How to Choose a Surge Protector
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 below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- How Electricity Works
- How Surge Protectors Work
- How Vampire Power Works
- How to Clean Up Home Energy Consumption
- How to Conserve Energy at Home
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- Why are my power bills so high?
- How much power does a small transformer consume when plugged in but not doing anything?
More Great Links
- Alliant Energy. "Your Home: Power Surges." Power House. (May 23, 2008)http://www.alliantenergygeothermal.com/stellent2/groups/public/documents/pub/phtv_yh_su_000413.hcsp
- Aquino, Grace. "Seven Ways to Cut Your Electric Bill." Bloomberg News. May 1, 2008. (May 23, 2008)http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601093&sid=aKx01f1zb64Q&refer=home
- Clean Air Online. "Electricity Generation." Environment Canada. Nov. 20, 2006. (May 22, 2008)http://www.ec.gc.ca/cleanair-airpur/Electricity-WSDC4D330A-1_En.htm
- Dunn, Collin. "TreeHugger Picks: Cut Back on Phantom Power." TreeHugger.com. Dec. 6, 2006. (May 23, 2008)http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/12/cut_back_on_pha.php
- Energy Information Administration. "Did You Know that Energy Vampires Lurk in your House?" Energy Kids Page (May 23, 2008)http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/classactivities/energyarticles.html#energyvampires
- Energy Star. "International Partners." (May 22, 2008)http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=partners.intl_implementation
- Good Magazine. "Vampire Energy." January 2008. (May 23, 2008)http://awesome.goodmagazine.com/transparency/008/trans008vampireenergy.html
- Gordon, Jacob. "Another Stake Through the Heart of Vampire Power." TreeHugger.com. Nov. 18, 2006. (May 23, 2008) http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/11/another_stake_through_the_heart.php
- Jeantheau, Mark. "Vampire Power" Grinning Planet. October 2007. (May 23, 2008)http://www.grinningplanet.com/2004/10-26/vampire-power-electricity-article.htm
- Karp, Gregory. "Vampire appliances: plugged in, sucking power." Newsday. May 4, 2008.http://www.newsday.com/business/yourmoney/ny-bzcov045671788may04,0,3572442.story
- Meier, Alan and Alain Anglade. "Global Implications of Standby Power Use." The Proceedings of ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. June 2000.http://www.osti.gov/bridge/servlets/purl/789121-dxnR5R/native/789121.pdf
- Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel. "Learn about vampire power." October 2007. (May 23, 2008)http://www.pickocc.org/publications/electric/Vampire_Power.pdf
- Oppenheim, Leonora. "Vampire Power." TreeHuggerTV. Oct. 31, 2006. (May 23, 2008)http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/10/treehuggertv_vampire.php
- Pogue, David. "Reducing the Amount of Juice Electronic Gadgets Consume." The New York Times." April 24, 2008. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/24/technology/personaltech/24pogue-email.html
- Senoron, Reagan. "Whole House Surge Protector -- Protect Your Home Investments." Ezine Articles. March 3, 2008. (May 23, 2008)http://ezinearticles.com/?Whole-House-Surge-Protector---Protect-Your-Home-Investments&id=1023135
- Smyth, Julie Carr. "Electronic vampires suck energy, not blood." USA Today. Oct. 30, 2007. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/products/2007-10-30-vampire-electronics_N.htm
- U.C. Berkeley Student Sustainability Education Coordinators. "Phantom Load." University of California, Berkeley. (May 23, 2008)http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~recycle/ssec/download/Phantom%20Load.pdf
- United States Department of Energy. "How to Buy Products with Low Standby Power." June 2004. (May 23, 2008)http://www1.eere.energy.gov/femp/pdfs/standby_power.pdf
- Watt Stopper/Legrand. "Watt Stopper/Legrand's unique plug load controls save energy and can contribute to LEED credits." May 2008. (May 22, 2008)http://www.wattstopper.com/pressroom/news.html?id=161