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Community and Q&A

Managing Phantom Loads

Kevin Dickson, MSME | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

“Smart Plugs” have recently become affordable that are designed to shut off vampire plug loads.

As mentioned elsewhere, the digital cable box is an especially heinous phantom load of $60/yr.

Well, I tried an iGo Green smart plug for my home TV & electronics center, and it doesn’t work.

It’s supposed to measure the standby power, and then shut everything off whenever it senses only the standby power load. Apparently, the iGo is either too lazy or too dumb, because it just leaves everything on all the time. I think it just wasn’t expecting such a high phantom load (60W total) and doesn’t believe it.

Has anyone found a smart plug that actually works with these digital cable boxes?

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Replies

  1. User avatar GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Kevin,
    Good question; I would also be interested to hear if someone can report on a smart power strip that works well with a variety of loads.

    A few comments:
    1. One very dependable way to shut down phantom loads is to do it manually: Get a power strip with an illuminated switch and remember to use it. From a young age, my two kids learned that "flipping the red switch" was a normal part of the TV-watching routine. And they didn't just learn how to turn it on -- they also learned how to turn it off, because turning it off was a mandatory part of the privilege of watching TV.

    2. As set-top boxes become more complicated, most homeowners are reluctant to turn them off. Many of them have programming features that permit recording of programs at odd hours, as well as other features that get messed up when they are regularly turned on and off. That's why I believe that we need a regulatory solution to this problem -- new efficiency mandates for set-top boxes.

  2. Bob Coleman | | #2

    fyi: all the new directv boxes are energy star rated

    probably the best way to work with phantom loads in a multi outlet setup is have one item be a master, and the rest slaves. a lot of A/V equipment, including tv boxes have slave plugs that only power when the box is powered On - yes the master device still consumes power

    they also make power strips with the same remote like capability, and they are compatible with fancier all in one remotes.

  3. Keith Gustafson | | #3

    I own CNC machines that remember hundreds of parameters for years with 3 AA batteries. They draw zero when off as they are disconnected with a giant 3 phase switch.

    There is no reason a set top box or flat screen cannot do the same. A rechargable battery to run the circuit that looks for the remote control and remembers the programming. Could even tun the power on to recharge itself if you don't watch tv for a while.

    Add one wire to every wall wart that shuts it off when it is not plugged into its object.

    more problematic are the many rechargebles that stay plugged in[the phones, vacuum cleaner etc]
    It is actually bad for the battery to stay plugged in. They ought to have a timer. I wonder if one of those lcd light timers draws less current than the battery charger?

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