A Power Strip That Kills Vampire Power

The Smart Strip more than pays for itself in cutting standby power.

The Smart Strip includes outlets that always have power.
The Smart Strip includes outlets that always have power.

We might consider it a noble, collective goal to shut off vampire power, the standby juice that devices suck when we think they're switched off. Nationwide, the phantom load is unnecessarily keeping several power plants busy.

But as individuals, what kind of money do we save if we shut it off? Maybe $50 or $100 a year, experts say, if we could truly kill all our devices when we don't need them.

It's a pain to run around unplugging everything. One answer is getting power strips that are easy to switch off. Another is one of the gadgets that make it even easier to cut standby power. They're among the small moves folks might make to cut their household energy use. I tried a Smart Strip on my TV and DVD players—yes, players, because we have DVD recorder and a now orphaned but still-useful HD DVD player. The strip works as advertised, cutting power to the DVD players when the TV is turned off. I didn't add our TiVo, which I want powered up to record shows.

Then I measured the difference with a Kill-A-Watt EZ, which tracks the power used by devices. I checked how much power the DVD players use when turned off, when left on (oops!), and when left on with a disk playing (double oops!).

Bottom line is that the Smart Strip would most likely save us about $15 a year on our simple setup. The base model costs about $33, so we'd get our money back in a bit more than two years. For as long as the strip lasts after that, we'd bank small but real savings.

The payback would be greater for someone with more devices, say a big sound system, a VCR, and a cable box — especially the cable box, which most people don't think to turn off.

I like the Smart Strip. I don't have to remember to do anything but switch off the TV. Plus, speaking collectively as Earth Day approaches, it seems the right thing to do.