What's Wrong With Actually Turning Electronics Off?

from the am-I-missing-something? dept

The WSJ is running an article about some guys in Spain who claim to have patented an algorithm that can detect if an electronic device is in "standby mode" and cut the power. The issue, of course, is that plenty of electronic appliances and gadgets don't really turn off. Instead, they continue to draw power even if switched "off." In reality, they're in standby mode, and continue to draw power. Some estimates say that all of these devices drawing power represent 10% of power usage, and in some techie areas, such as here in Silicon Valley, some estimates say that 26% of power usage comes from such "standby" devices. Perhaps I'm missing something, but what needs to be patented to simply tell these devices to actually turn off, rather than put themselves in standby mode? There's often a reason why these devices go into standby, rather than truly turn off, and removing that ability may end up causing more problems than it solves.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 4:52pm

    Please, shut off the power to my refrigerator and air conditioning system while they are on standby (i.e. not running the compressor) I am sure I could save a lot of power that way.

     

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    Sos, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 4:52pm

    Reason

    Maybe it bacause you may have 5 devices plugged into a power outlet and you only want to identify and cut power to 3 of them, allowing the 2 that need to stay in standby to do so.

     

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    Reuben, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 4:57pm

    Remotes

    It's because of the remotes. In order to be turned on by a remote control, you need to have some power running through the switching circuit. However, there is also plenty of stuff without remotes (e.g. printers) that don't need to have a standby mode.

     

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      Philip (profile), Dec 1st, 2008 @ 5:04pm

      Re: Remotes

      I don't buy that one. I don't seem to recall ever having problems with my old CRT TV sucking power and the remote still worked to turn it on.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 5:47pm

        Re: Re: Remotes

        Except that it did draw power. That's not a newfangled notion.

        Unless you have an alternate explanation for how the remote worked

         

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        AMusingFool (profile), Dec 1st, 2008 @ 6:32pm

        Re: Re: Remotes

        Umm... CRT TVs are actually the worst of all. They keep a significant amount of power going to the tube, so that it doesn't shut off completely (extends the life of the tube a lot to do that). In some TVs, that was as high as 60% of the power consumed while on.

        Most likely, you just didn't notice it.

        That is one big advantage to going to pretty much any other TV technology, is that you don't have that "hidden" draw.

         

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          Vincent Clement, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 4:01am

          Re: Re: Re: Remotes

          Hmmmmm, care to cite a source? I'm fairly certain that when I turn off my CRT TV (either by pressing the on-off on the TV or the remote) that the tube is getting no power. If the TV has a remote then it is drawing some power, but 60%? I'm calling BS.

           

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            AMusingFool (profile), Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 7:52am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Remotes

            If it's a CRT TV, it's drawing some power. I'll grant, I was, perhaps, being a bit too brief; it's been a while since 60% has been typical (actually, a bit more searching says it's probably been a few years since it's even been seen; it has been several years since I cared enough to look into this). But 20-30% was pretty typical for quite a while; it looks like 3-5% is more typical of TVs in the last few years. So apparently it has improved a great deal since I last looked.

             

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        Philip (profile), Dec 1st, 2008 @ 6:47pm

        Re: Re: Remotes

        Yeah, I'm gonna have to retract my comment. My apologies. I didn't think it through too clearly before rushing out the door for an appointment.

        I can see the remote issue; however, a remote IR reader couldn't eat too much, no? I would expect it'd take more power to power the stand-by light than the IR reader.

         

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      Julian, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 6:24am

      Re: Remotes

      Remotes are no valid reason.

      There are easy ways to allow remotes to work while e.g. the TV is totally out of power. The remote can activate the TV with the signal's own electricity (something like RFID). The TV will then switch on it's power supply and everything works fine.

       

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    Michael Kohne, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 4:57pm

    It isn't that hard...

    If you really want your devices to turn off when you aren't using them, then connect them to a power strip and turn IT off. You won't be able to power them up with a remote (you'll have to actually walk over and flip a switch first), but if you want to cut your utility bill, then is that such a bad thing? I fail to see where anything fancy needs to be added to the system - no new brains are required. Just use the one you've got.

     

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      TEA-Time, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 5:27pm

      Re: It isn't that hard...

      Yeah, but the people that have turned their brain off rather than put it in standby can't figure out how to turn it back on.

       

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    Philip (profile), Dec 1st, 2008 @ 5:02pm

    Poor design?

    I have a couple devices, my TV and XBox, that aren't friendly to complete shutdown. When I cut their power, they forget their settings (date/time, etc) and force me to reconfigure them each time. It's a massive pain in the ass. I really would love to hard-switch these buggers off, but having to reconfigure them upon every start-up stops me from doing so.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 5:56pm

    Re: Poor Design?

