Saving With Surge Suppressors
A new generation of suppressors offer cost-savings features like auto and remote-off capabilities.
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The APC Back-UPS ES 750 saves energy by cutting off power to the peripherals when a computer is not in use.
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July 01, 2008 by Steven Castle

The remote can be handheld or mounted to a wall like a light switch—and we all know how to use those. “We’re trying to make it easier for people to shut things off,” says Gid Herman, Belkin’s senior product marketing manager.

The Conserve may not be totally green. One should remember that a small amount of power—Herman says under 1 watt—is still required for the Conserve’s remote sensor to await a signal. Herman says the net savings in electricity will far exceed the amount of power required by the remote sensor, though. We expect the convenient Conserve to be a hit among gadget lovers. A 10-outlet Conserve is on the horizon, and both can be used in the home office or home theater.

Other Green Outlets
Perhaps the best of both worlds can be found in Bits Unlimited’s SmartStrip line. These surge suppressors don’t have remote controls, but do feature several switchable outlets that automatically turn off when the master is off, plus always-on “hot” outlets. They are also adjustable, meaning the levels of power detected in the master to turn off other components can be fine-tuned. This is an important consideration for the varied power differences among audio/video components.

Then there’s WattStopper/ Legrand’s Isolé IDP-3050 Plug Load Control, which uses a separate occupancy sensor to shut off six of its eight outlets after someone has left the room. We wouldn’t be surprised to see more devices like it, though an occupancy sensor can jack up the price and cause components to shut off at times you may not want them to. The Isolé, by the way, sells for $90, and WattStopper is reportedly looking to develop less expensive solutions.

Surge suppressors such as these may cost more than others on the shelves of the electronics superstores, but you’ll definitely be doing yourself and the world a favor by investing in one. After all, it’s something you can do now that’s not hard, and can have an impact on your energy use—not to mention your electricity costs.

“Based on the direction we are going in, within five years, surge suppressors may have a lot of this technology built in,” Herman says. “We’re just starting down this path, but it’s a direction that makes the most sense.”

Shopping Surge
How do you buy a good surge suppressor? Don’t run to the electronics superstore and grab the first one you see. First, make sure it says “suppressor” on it and is not just a power strip. Good surge suppressors will have a clamping voltage of 330 volts (the lower the better) and an energy absorption rating of at least 600 joules (the higher the better).

If you’re buying one to shut off electronics components, make sure it has a switch on it. And remember, even a good surge suppressor can’t protect your equipment from a lightning strike. In the event of an electrical storm, it is best to unplug all of your equipment, unless you have a power conditioner or other device that can act as a circuit breaker and break the flow of power when it exceeds safe levels.

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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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