not sure these would make much of a difference since a regular power strip lets you cut off the power already.
5. Trickle Strip Triggered via USB
This is just another type of traditional smart strip but relies on a USB connected to your computer as the trigger to shut down the switched outlets http://www.ecostrip.com/home. I would rather use a traditional smart strip because you can also plug in other devices like TVs, plus this strip is about $50.
6. Remote Controlled Power Strip
Belkin makes a power strip that includes a wall mounted remote control switch to turn the strip on and off http://www.belkin.com/IWCatSectionView.process?Section_Id=207100. This makes it much more convenient for folks that don’t want to bend down or wiggle around to flip a power strip off. These units cost about $45. Personally, I would opt for the yoga moves to flip a regular power strip off. In addition to remote controlled strips, you can find some that have foot pedals to turn them on and off http://www.ssccontrols.com/homepage-lightduty.htm. I have also seen strips that power on for a preset number of hours each time to click a pedal.
7. Strips with Built in Watt Meters
The strips have displays that show how much energy a plugged in device uses. The most popular watt meter is the Kill-A-Watt http://www.p3international.com/products/special/p4400/p4400-ce.html which is plugged directly into the wall and thus a little harder to use in tight places like behind a refridgerator. Another option includes the Insight http://www.belkin.com/conserve/insight/ which moves the display away from the wall. These are great to measure energy use. I used a Kill-A-Watt for years and will be testing an Insight soon. One thing to note about some watt meters is that once you unplug it, all of the data collection is lost. There are some watt meters you can buy on eBay that have SD card where the data collection is logged permanently.
8. Strips for Charging USB Devices
So many of our devices are now charged via USB and I have seen many left charging for long periods of time wasting energy. One product I have seen to address this is the Valet http://www.belkin.com/conserve/valet/ which shuts off automatically when devices are fully charged. I haven’t tested this though with the number of devices I have that require USB charging I may need to get one.
9. Micro Timer Strips
Gee, it looks like this is a commercial for Belkin. Another one of their strips is the Conserve Socket which has a built in timer that allows for half an hour to 6 hours of timed use with each click. This is good for devices for things that need a specific amount of time to charge like rechargeable batteries.
The devices we plug in waste massive amounts of energy when they are not being used. DVRs for example are estimated to waste Americans $2 billion dollars a year, a figure that can be reduced by simply plugging in DVRs to timer strips http://gigaom.com/video/set-top-box-energy-hog/. But as this story points out there are so many different types of smart strips and each one is best suited for specific situations. Good luck reducing your phantom energy!
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