Think of electric outlets as food sources and your gadgets and appliances as hungry creatures. The problem is that some of these "creatures," like that ravenous plasma TV or volt-starved cell-phone charger, have no idea when to stop eating. Either poor design makes them draw power all the time or standby functions, such as clocks or sensors, require constant electrical energy.
The simplest way to fight vampire power is to unplug devices when they're not in use. Surge protectors can further help by providing another level of control between the electrical outlet and the device. If you don't feel like unplugging six different electronic items every time you're not using your home theater equipment, simply plug them all into a single surge protector and turn the device off. This kills power to the surge protector's outlets, while still protecting against surges.
Some models of surge protector offer additional features that better enable users to cut down on the amount of power their hungry gadgets gobble up.
Watt Stopper/Legrand's Isolé plug load controller features a motion detector. The surge protector consists of six occupancy-controlled outlets that turn off when there's no motion in the room and two uncontrolled outlets which remain on regardless of movement. Plug your computer into one of the uncontrolled outlets and your various computer accessories into the occupancy-controlled outlets. The lack of motion will cause your accessories to power down, while your computer remains on.
Other power strips (such as the Smart Strip Power Strip or the Power-Saving Essential SurgeArrest 7) feature a master-slave arrangement, similar to the set-up of many electronic devices. One device, designated as "master," controls the other devices, designated as "slaves." These power strips let you choose which device is the master and which are slaves. If the master device is off or drawing only standby power, then the slave outlets don't get any juice. One way to take advantage of this feature would be to designate your TV as the master and make your video game systems, DVD player and speakers as slaves. Turn your TV off and the surge protector automatically kills power to the accessories. Additional always-on outlets would allow you to keep lights or digital-recording devices powered on, regardless of the master's status.
For more information about surge protectors and energy conservation, explore the links on the next page.