All About Smart Power Strips

All along most people thought that switching off their appliances is simply enough to cut down electricity usage. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Have you ever tried to be in your living room, all lights, appliances, and devices turned off, yet you still see tiny LED lights glowing amidst the darkness of the room? That light might look little but in actual, keeping your electronic devices in a standby mode is what’s wastefully consuming the electricity. This is what is often called to as Phantom Load or the “vampire load”. It occurs when common electrical products such as the television, DVD players, cable boxes, and computers among many others, continue to use energy despite being powered off. This usually happens because such devices need that electricity to continue to perform updates, connect to a remote server, or record and display data. In fact, according to the survey conducted by the University of Oregon, it was found that as much as 33% of the daily energy consumption of a common household residence surprisingly came from phantom loading. Nonetheless, this issue can easily be managed with the use of a Smart Power Strip. 

What is a Smart Power Strip?

A Smart Power Strip, or also referred to as an Advanced Power Strip or APS, is a block of multiple electrical sockets that are duly attached to a flexible cable that plugs into an electrical receptacle. This device serves to provide an additional length of cord from the wall and other obscurely placed sockets. In addition, it allows a certain number of devices to be powered all at the same time in a single electrical receptacle only. In other words, a smart power strip functions like an extension of your typical wall sockets which often are limited to a few slots only per room. 

Aside from catering to multiple appliances, the smart power strip also features a circuit breaker that automatically halts the electric current during instances of short circuit or overload. Moreover, it also provides protection against abnormal voltage spikes or power surges to prevent causing harmful damage to any device plugged into the strip. 

What differs the smart power strip from the traditional extension cord is its circuitry’s advanced capabilities to monitor and control each of its electrical outlets. It specifically functions to spontaneously shut down the flow of electricity to devices that goes into a standby mode. Thus, avoiding unnecessary energy consumption from any of the attached electronic product.

What are the different types of smart power strips?

  • Timer Power Strip

This advanced power strip that features a digital or dial time to enable time-based management on switched outlets. The user gets to pre-set the preferred schedule of power shut off and maintains it on a regular routine to maximize energy savings.

  • Activity Monitor Power Strip

This advanced power strip is equipped with a motion sensor feature that detects for signs of activity within the room and instantaneously shuts off when it detects none. Moreover, it also monitors movement from the remote control, such as on a TV or stereo. If it detects idleness for a certain period of time, the outlet automatically powers off.

  • Remote Switch Power Strip

This advanced power strip conveniently comes with a tethered switch or a remote switch. Thus, the outlet can still be turned off by the user even at a certain range of distance.

  • Master-Controlled Power Strip

This advanced power strip feature allows the user to select one primary device such that when turned off, the rest of the controlled switches consisting of the other peripheral devices spontaneously shuts off as well. For example, when a computer unit is appointed as the “master” appliance, other devices attached like the printer, speakers, and game consoles will be turned off simultaneously as the computer’s outlet is shut off.

  • Masterless Power Strip

This advanced power strip ensures that once the controlled device or appliance is turned off, the outlet from which it is attached to is powered off too accordingly. Hence, guaranteeing that there is completely no energy consumed thereafter.

How to use a smart power strip?

  • Identify electronic energy wasters.

The very first step you need to do is to determine which electronic products would benefit most of the use of a smart power strip. In both household and office settings, entertainment and computer systems are among the well-known energy vampires. That being said, it is good to note that any device that is controlled by a remote is a potential candidate for APS use. Furthermore, any appliance that has a status light or digital display is also expected to expend electricity despite being powered off. Another notorious vampire load comes from the unused chargers that are left plugged in the wall sockets. This is commonly neglected by many but is seriously draining electricity and money without the user’s knowledge. Here are some of the most common electronic products that are phantom loading:

Television48.5 WComputer LCD monitor3.5 W
Stereos5.44 WDesktop computer (OFF mode)9.21 W
DVD/Blu-Ray player10.58 WDesktop computer (Sleep mode)83.3 W
DVR w/ cable43.61 WComputer stereo speakers5.6 W
Satellite TV box33.05 WLaptop (Plugged in – not charging)50 W
Cable box30.6 WFax machine8.72 W
Video game console63.74 WFurnace9.8 W
Garage door opener7.3 WAirconditioner1 W
Cable modem8.62 WInkjet printer4 W
Wireless phone4.89 WCoffee maker2.7 W
Answering machine7.4 WMusical instruments4.2 W
Clock 3.61 WGas range1.7 W
Microwave w/ clock4.9 WNight light0.34 W
Cellphone charger1 WSurge protector6.3 W

  • Cluster devices together.

Now that you have already identified which electrical products have high tendencies for phantom loading, it is ideal to group them together according to their specific usage. For example, you may opt to cluster all your home theater system together. That includes television, speakers, cable boxes, CD/DVD player, game consoles, and other devices you would usually use in conjunction or separately for the purpose of entertainment. Once clustered, you may now plug in the cords of the involved devices in a single APS.  In that manner, it is easier for the user to manage the overall electrical load.

  • Choose the appropriate type of power strip.

Given the five different types of smart power strips – Timer, Activity Monitor, Remote Switch, Master-Controlled, or Masterless power strip, carefully determine which one is more applicable for your chosen group of devices. The nature of the activity of the electronic products involved will help determine which one is the best to use. For instance, in an office setting wherein the computer systems are used from 9 to 5 on a daily basis, then a Timer power strip would be ideal to use since the activity is predictable and regular.

  • Install the smart power strips.

The installation of APS is very easy. It is just like using a typical extension cord but with more advanced energy-saving and safety features. All you simply need to do is to plug the main cord to an available wall socket. Then, plug the previously planned clustered devices into the power bar and that’s basically it. 

What are the do’s and don’ts smart power strips?

Use light-load appliances only.Purchase power strip with an internal circuit breaker.Use sparingly. Remember that power strips are for temporary use only. Make sure it is UL (Underwriters Laboratory) and ETL (Edison Testing Laboratories) certified.Use specifically-manufactured power strips for indoor or outdoor use.“Daisy-chaining” – Connecting a power strip into another power strip.Use in potentially moist areas.Continue to use if the power strip starts to feel hot to touch.Cover or restrict proper ventilation surrounding the power strip. Staple or tack anything on top of the power strip.Knot or tangle the cords.

The smart power strip is an innovative product that offers several features including the capacity to cater to multiple devices all at the same time while providing surge protection and safety. Above everything else, it helps users to effectively manage phantom loading, a problem that has unconsciously been ramping up our energy consumption and utility bills by at least 10% more than the intended rate. With its usage, people now can be safely secured from flagrant energy vampires. Furthermore, as it aids in conserving electricity, it is in a way minimizing the user’s carbon footprint as well. Needless to say, smart power strips or APS brings forth a clear win-win situation for both the user and the environment.