Are Your Gadgets Stealing Electricity?

What costs you all kinds of money just sitting around your house doing nothing? Nope, not your beer-guzzling lout of a brother-in-law—it’s your home electronics, many of which are using electricity even when you’re not using them.

Examples? Many chargers for cell phones and other electronic gear keep current trickling out even after the attached device is fully charged. Consider also all those clocks on microwaves and DVD players that are flashing away on 12 :00 because you don’t know how to set them—think that’s free? Not hardly. And the computer that you always leave on stand-by because it takes 60 long seconds to reboot? It’s quietly sucking up your hard-bought Edison juice. In fact, it’s estimated that between 5% and 20% of all the electricity used in the United States is wasted on appliances sitting around waiting for somebody to use them.

The simplest way to prevent this insidious theft of natural resources is to turn stuff off when you’re not using it, but it’s easy to forget, and let’s face it, you’re too busy to walk around the house flicking all kinds of switches. Fortunately, there are gadgets to help you manage your gadgets.

One of the simpler of these is the Smart Strip. The Smart Strip is basically a power strip, but with a feature that allows a single device that’s plugged into it to act as the master for other attached gear. For example, if you set your computer CPU as your “control” device, when you turn it off it will automatically disconnect peripherals like printers and monitors which are also plugged in

Want to be able to turn off the whole house at once? Try the Bye Bye Standby from the UK, which is basically a super-sized remote control power strip. This device lets you wirelessly switch off a whole whack of electronic stuff either individually or all together without having to move from your recliner. You can hook as many as 64 electrical devices up to your Bye Bye Standby, which is way more than your Clapper can handle.

If even that seems like an awful lot of work, consider the Isole Power StripThis looks like a standard power strip, but it uses infrared detection technology to determine whether there’s anyone, or at least anyone warmblooded, still in the room. When it senses everyone has left the room, the Isole will automatically switch off anything attached to it within a time limit set by you, which can range from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.