Green Technology
Smarter Surge Suppressors on the Horizon for Monster
Look for energy-saving surge suppressors for notebooks, phone chargers and energy monitoring.
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May 13, 2009 by Steven Castle

There are several smart surge suppressors out there that can save you money by eliminating standby or vampire power drains in your computer or home entertainment equipment.

Monster Power recently debuted its HDP 850G and HDP 900G products for home entertainment and computer users.

I’ve reviewed Eco-Smart surge suppressors designed to work with home entertainment gear, and I’ve had luck with APC’s Power-Saving SurgeArrest P7GT, designed for computer use.

And there are even more.

These smart surge suppressors work by cutting power completely to connected peripherals like computer speakers, printers, home entertainment amplifiers and DVD players when a control product like a computer, TV or audio/video receiver is shut “off” (which means it goes into standby mode that still consumes some power) or enters into a low-power “sleep” mode.

When the computer, TV or receiver is powered on, the standby modes of the connected devices resume as well.

As a result, smart surge suppressors are great for eliminating those unnecessary vampire loads that will show up on your utility bill. They’re also great for controlling the power usage of those folks in your house who aren’t in the habit of shutting things off when they’re not in use. (You know who I’m talking about.)

So what should you know about these products before buying?

I recently had talked with Vern Smith, director of business development with Monster Cable Products, who let me in on the thinking behind the company’s Green Power smart surge designs and the even smarter surge protection products in the pipeline.

Different Products Require Different Power, Even in Standby
If you’re looking for a smart surge suppressor to handle home entertainment gear, you should know that some home electronics products have different power levels when they enter a sleep or standby mode.

Monster Power’s new HDP 850, for one, is set to cut power to peripheral devices when it detects less than 15 watts being used by the control product, likely a TV or receiver.

“Some older products have standby [power consumption levels] above 15 watts, but most today are below,” says Smith.

The Monster product also has a switch that disables the green power functions, if there is a probem. By contrast, the Eco-Smart surge suppressors cut power when they detect a drop of 70 percent in power from the control device.

Smart Surge Suppressors With Expanded Features
Computers tend not to have such a standby power range, but Smith reports that some portable notebook and laptop computers can foil smart surge suppressors with their charging logic.

“Some laptops have AC adapters that turn on and off when charging,” says Smith. This makes them less predictable when the computer is asleep because a smart surge can be cutting off and resuming power to connected peripherals.

Monster Power is working on a smart surge suppressor for notebooks for this reason, Smith says. The product, due in about six months, may have a USB connection to detect for power.

“When it’s asleep, a computer kills the DC output to USB port,” he says, which will allow the surge suppressor to detect the power state. Monster is working on a green power device to eliminate power drains by phone chargers, as well.

Smith says Monster is also planning surge suppressor devices with two-way radio communication that measure energy consumption and can report it to a gateway device in the house. In other words: energy monitoring.

“Our long term road map is to help you manage energy consumption in your home,” he says. “We’re evolving a green ecosystem so the products will work, and with a gateway so they can be networked to control and monitor usage.”

So for your potential home of the future, there may be several smarter surge suppressors that cut power to your products when needed and report their energy use when they’re operating.

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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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