In most homes, “vampire” power consumption occurs at a rate that would make Dracula feel like an underachiever. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, three-fourths of the electricity used to power home electronics gets leeched away while those devices are turned off.
You can prevent this power loss by unplugging your television, stereo, computer, and kitchen appliances when you’re not using them. Even better, you can plug them into power strips equipped with switches to control electrical feed. Or best, you can use a “smart strip” that automatically shuts down power to products like televisions and computers when they go into standby mode.
What kind of power strip do I need?
A power strip is a set of sockets attached to a flexible cord that allows multiple devices to be plugged in. Power strips are often used for audio/video and computer systems, which typically consist of multiple devices. Make sure the wattage required by the devices you want to plug in adds up to less than the maximum wattage rating of the strip you select.
The switch system on the power strip you choose can spell the difference between frequent dives under your computer table to flip switches, and just standing up and walking away. Some strips have a switch to turn all devices on or off. On some, there’s a switch for each outlet.
Beyond these basic configurations, you’re in “smart strip” territory. A simple smart strip will switch off power to any socket when it senses the device plugged into it is in standby mode. On more advanced smart strips, when the device plugged into a “master” socket goes into standby mode, the entire strip shuts down.
A still more sophisticated smart strip can detect that you’ve turned off the computer or television and will automatically turn off associated devices, like a printer or DVD player, while leaving the power on for others, such as fax machines. Some strips work by remote control.
Guard gadgets with surge protection
Don’t assume your power strip includes surge protection unless its label says so. If a power strip does have surge protection, its protective capacity will degrade somewhat each time an electrical spike triggers the high-speed switch that shields your electronics.
Don’t confuse overload protection with surge protection. A strip with only overload protection will turn itself off when too many devices are plugged in, but it provides no protection against voltage spikes.
If you connect multiple power strips in a row, you reduce surge protection in inverse proportion to the number of connected strips. If, for example, you connect three strips, and each offers the same surge protection, together they would provide only one-third the protection available from each strip if used alone.