Smart Power… bars

Smart Power… bars

When you’re looking to expand the number of sockets in an area, a power bar can be the first thing that comes to mind. A power bar, or power strip, can expand the number of devices you can have plugged in, extend your range to the outlet, or provide surge suppression, a very important feature when connecting computers or monitors. 

Did you know that smart power bars can actually save you money? When electronics are plugged in, they are using energy even when asleep and when you think they are off. This effect is called standby power (link to phantom power blog) or phantom power, and can add up to 5-10% of your energy bill according to National Resources Canada.  

How are Smart Power bars different?

  • Energy monitoring Cuts power to outlets when it detects that devices have entered sleep modes
  • Dedicated plugs Maintains typically 1 or 2 plugs for 'always on' settings
  • Grouped outlets Sets a control outlet and controlled outlets. Good for entertainment units
  • Energy control features  Provides options to schedule or maintain power to the power bar

The life expectancy of a typical power bar is very good, often lasting 5 or 10+ years, but the technology in them has greatly improved over the same amount of time. When was the last time you replaced the ones in your house? Odds are, if you fall into the category of the 10+ years there are some much desired upgrades available to you. 

There are several different options for smart power bars out there. Checkout the list below before buying one to make a more informed decision:

Figure out your power needs:

  • Outlet control

Smart power bars use grouped outlets to control devices that are on at the same time. For example, a TV in the control outlet, with an audio receiver and game console on the controlled outlets. When the power bar detects the TV is turned on, the controlled outlets are enabled for use automatically. 

  • Surge protection

Protect your sensitive electronics from unexpected energy surges, overvoltage spikes, and overcurrent events. Valuable when used for entertainment stations including game consoles, computers, laptops and TVs.

  • Number/style of outlets

Think about what is being plugged in, is there a large adapter or oddly shaped plug that needs more room than usual? Wider spaces between outlets may be ideal. Have a lot of devices to plug in? Make sure you’ve got power available for them with a large number of outlets.

  • Connection ports

Running USB cables or ethernet? Look into options that provide direct connections into your power bar. Eliminate an adapter or 2 by plugging a USB cable directly into a 5V outlet. 

  • Power control

Power scheduling and remote-control options are available on certain models. These features help you to take energy efficiency to the next level, by determining times for the power bar to be on or allow you to turn it on and off from the comfort of your couch.

  • Wireless connection

If smart home installations are what you are after then there are options to keep in mind such as Google and Amazon for voice control. Power bars with these features work with voice control and typically have a Wi-Fi connection and don’t require an additional access hub.

 Of course CircuitIQ can help you understand what circuits are running what things in your home or building. Before you think about installing a power monitoring solution, have your building mapped to save time and know your power. 

Phantom Power!

Phantom Power!

Scary right? It isn't the ghosts shown in movies and TV shows to scare us and keep us awake at night. This "ghoul" can be scarier in fact because it doesn't seek to frighten us, it seeks to drain us! Phantom power can be defined as energy being consumed by devices that isn't producing auseful function. Take a look at the photo below. Notice the glowing eyes? That's energy being used up all around you, all the time. Although it may look cool, phantom power or standby power can add up to 5-10% of your electricity bill. How about putting that energy into cooking or keeping your food cold instead!

Common devices that use energy on standby:
➢ Cell phone/Tablet chargers
➢ Computers
➢ Tool chargers
➢ Game consoles
➢ Monitors and TVs
➢ Satellite/Cable/PVR boxes

These devices and more all use energy for faster start up times, maintaining battery levels, and an assortment of other reasons. Some items use power in standby mode that we can't avoid such as your fridge, furnace, or hot water tank. However, there are some ways we can combat this leaky bucket so to speak.

Tips to combat phantom power:
If you're not using it, unplug it! The best defense you can give yourself. Wall adapters or chargers used for phones and tablets, portable vacuums, and portable tools, all contain a transformer to convert AC to
DC for batteries. Did you know they are doing this even when they aren’t charging anything? Save some energy and unplug them when they’re not in use.
Power it down! All devices use energy when plugged in, some devices use more energy to sleep rather than to run! When shutting down for the night, consider turning off your laptop, desktop PC, monitors or other electronics completely instead of allowing them to use their sleep function.
Group them up! Consider putting similar electronics on the same power bar or outlet. When watching TV for example, you have a monitor, entertainment unit, whether it’s a PVR or game console, and possibly audio receivers. Put them all on the same power bar to turn them off together when you’re done with them.
Look into smart devices to monitor energy usage!
There are several devices on the market for home use to help you combat this ghoul such as power bars and light switches. Check out our other blogs for more information on these items and more.
Purchase Energy Star® appliances
Appliances certified by Energy Star® are approved and guaranteed to reduce energy consumption. As mentioned before, consuming energy on standby is unavoidable, but when using energy efficient fridges, washers, stoves and microwaves, you can rest assured you’re doing the best you can to save money and energy.
Consider installing additional switches during renovations
Installing a switch into your circuit to control outlets is a convenient way to make sure energy isn’t being used when you don’t want. Hire a licensed electrician or make sure you do your research and have the right devices to keep you safe at home!

You wouldn't pay for a service when you're not using it would you? (ignoring gym memberships of course). Save the energy, and save your money.

To learn more, checkout these articles:
Smart power bars
Optimizing your energy
LED vs Incandescent

Lastly, if you're not sure where your power sources are coming from, or your electrical panel is confusing, ask for help from an electrician that uses CircuitIQ to map your power in your home or building. It's important to Know Your Power. 


i - Natural Resources Canada’s, Office of Energy Efficiency, Standby power: When “off” means on , 2014,
p. 3-4