As smart home devices continue their march toward mainstream adoption, people are finding that electronic products are playing an increasingly prominent role in their day to day lives. At a core level, these connected devices are miniature computers, built with sophisticated components, including network interfaces, on-board memory, and processors. Moreover, these miniature computers are susceptible to problems due to “bad” electricity. And like anything that draws electrical power, they can be huge energy gluttons if their use isn’t managed properly.
Here’s where a power conditioner can help. By adding connectivity to their power conditioners, manufacturers have enabled functions that enhance both the usability and efficiency of smart home products and systems. For example, BlueBolt technology, which is available on certain Panamax and Furman power conditioners, enables homeowners to monitor energy-usage data from devices connected to the power conditioner. This data can be viewed on a smartphone or tablet, and used to make better-informed, and more energy-wise, decisions about how and when to use certain electronic devices.
For example, these insights might call your attention to a device, or group of devices, that use a high amount of standby power. Also known as “vampire power,” the term describes the electricity that electronic components draw even when they are shut off. With a house full of electronic devices, standby power can account for a significant amount of wasted energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, vampire power can account for as much as 10 percent of a home’s energy bill. By using a power conditioner, you can minimize your home’s energy waste by using an app to shut off outlets, or program the power conditioner to turn off certain outlets (used by noncritical electronic devices) automatically according to a predefined schedule; for example, during times of the day when the utility rates are the highest.
This ability to turn on and off outlets remotely from an app or web interface offers other benefits. Often, little glitches in a smart home’s performance can be resolved by simply power cycling a problematic device—your router is a common culprit. The ability to remotely reset the device in question, say for a houseguest or frustrated spouse, can be a lifesaver. Some power conditioners even offer automatic, so-called “self-healing” reboots if they detect that a device has fallen offline.
If you begin to notice a device acting as a repeat offender by requiring frequent reboots, some power conditioners allow you to schedule regular power cycles. You could, for example, elect to proactively reboot your router at a convenient time, such as 3 a.m. every Tuesday. There’s even room for creativity. Want help getting your kids to focus on their studies? Simply schedule the TV outlet to shut off for a couple hours every weekday during homework time.
In addition to helping homeowners manage the amount of electricity their smart homes consume, a power conditioner can maximize the performance of electronic gear. Here’s how: The electricity that feeds into a home’s electronic devices from the AC outlets is susceptible to various types of interference and degradation, which can affect its integrity. Left untreated, this can have detrimental effects on the performance and longevity of smart home devices. A power conditioner cleans up this “dirty” electricity. For maximum cleaning power, a power conditioner should offer both noise filtration and voltage regulation.
Another type of power protection device is a battery backup, also known as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (or UPS for short). The built-in battery on these devices is designed to keep your critical components from shutting down in the event of a brief power outage. Because smart home devices are all interconnected and rely heavily on an ability to communicate with one another, maximizing uptime is critical. A battery backup is a great way to accomplish this, especially if you live in an area affected by frequent power outages.
TIP: To obtain greater protection for your smart home devices, look for a surge protector with a high joule rating. This is a measure of the aggregate amount of surges the device can absorb before it no longer offers protection. Another key specification is called the “clamping voltage” (aka “let through voltage”), which measures the maximum amount of voltage the device will allow to pass through in the event of a spike. The lower the number the better.
In order to make an educated decision regarding protection and energy efficiency of your home’s electronics, it is important to accurately define the options on the market. Often the term power conditioner is used as a catch-all to describe a device that not only conditions power but also offers surge protection. Additionally, both power conditioners and surge protectors sometimes include a battery backup.
Given the large number of features and options on the market, the hardest part of investing in power treatment for the smart home can be deciding exactly what product(s) to buy. The first consideration in making a purchasing decision is the form factor. Certain considerations, such as the number of outlets required and whether or not the unit needs to be rack-mounted, will help narrow down the field. Lastly, determine if the enhanced features enabled by an Internet-connected device warrant the inherent extra cost and setup time.
As homes become increasingly connected, power treatment and protection have taken on a role of greater importance. Surge protectors and power conditioners can help protect smart devices from the inevitable power glitches that occur every day in our homes’ electrical system. Battery backups can help ensure a maximum amount of uptime for components that rely heavily, if not exclusively, on an ability to stay connected to the network. Alongside their role of increased importance, power treatment devices have become more intelligent, enhancing our ability to monitor, control, and manage the smart home and the amount of electricity it uses. From basic surge protectors, to Internet-connected power conditioners complete with battery backup, the question becomes not if you should invest in power treatment for your smart home, but how and when. EH