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Author Topic: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...  (Read 4523 times)

Ralf Maximus

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Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« on: November 11, 2007, 08:58:33 AM »
Via SlashDot comes this press-releasy kind of article:

New technology allows Fujitsu Monitors to consume zero power on standy

Basically, they use capacitors, a small solar array, and old-school relays to restore your monitor after it goes to standby.  Aside from an audiable "click" as the relay triggers, there's no difference in user experience than what we have now.  And it draws zero AC power while asleep.  Cool.

It's about damn time.

Now, consider this... if you were to walk around your home/office/cell and switch off every electronic device you own, how much power would you still be consuming?

Don't forget the little black power-packs plugged into the wall for recharging your phone, Ni-Cads, and everything else portable.  What about your stereo system, with it's lying green "Off" light?  Or your big-screen TV?

Add it all up and I bet it's MORE than the 8% average quoted in the article, since you -- dear reader -- probably have six times as much electronic crap than the average human.  Without conciously meaning to, we early adopters of cool tech are wasting more power than the rest of humanity.  We should probably keep this quiet lest they notice -- pitchforks and burning torches are easily understood low-tech for the masses.

So what can we do?  Let's talk about those evil black power supply bricks first. 

One idea I had: How about a small device that plugs into the AC socket *between* the device and the wall?  It would look like a single-socket foreign AC adaptor with prongs on one side and a plug on the other.

On top of the device would four small buttons: ON, OFF, SMART, and LEARN.

ON and OFF are self-explanitory (I hope).

LEARN mode is used when the device is first plugged in with a host power-brick.  Plug the whole assemby in, then connect your brick to whatever device it needs to power such that it's drawing a full load.  LEARN mode makes a note of the current demand made on the AC socket side of things.

Once LEARN mode does its thing, switch it to SMART.  Thereafter, whenever the brick draws less than the current threshold previously LEARN'd, it shuts off power completely -- basically OFF mode.

After that the user must manually tap the SMART button to reactivate the power.  Sure, it's an extra step and may be inconvenient if your AC adaptor is behind a 500 pound piece of furniture, but this is FOR THE PLANET, DAMMIT!  Also, it won't be applicable to devices that must always be on (medical equipment, security alarms) but for most of the consumer goodies we have it would make sense.

Package the device in garish blue/green eco-friendly recyclable card-stock (pictures of lush green meadows and hippies optional) and label it EARTH POWER DEFENDER (or something) and sell them for $9.99 a piece.  We'll make a fortune. 

So...  who around here can work a soldering iron?
« Last Edit: November 11, 2007, 09:04:05 AM by Ralf Maximus »

iphigenie

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2007, 07:41:32 AM »
The danger with your idea is that say you turn the dvd player off but still play the radio, it is likely to shut it all down. But I like it nonetheless, it just might work...

Although considering that there are master switch systems which turn devices off when the master is turned off, all we need is a way for a pc to be able to shut itself down when it has idled long enough - and with the hibernate-to-disk options we have it could still resume quite quickly. I think that can probably be achieved today.

The problem is, many devices just dont want to be turned off.

I have a small stereo which does not have an OFF. It is either on, or on standby. Or unplugged (which is what i do). I find that silly, i dont think an on/off button is that expensive that it couldnt be put on a £100 device...

My cable box is the same.

I turn things off at the wallplug quite a lot but I must say my cable box doesnt seem to like it - it takes a longer and longer time to restart every time and usually freezes several times prior to working again. Its like they designed it thinking it would never be turned off.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2007, 07:43:17 AM by iphigenie »

iphigenie

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2007, 07:44:34 AM »
Oh and I wish there was a cable modem with wake-on-lan... so it can turn itself off and then back on when you use it again.

Is there one? I just have the cable modem that came with my ISP kit so I never looked at the market much

Renegade

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2007, 08:15:23 AM »
There are SOOOOO many energy saving technologies out there that aren't being taken advantage of. Patents create part of the problem, but you've got to recover R&D costs...

Availability is another problem. Then there are technologies buried by vested interests.

Then there are "eco-friendly" technologies that are anything but - they damage the environment more than they help.

I'd love to get in on a business that genuinely made a real positive difference. The idea sounds good - but I don't have the necessary expertise for electronics design.

I could probably find a decent manufacturer (but not in China - that's just asking for the product to be stolen).

Getting media attention for something like that would be simple - they're always up for a "green" product.

Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

Ralf Maximus

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2007, 08:50:35 AM »
I was thinking the widget described above would be for "dumb" power transformers, that one plugs in and forgets about, whether they're actively being used or not.  Some devices (as noted by iphigenie) wouldn't like being shut off from main power; those I recognize as being a necessary evil.

But those wee little black power bricks just piss me off.  Individually, they're nothing... but add together 10 or 15 of the beasties and you're talking about some serious current, all going to waste.  Multiply by a few million households and I bet we're talking some serious power waste.

I am reminded of a similar technology marketed about 10 years ago called the "Bulb Boss".  The devices were small ceramic discs the size of an American light socket, each containing a chip.  A disc went inside the socket, between the bulb and the contacts, and *did* things.  Some Boss chips would turn a regular 60-watt bulb into a dimmer, by regulating the voltage it allowed through -- one controlled it via the standard on/off switch, pulsing twice for "half power".  Another automatically shut off the power after an hour of use -- perfect for entry-way lights.

