TrickleStar demo’s their energy saving devices

I attended the Smart Grids Europe Conference 2010 in Amsterdam last week. One of the people displaying there was Thomas Joergensen of TrickleStar.

TrickleStar are not a Smart Grid company per se, what they offer instead are devices to cut down on energy consumption in the home. As such, their clients are utility companies who want to help their customers cut their consumption as well as companies and individual homeowners interested in reducing their energy bills.

What kind of devices do they have? As can be seen from the video, the two main devices they were showcasing at the conference stand were ones which cut standby power to your peripherals (monitor, printer, ext hd, etc.) when you shut off your computer. Given I have already published some videos about the amount of electricity drawn by devices in standby mode (phantom load), I was delighted to see these great solutions.

I asked Thomas if there was any metering functionality in the devices and he said that was something they were working on.

Forget mobile phone chargers – they are not the problem!

I participated in the recent IBM Global Eco Jam and there were some fantastic discussions there.

One of the discussions surprised me though – people were still talking about unplugging mobile phone chargers as if that was a significant problem. It is not. On the contrary, it is a dangerous distraction.

Watch the video above. Seriously, do. I’ll wait.

The mobile phone chargers I tested all consumed 0.1W or less of electricity when left plugged in and not charging a phone. That is minute.

Sure, I get that if you add up all the millions of mobile phone chargers across the country, all those millions of 0.1W adds up to a significant load. I get that. I do.

LED Light

LED spot light

However, if you change one 50W halogen bulb for a 3.6W LED alternative that is the equivalent of unplugging over 460 mobile phone chargers. And that’s just from changing one bulb. How many bulbs do you have in your house? How many houses are there across the country containing how many bulbs?

Or forget light bulbs. What about the electricity draw of other devices in your house when they are plugged in but not operating (this is called standby power!)?

Well, my microwave consumes 3.5W when plugged in and not in use (that’s 35 mobile phone chargers worth), my printer draws 5.9W when on and not actually printing (59 mobile phone chargers worth), my Nintendo Wii draws a whopping 9.5W when on and not in use (95 mobile phone chargers worth), even cradles for cordless home phones can be consuming eight times more electricity than mobile phone chargers!

Mobile phone chargers, for some reason, seem to have been picked up by people as the bad boys when it comes to standby power. That is a dangerous fallacy. Why dangerous? People who are trying to do the right thing are ensuring that they unplug their mobile phone chargers, potentially unaware that their microwave/printer/games console is consuming orders of magnitude more power than the phone charger.

Switchable power strip

Switchable power strip

Don’t get me wrong, sure you shouldn’t leave your phone charger plugged in, but it is likely that there are far larger standby draws in your home or office you should be aware of. Educate yourself. Find out which of your devices draws the most power

How do you know which devices consume the most power? Find a little plug-in electricity meter to measure the power draw of your appliances, they are quite cheap and easy to find online – check here, here and here, for example. In some cases your local utility company may even supply them.

One of the things I do is to plug multiple devices into a power strip with a switch, this way I can quickly kill their power draw by flipping a single switch.

But stop talking about unplugging mobile phone chargers – by themselves they are a minuscule draw. Unplug everything.

Greenmonk’s Inaugural Cool Award: Fujitsu Siemens


A couple of months ago I got the chance to chat with Fujitsu Siemens Computer’s chief technology officer (CTO), Dr Joseph Reger, who leads the company’s sustainability initiatives. We went over a fair amount of ground, but one thing that stuck with me was a new technology that came to the market last month – monitors that consume zero power when on standby. Let me just say that again – computer monitors that consumer zero watts on standby. When not in use DC power shuts down completely.
Anyone that has checked the power consumption of their electronic devices, using a Kill-a-Watt monitor, for example, knows just how greedy devices on standby can be (TVs and set-top boxes = bad news). And we have a lot of them in every home and office. According to FSC’s press release:

“Reducing European Union-wide power consumption through the adoption of electrical goods that use zero watts in standby mode would save an estimated 35 Terawatt hours per year according to the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung) – while the EU Stand-by Initiative reports estimates that stand-by power accounts for about 10 percent of the electricity use in homes and offices of the EU Member States.”

In other words, standby power is a problem very much worth solving. This is innovation at work and I commend the engineers at FSC for their efforts. Now if they can just apply the same technology to every other device I use…

When I first heard about the SCENICVIEW ECO device, I thought it had to be worth an award. So I thought why not award it? We need to work out what the COOL award means (Greenmonk probably needs a logo, for it, for example), but for now I would just like to say well done FSC – and congratulations. You are worthy winners of the first Greenmonk cool award for finding ways to lower global carbon emissions and energy consumption.