The case for "smart" surge protectors

Submitted by Ben on Wed, 01/13/2010 - 18:47

I've been seeing magazine and newsletter articles for some time promoting the new "smart" surge protector that shut off power to peripheral devices when a "master" device is turned off, but I figured we didn't need one because we usually turn off our power strips manually.  In practice, though, we often weren't turning off the one in the living room, because we'd turn off the TV with the remote and then walk away, go to bed, etc.  So I decided to pick up a Philips model for $20 at Wal-Mart and see what the Kill A Watt meter could tell me about it. Here's what I found.

First, the setup.  Our fluorescent-backlit, LCD TV is plugged into the Master plug, and our Blu-Ray player, VCR, and Wii are plugged into three of the Secondary plugs.  When we had a cable box, it was on the Bypass plug (which doesn't turn off), but we returned the cable box today.  I plugged the surge protector into the Kill A Watt, which in turn was plugged into the wall.

In the table below, I distinguish between "standby" and "sleep" -- the former meaning the device hasn't been turned on yet, the latter meaning it's been turned "off" but is still consuming more power than it did before it was on -- because these values are different for the Blu-Ray player and Wii.  The VCR uses the same amount of power before and after being turned on, so I don't make that distinction for it.

TV Blu-Ray VCR Wii power drawn (Watts)
standby off off off 1 W
on (50% brightness) unplugged unplugged unplugged 100 W
on standby standby standby 114 W
on playing standby standby 131 W
on sleep standby standby 115 W
on sleep on standby 115 W
on sleep standby playing 129 W
on sleep standby sleep 122 W

So here's what I learned:

  • The surge protector does not contribute measurably to the power drawn.  (The TV by itself draws a little less than 1 Watt on standby.)
  • The Blu-Ray player draws 1 more Watt after it's turned "off" than before it's turned on.
  • The Wii draws 7 more Watts after it's turned "off" than before it's turned on.  (Nintendo is the least "green" electronics company, according to Greenpeace.)
  • If we don't use any of the peripherals and then turn off the TV, the surge protector saves us 14 watts, or about $15.22 per year compared to leaving them on standby.
  • If we do use the devices and then turn off the TV, the surge protector saves us 22 Watts, or about $23.91 per year compared to leaving them asleep.

So given that we were lax about turning off the old power strip, this surge protector will pay for itself in a little over a year.  Your mileage may vary!