28th April 2008

Reduce Energy Use and Help the Environment

Lately there’s been a lot of noise in the media about what experts are calling “vampire power” – that is, the amount of electrical energy being consumed while our electronics are “on” even when we’re not using them. In some cases, even when they are turned off, but still plugged in. One of my favorite tech writers, David Pogue, did a good column on it for his Personal Tech Blog at the NYTimes.com website.

APC SurgeArrest EssentialSo I’ve been thinking about it a lot, because I work in a small office environment in my home – we have around nine or ten computers, most with multiple monitors, along with a variety of peripherals – printers, routers, hubs, phone systems, etc. A couple of these do need to stay on at night as they run application 24×7, but most are just left on for convenience sake. On occasion I get up at night, and it’s astonishing just how much ambient light is put out by the various LED power indicators that are on. We don’t need night-lights.

In David’s column, he mentions a couple of nifty gadgets to help with this – the SurgeArrest Essential from APC (about $28) that has outlets that can be turned off by a Master switch, leaving some on for those items that can’t be powered down, while cutting power to those that can. He also mentions the PowerKey Pro USB for Mac users that does that and more using software along with it’s power strip, letting you control things with a few key strokes. It’s quite a bit more expensive ($199 for the lesser expensive of two models, $299 for the other), but it could be a good choice if your priority is convenience and features.

PowerKey Pro USBI took stock of everything that’s plugged in here, to see what could be unplugged at night with little inconvenience (such as monitors, printers, paper shredder, etc). Even my Time Capsule can be shut down at night, since it backs up every hour, and if I’m not changing files on my computer at night, there’s nothing new to be backed up anyway. There’s enough to shave a few dollars off our monthly electric bill and reduce our energy cost, possibly even enough to pay for one or two of the APC SurgeArrests over the course of a year. For me personally, it’s less about reducing our energy consumption and more about helping the environment – my significant other and I are passionate about trying to reduce our carbon footprint – so I don’t mind the extra cost of the PowerKey Pro USB and would use the extra software features.

I’ll keep you posted on which one we go with (who knows, maybe we’ll try both), and I’ll keep track of our energy savings as well so I can let you know in a few months what impact it’s having on our bills.

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