And all Boss discs increased the lifetime of their host lighbulb by x3 to x5.  They weren't expensive, and sold three-discs-to-a-package.

So why didn't they sell like crazy?  I'm guessing the economics were wrong (nobody cared about saving energy in 1996) and lack of marketing.  Such a simple idea, and quite effective, yet you can't get the durn things anymore.

One electricty quadruples in price, maybe someone will do something about the evil black power bricks o'doom.

tomos

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2007, 09:47:47 AM »
I'd say you'd have a market here in europe at any rate..

But those wee little black power bricks just piss me off.  Individually, they're nothing... but add together 10 or 15 of the beasties and you're talking about some serious current, all going to waste.

I read (somewhere :-\) a while back that,
if all the people in germany turned off everything that was on standby,
the energy spared would be equivalent to that produced by one nuclear power plant (average sized I presume!).
That's 80ish million people here, now how many there in the states...

I generally try to have those "blackbricks" on an extension lead with a switch...

Oh and I wish there was a cable modem with wake-on-lan... so it can turn itself off and then back on when you use it again.

Times I'd love to be able to turn off the dsl router but our incoming calls come through the internet connection -
this can be changed (would also have to be changed back) but it is a bit of a pain & the box is so bloody delicate I'd be afraid to plug things in or out too much..

 
Tom

iphigenie

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #6 on: November 12, 2007, 12:33:52 PM »
We bought one of those power monitor thingies, the ones you put in at your main switch which then has a device you can take around with you and find out what turning things on/off does to your consumption.

Found out the difference between my old CRT and my partner's snazzy new flat screen was not as much as we thought it'd be  :tellme:  but on the other hand it confirmed that a lot of these transformers do add up.

Now we'd already switched all our lightbulbs prior to this but this little device still made a difference to our energy consumption, even though I cannot think as to how I changed my behaviour (turn plugs off more, i guess)

Deozaan

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2007, 01:53:15 AM »
And all Boss discs increased the lifetime of their host lighbulb by x3 to x5.  They weren't expensive, and sold three-discs-to-a-package.

So why didn't they sell like crazy?  I'm guessing the economics were wrong (nobody cared about saving energy in 1996) and lack of marketing.  Such a simple idea, and quite effective, yet you can't get the durn things anymore.

I could be wrong, but isn't turning on a light the hardest part of the light? I mean, doesn't the act of connecting the bulb to it's power source cause the most strain on a bulb, making the filament break or something? Seems to me my light bulbs only blow out when I turn on the light. Anyway, a Bulb Boss would increase the number of times power was connected/disconnected.

I think from a math perspective, it increases the lifespan because the light isn't on as long. But from a practical perspective, it would decrease the lifespan because of the increased wear on the hardware.

But like I said, that's me coming to my own conclusions from personal observation, without knowing the facts.

My family had some of those Bulb Bosses. I had one for a night light that would gradually dim the light over 30 minutes until it finally went out.


Ralf Maximus

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2007, 07:22:14 AM »
I could be wrong, but isn't turning on a light the hardest part of the light? I mean, doesn't the act of connecting the bulb to it's power source cause the most strain on a bulb, making the filament break or something? Seems to me my light bulbs only blow out when I turn on the light. Anyway, a Bulb Boss would increase the number of times power was connected/disconnected.

You are correct, sir.  Powering on anything is bad for its health.

But THIS part I know from the Blub Boss propaganda: the way they extended the life of the bulb was that instead of delivering the full current jolt at once, it gradually (over the span of a few hundred milliseconds) increased the current.  The human never notices -- the light seemingly snaps on as usual -- but in reality the bulb has been gently started.

So elegant, so clever.  And so off the market.  I suspect the lightbulb PAC is behind this...

Deozaan

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2007, 05:01:08 PM »
So elegant, so clever.  And so off the market.  I suspect the lightbulb PAC is behind this...

I'm still waiting for light bulbs with LED arrays. Low power, long lasting, and they won't flicker like those halogen bulbs. What's not to like? There are so many ways that are possible today to save energy if people really wanted it. Instead they come up with all this crap about "going green" by drastic measures that don't really benefit anyone and don't have significant results.

If people really wanted to "save the planet" instead of cashing in on the latest fearmongering, it could easily be done. We have the technology. Nuclear power anyone?


Ralf Maximus

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2007, 07:53:21 PM »
Quote
Nuclear power anyone?

Yes, please.  Preferably delivered in the form of a home reactor, the size of a refrigerator.

jgpaiva

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2007, 08:49:26 AM »
Yes, please.  Preferably delivered in the form of a home reactor, the size of a refrigerator.
That big??
Bah, i want it small enough to fit my laptop! :P

Darwin

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Re: Save the Earth! From evil parasitic power packs...
« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2007, 09:00:43 AM »
Windows Secrets highlights the general issue of gadget power consumption and how to reduce it in the lead story of today's newsletter.
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