Green Technology
APC’s Green Surge Protection
APC’s new surge suppressor shuts off peripherals when a computer powers down.
Power-Saving SurgeArrest
March 28, 2008 by Steven Castle

Got a some kids at home—or a partner or roomie—who habitually leave the computer on, or shut it off and leave on the speakers, monitor and more, long after they’ve finished using it and are in another Zip Code?

We all know the types. And now you turn these energy hogs into energy savers, thanks to APC’s recently announced Power-Saving SurgeArrest ($35). It automatically shuts off up to three peripherals when a computer goes into sleep or hibernation or is shut off. The computer is plugged into the master control outlet, and the peripherals are plugged into the “Controlled by Master” outlets.

I have been using the P7GT SurgeArrest for my own power piglets, and it has worked like a charm. Getting my two boys to turn off the computer or put it into hibernation is a challenge in itself, but too often at night I find the cold glow of LEDs from a monitor, speakers, and printer, which to me means energy and money wasted.

Now, when my kids turn off the computer or put it into hibernation, these peripherals shut off as well—and don’t glow in the dark. 

Here’s how it works: The P7GT SurgeArrest has seven outlets in all, including one for the master controller (computer) and three for attached peripherals. Simple relays shut off power to the three peripherals when the computer uses 15 watts or less, then open current to the peripherals when the computer draws 40 or more watts or turns on.

APC estimates you can save $25 or more a year by automatically shutting down peripherals such as printers, scanners and speakers. It also saves on my nightly demands that these devices be shut off.

Even better, cutting the electricity to the peripherals when the computer powers down is equal to unplugging them, so they draw no stand-by power. (Many electronic products continue to draw power when they’re turned “off.” See “Why Your Electronics Suck (Energy).” As long as the SurgeArrest remains on, however, the computer plugged into the master outlet will continue to draw electricity, even when turned off. You can always cut power to that as well by switching the SurgeArrest off, and like other surge suppressors, it will continue to protect your computer equipment.

The only drawback I’ve found to the Power-Saving SurgeArrest is having an all-in-one printer/fax/copier plugged in as one of the three automated peripherals. Because it now relies on the computer’s power state, it can’t be turned on for copying unless the computer is on. The solution, of course, is to plug it into one of the three non-controlled outlets. But that would mean resuming my nightly ritual of shutting it off. I think we’ll just plan the occasional copying for when the computer is turned on.

APC does not recommend using this version of the SurgeArrest for protecting audio/video gear, because TVs and audio/video receivers, which are the most likely to be plugged into the master outlet, vary widely in the amount of power they draw in stand-by states. APC is planning a version of this for A/V gear, and is considering one that can adjust the power levels from the master controller that are required to turn off connected components.

“We’re looking at a lot of things,” says APC Product Line Manager Patrick Donovan. “As long as customers embrace it, we think [we’ll see more of products like this.]”

The P7GT SurgeArrest was the brainchild of APC’s senior product manager, Vlad Konopelko, who has some experience in not controlling the power use of teenagers at home. “Any family with kids, if they switch something on, it’s going to stay on,” he says. APC considered incorporating an occupancy sensor into the SurgeArrest, but ultimately decided that using a master controller with simple relays would be more economical.

At $35, the Surge Arrest is certainly in the upper echelon of basic surge suppressors, with a premium of about $5 to $10 for the energy-saving features, according to Donovan. But that’s fine with me, because I’ll gladly pay a little extra for something with good surge protection and some energy savings. Even better, I already yell less at my kids.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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