Category: Green Lifestyle
In the old days, an "off" switch meant just that. The machine in question was no longer thinking, no longer needed power.
These days, unfortunately, most everything is designed to be always-on, comes with a remote control, or offers functions that require a constant "listening". You never knows when you might wake up from a deep sleep and want to nuke a burrito, or fire up that blender! Your DVD player can't be sure when you'll press Play. Your cell phone charger sits at the ready, drawing a small bit of power in hopes you might match it up with your phone. And your PC faithfully blinks at you, ready to boot up at a moments notice.
(Assistant: "Sir, these lights keep blinking out of sequence, what should we do?" Shatner: "Get them to blink in sequence!")
Sure, some of these functions are convenient, and might even be necessary (don't kill the power to your TiVo if you expect it to record the next episode of Mad Men). But if you're looking to help the planet get healthier and cut your energy bills, consider digging a little deeper into what's happening at your electrical outlets. A Cornell study assigned an average cost of $200 per year per household to these energy suckers, equating to the entire production of over seven power plants.
Unsure what might be secretly using power? Anything with a power adapter (the big black cube around the plug) is immediately suspect. So is anything with a digital clock, remote control, or programmable timer.
The easiest fix is to plug appliances into a power strip, and use its on/off switch (where off means off) when the items aren't needed. I turn off my computer/router power strip every night and most weekends. Power strips work great for chargers too (phones, ipods, etc) which insist on pulling power even when not charging anything. You can leave them all plugged in and switch off the strip easily.
If you're feeling a little geekier, or getting obsessed with a particularly suspicious appliance, there are some high-tech options available. "Kill A Watt" makes a device that goes between your appliance and the wall and will tell you how much power it's using. Seeing your stereo burn through cash might make it easier to unplug. A new power strip from WattStopper will monitor the power usage of each of its outlets and shut it down when an appliance goes into standby mode.
Building awareness about these seemingly-small issues is bringing about legislative change. California recently adopted a policy which limits standby power to .5 watts, and the EU followed suit. We hope the future will see the end of this problem. In the meantime, buying wisely and making small adjustments are still important.
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