Slaying Energy Vampires with Smart Strips

As children, most of us were told to turn off the TV when no one was in the room to keep from wasting energy. But with today’s televisions, turning off the set doesn’t save as much energy as you think. “Off” doesn’t really mean off anymore.

Several devices found inside your home are commonly referred to as “parasitic loads,” “phantom loads,” or “energy vampires”— consuming electricity even when switched off. Phantom loads can be found in almost every room, but a favorite “coffin” is your entertainment center. Most TVs today slowly sip electricity while waiting patiently for
someone to press the “on” button. They also use energy to remember channel lineups, language preferences, and the time. VCRs, DVD players, DVRs, and cable or satellite boxes also use energy when we think they’re turned off. Studies show that in an average home, 5 percent to 8 percent of electricity consumption stems from phantom loads. To put that in perspective, the average North American household consumes roughly 10,800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year. If you estimate that 6.5 percent of your total electricity consumption comes from phantom loads, the amount drained by these vampires equals about 700 kWh annually—or $70 every year. So how can you tell which devices are okay to leave plugged in and which need to have a wooden stake driven through their hearts?

Identify Plug Parasites
Microwave ovens and alarm clocks, which use relatively small amounts of standby power, are acceptable to leave plugged in. A digital video recorder (DVR) uses a fairly significant amount of power when turned off, but if you record programs frequently you will want to leave it plugged in. You don’t have to worry about unplugging items with mechanical on/off switches, such as lamps, hair dryers, or small kitchen appliances like toasters or mixers they
don’t draw any power when turned off. How do you slay other energy vampires? Try plugging household electronics like personal computers, monitors, printers, speakers, stereos, DVD and video game players, and cell phone chargers into power strips. Not only do power strips protect sensitive electronic components from power surges, you can quickly turn off several items at once. (Routers and modems also can be plugged into power strips, although they take longer to reactivate.)

Smart Strips = Easy Savings?
Power strips, however, are often hidden behind entertainment centers or under desks and forgotten. A better solution may be found in “smart strips.” Most smart strips feature three outlet colors, each with a unique task. The blue outlet serves as a control plug, and is ideal for a heavily used device like a TV or computer. Anything plugged into red outlets stays on—electricity to these receptacles never cuts off making them perfect for satellite boxes or other appliances that need constant power. The remaining outlets, generally neutral or green in color, are sensitive to current flowing through the blue outlet, so turning off the TV or computer cuts power to them as well. Some smart power strips can be made even smarter with timers or occupancy sensors that determine when to cut power to various devices. Smart strips are available online or at specialty electronic retailers and generally cost $20 or more depending on their size. Payback generally can be achieved in under one year, depending on the type of equipment the strips control and how often they are used. Maybe our parents asked us to turn the TV off because vampires, phantoms, and parasites haunted their electric bills. These days, smart strips can help chase these load monsters away from your home— and your pocketbook.

BY BRIAN SLOBODA, COOPERATIVE RESEARCH NETWORK

CPI is offering FREE Smart Power Strips at our offices

The Smart Power Strip is an infrared and motion sensing strip that reduces power consumption of home entertainment centers by shutting off power to the main device (television) and other controlled devices (gaming systems, DVD players, entertainment systems).

You can get a free Smart Power Strip from CPI and cut waste and save around $30 a year! Come visit us at either our Philomath or Lebanon office to get one for your home today.

CPI Joins with Northwest RiverPartners for Hydropower Education Effort

In recognition of the tremendous value of the Columbia and Snake River System, CPI is continuing to partner with a regional effort to educate people about the multiple benefits the rivers provide to the region’s economy.  An informational “CleanHydro” campaign features a website, fact-based materials, television and print ads. CPI is joining other utilities and users of the region’s rivers on the campaign, which is being coordinated by Northwest RiverPartners, an organization of river users with members in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

To view a video on the benefits of the hydro system that benefits our region click on the video below.

Public opinion research shows a lack of understanding of the river system’s value to the Northwest’s economy. Many Northwest residents believe wind and solar technologies produce a much higher percentage of power than what is accurate. Younger generations know very little about the Columbia and Snake River System’s positive contributions. For example, hydro-power produces 60 percent of the region’s electricity, while solar and wind produce 4 percent. And in the Northwest, hydro-power provides 90 percent of the region’s renewable energy.

“We are launching this effort to educate people that a great deal of important commerce flows from our Northwest rivers,” said Scott Corwin, Executive Director of the Public Power Council and also a co-chair of the CleanHydro campaign. “The fact that hydropower is the region’s premier renewable energy source is a compelling story to share,” Corwin added.

Examples of facts and benefits from the campaign:

  • Agriculture: Northwest rivers irrigate 7.8 million acres of farmland each year. Annual net earned income from Northwest agriculture production exceeds $8 billion.
  • Commerce: Over 50 million tons of commercial cargo, valued at over $20 billion, is moved down the Columbia and Snake Rivers annually. The Northwest is the nation’s number one exporter of wheat, barley and paper products. The Northwest river system provides over 100,000 jobs to the region.
  • Clean air: Barges on Northwest rivers keep 700,000 trucks off the highways each year. Because hydropower produces no carbon emissions, the Northwest’s carbon footprint is half that of other parts of the country.
  • Renewable: Hydropower provides nearly 90 percent of the Northwest’s renewable energy.
  • Energy: Northwest dams provide nearly 60 percent of the region’s electricity. It would take two nuclear, three coal-fired, or six gas-fired power plants to replace the average annual power produced by the four lower Snake River dams.
  • Flexible and reliable: Because the rivers are always flowing in the Northwest, hydropower is also used as a tool to back up intermittent generators such as wind or solar. Hydro generation can be quickly adjusted to follow changes in wind production and keep the transmission system reliable.
  • Flood control: Prior to the federal dams on the Columbia and Willamette rivers, Portland and other cities were subject to severe flooding. Controlling flood waters became a high priority in 1948 when Vanport, Oregon, was destroyed in a late spring deluge. A 1964 treaty with Canada led to the development of millions of acre-feet of water storage for flood control and power generation. Estimates show that flood control operations in February 1996 saved $3.2 billion to the Portland metropolitan area in what otherwise would have been devastating flood damage.
  • Recreation: The reservoirs formed by dams provide Northwest residents with abundant waterways for boating, fishing, water-related sports and cruises. Tourism from river cruise ships alone brings $15 to $20 million annually to local Northwest economies.

About Northwest RiverPartners: Northwest RiverPartners is an alliance of over 120 farmers, utilities, ports and small and large businesses that relies on and promotes the economic and environmental benefits of the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and fish and wildlife policies and programs based on sound science. RiverPartners’ member organizations represent more than four million electric utility customers, 40,000 farmers and thousands of port employees that provide hundreds of thousands of Northwest jobs.

For information on the CleanHydro campaign, visit www.cleanhydro.com