Although the term "phantom power" may be unfamiliar, most of us have tangles of cords for phones, TVs, computers and other gadgets in our homes. When not in use, many electronics go into standby mode and continue to draw power even after they've been turned off. They may be silent, but these phantoms are also costly.
Experts at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimate phantom power accounts for 5 to 10 percent of energy usage in the average home. One way to conserve energy and save on your energy bill is to use smart power strips. They look like typical surge protectors, but they do much more.
Smart power strips fit different needs
There are four types of smart power strips. Though they work in different ways, they all stop phantom power by disconnecting electronic devices that are in standby or sleep mode.
- Timer-equipped smart strips are controlled by programmable timers. Devices plugged in automatically turn on or off at designated times.
- Occupancy-sensing devices are controlled by an infrared motion detector. These smart strips can sense if someone is in the room and turn plugged-in devices on or off accordingly.
- Current-sensing smart strips are controlled by a "master" outlet. If you plug your TV into the master outlet, your cable box and video game console will turn off automatically when the TV enters sleep mode. When you turn on the TV, the other electronics turn on as well.
- Remote and IoT systems are controlled by an Internet of Things (IoT) device. You can program Amazon's Echo or other smart speakers to control power strips. Or, you can use a remote control unit that communicates with your smart strip via an easy-to-install panel switch.
How smart power strips work
Smart strips typically have three types of outlets: one control outlet, always-on outlets, and automatically switched outlets. When the device plugged into the control outlet isn't being used, power is cut-off to all devices on the switched outlets. Always-on outlets are for plugging in devices that always need power, like your DVR.
Although IoT and remote systems are more expensive, most smart power strips cost about the same as regular power strips. You'll find them at discount department stores and electronics retailers, but check with your local energy company, too. Some offer smart power strips at a discount or have a rebate program to offset the retail price.