Install & Use Power Strips

Save the energy your electronics still use when they’re turned off.

TVs, computers, stereos, surround sound systems, chargers, DVD players — if the light is glowing, it’s using power, even if it’s turned off. This “phantom” standby power helps them to turn on quickly, but also quickly adds up to a lot of unnecessary energy usage, as much as 5–10% of your energy usage.

A simple power strip with an on/off button lets you turn the power all the way off. You can find a good one for less than $20 — $5 or $6 if you shop around. Use them regularly, and they’ll pay for themselves in a year or less.

To make things even simpler, go for a “smart” strip. When you power off the main device — computer or TV, for example — the peripherals plugged in the same strip are also automatically powered down with it, whether printers, speakers, whatever. You don’t even have to think about it.

While there are no incentives being offered at this time, there is the always the convenience factor of not having to bend down to turn off a power strip every time you leave the room. As well as the fact that you are saving energy every time equipment is off when it otherwise would have been on.

How do I know if my electronics are using electricity when they’re off?

If the LED is glowing, it’s using power. This is typical of TVs, stereos, computers, cellphone/iPod/iPad chargers and other devices. If the device doesn’t have an indicator light, touch it to see if it’s slightly warm — if so, it’s using juice.

What about my cable box, satellite receiver, or DVR/digital video recorder?

Cable and satellite boxes have long start-up times, and they regularly receive system updates when you’re not using them. And the DVR can’t record your programs unless it has power, so most people leave them on. TVs, DVD players and gaming systems, however, can be plugged into power strips and completely powered down.

How do I know what I should or should not plug into a power strip?

Use a power strip for any item that uses standby power. This includes TVs, DVD players, gaming systems, computers, printers, speakers, all kinds of chargers, as well as kitchen and small appliances like coffeemakers and toasters (though you could simply unplug them).

It’s not recommended to use power strips for microwaves, fax machines, lights, clocks, cable and satellite boxes, digital video recorders, VCRs, or other items that either A) operate when unattended, B) need continuous power to maintain functionality, or C) power down completely when turned off (like the microwave or most lighting).

What’s the advantage of a “smart” strip over a “regular” power strip?

A smart-type power strip has several outlets grouped with a master outlet, and when the device plugged into the master is turned off, the whole group is cut off from power. For example, your computer could be plugged into the master, and your printer, speakers and external hard drive could be plugged into its group; turn the computer off, and power stops going to all the devices. Same for a TV and DVD player/gaming system/surround sound system.

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