Money is power, but power can also be money--at least when we're talking about electricity.
While heat waves spread across the country and utilities beg users to conserve, it turns out that we're wasting billions of dollars worth of electricity.
The wasted power (and money) is caused by high-tech gadgets that are ostensibly turned off but still draw electricity even when you’re not even using them. Turn off a printer, for example, and it may still be sucking up to nearly 15 watts of electricity. Even disconnected power adapters that are left plugged into wall outlets drain electricity. Utility companies call the combined effect the “phantom load” on the power grid, and according to the U.S. Department of Energy, electronic devices that are turned off but not unplugged account for up to 12 percent of the total electrical usage in the U.S., costing us billions of dollars every year.
If you want to reduce the phantom load, shrink your carbon footprint -- and reduce your electric bill -- here are a few options:
APC Power-Saving Surge Protector P7GB, $25
A simple but smart way to eliminate phantom load in your home is to use smart power strips with home office and home entertainment equipment. The APC Power-Saving Surge Protector acts like a standard power bar except that it has one outlet that controls three of the other outlets on the bar. When the device plugged into the control outlet, say, a computer, is turned off or goes into sleep mode, the power is automatically cut to the other three outlets so that the monitor or printer isn't left on when the PC is off. The APC bar also has three "always-on" outlets so that you don’t inadvertently shut off a cable modem or Wi-Fi router.
Is it worth it? APC says the device will pay for itself within a year.
PC TrickleSaver from Trickle Star, $20
This little device performs a trick similar to the smart power bar. It plugs into a PC's USB port and when it senses the computer has turned off, it cuts power to a connected power bar so that peripherals like a scanner, printer, or monitor also get shut off. It works with both Windows and Apple computers.
Ventev EcoCharge, $30
One of the most widespread power drains in home electronics are all those power adapters and chargers that get left plugged into the wall. The trouble with them is that even if you don't have a cell phone or other device plugged into them for charging, the adapters themselves still draw power.
Enter the EcoCharge, a replacement charger that senses when nothing is connected to it and then stops drawing electricity. It can also charge two devices at once and comes in micro or mini USB models, which covers most cell phone models, including Android phones and Blackberry devices.
AT&T (T) is one of the country's largest wireless carriers, selling millions of cell phones every year. So the company is looking to use its brand power to save power. The first device it will sell will be the AT&T Zero, which will be available later this summer. Like the EcoCharge, the Zero automatically cuts power to itself whenever your cell phone is disconnected. It uses a USB port so that by changing cables, it can be used with just about any phone.
Belkin Conserve Valet, $40, and Insight, $30
Belkin is one of the biggest accessories suppliers in the U.S., and the company is planning to make a major push into green, energy efficient devices. In July it will introduce the Valet, a USB charging station that allows you to charge all of your mobile devices in one convenient place, and then automatically shuts off power—including standby power—after the devices are fully charged. It can charge up to four devices simultaneously, with the cords neatly tucked away under its base.
The Belkin Insight is a companion electric meter that not only displays the amount of electricity being drawn by a plugged in device, but also shows you how much that energy drain is costing you. It will even display the amount of carbon dioxide (CO₂) that's produced to generate the electricity the device is consuming. Test out a few devices, such as the kitchen coffee maker or living room TV, and you'll quickly see how the kilowatt hours--and cents--add up.