    I recently had to go spend some "tech support" time with a retired friend whose husband, recently dead, had handled all the "tech" in the household. Someone told her she had to buy cable TV because of the DTV switch, and the idiot cable installed hooked the TV power into the cable box. So she found herself faced with the initial power-on menu each time she turned the system on... and didn't know what it was or what to do with it.
    The IDIOT also told her to throw away her TV remote, since she "doesn't need it any more." Of course, now she can't access closed captions, along with other TV-specific functions. But I guess that doesn't have anything to do with standby power. I'm just pissed at the cavalier behavior of the cable companies. Sorry.

     

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    Porkster, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 7:10pm

    A bit over stated....

    10 to 26% is a load of male cow. most standby circuits run on a few millamps at 5-20 volts which is stuff all at mains voltage. As said above old CRTs where the major culprit that keep the heaters running in the tubes for a quick start. These use to run at 6.3 volts and about 1.5 amps using 9 watts (no where near 60%).
    Once again the greenies have overstated the case.

     

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    Jesse, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 7:21pm

    But come on there are lots of things that just don't need to be on standby...printers, monitors, computers, audio equipment. What's wrong with plugging that stuff into a common power bar and shutting it off when you leave the house.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 8:18pm

      Re:

      Eh, for the computer bit it depends what you are doing with them. For the rest I agree. People should be buying 120 dollar uninterpretable power supplies that have built in surge protectors when they initially buy a computer anyways (my opinion). The upside beyond the battery is that the ones from APC have different segments.

      You plug your PC into the first slot, and then everything in the corresponding segment will only draw power if the PC is drawing power. SO if you turn off your PC when you are done with it it automatically kills the power to your monitor, speaker system, and printer for you.

      It has unbound segments as well for things like lamps. Personally I love it. I just wish I didn't have my PC compiling, downloading, uploading, extracting, compressing and so on at night half the time (talking 5 hr time frames sometimes). The price of wanting to use your computer for fun once in a while I suppose.

       

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        eleete, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 6:18am

        Re: Re:

        "You plug your PC into the first slot, and then everything in the corresponding segment will only draw power if the PC is drawing power. SO if you turn off your PC when you are done with it it automatically kills the power to your monitor, speaker system, and printer for you."

        This illustrates the problem with patents quite nicely. Sounds to me like this guy has some prior art to deal with. I'm not sure if Spain will catch that on the patent application, but it seems to me this guys 'invention' is already on the market in other countries. Is his 'invention' that is already on the market worthy of monopoly protection at this point ?

         

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      Porkster, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 10:29pm

      Re:

      Why pick on the small stuff, Its all negated by the use of one 100 watt incandescent light bulb. What about the more important things like poor fridge seals, old inefficent fridges, giant Plasma screens, poorly insulated water heaters, and inefficient incandescant bulbs.

      Don't pick on those tiny conveniences that add up to stuff all.

      Put out the big fire not the tiny sparks!

       

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        Enrico Suarve, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 2:11am

        Re: Re:

        Sorry but although you are right about tackling the big stuff you are dead wrong about the implied "it's OK to leave the little stuff"

        Yes incandescent bulbs use more electricity and yes there are larger devices that use a lot of power, and definitely yes we should fix leaky fridges and insulate water heaters etc; but don't be fooled that all the little stuff adds up to “stuff all”

        The 3xmobile phone chargers in the average house, 2xPCs, Videos, TVs, Cable Boxes, programmable microwaves, radios, game stations etc etc all add up - individually they often do not draw an awful lot of power for their appliance but you may be surprised how much power they do draw if you were to attach a multimeter to the back of them – don’t forget each transformer also tends to waste more energy in the form of heat

        The main problem though is that these devices are on 24x7, 365 days a year, leave a tap dripping with the plug in one day when you go to work – you may be surprised how much water is there when you get back – it’s the same thing with all these appliances

        The figures of over 10% are not bull as you state – they are based on observations on the savings people make on their power bills once they start to pay attention and actually turn all this stuff off. Plenty of people have gone around houses noting the power draw for appliances, adding this up and posting their findings; if you think this is incorrect I suggest you do the same and post your own?

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 1st, 2008 @ 11:24pm

    Even small stuff adds up when there are millions of them. Switching power supplies are more efficient, that's a start, but they are typically more expensive. I've heard some stuff uses several watts in standby. Even if it was only a single watt, a million of them in a city would consume a megawatt!

     

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    Andrew D. Todd, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 6:13am

    Been There, Done That

    The problem is that the Green movement attracts what Eric Hoffer called "Hitchhikers of Mankind." Here are the figures.

    http://www.techdirt.com/article.php?sid=20080824/1723152077#c382

     

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    Chad, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 8:08am

    biggest culprits I can think of right now are video game consoles and computers..

    Now have I ever seen a device that NEEDS to go to standby mode rather than shutdown completely except for convenience? No.. but I suppose if something relied on an internal clock or had a "memory" that only stays alive with active power like a car stereo...

    All-in-all, if you're really that paranoid about it, UNPLUG THE DEVICE. Try selling me something that can fully shutdown an electronic device when I could just as easily yank the plug out of the wall... I'm not that concerned about it in any case.

     

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    Del Sentido, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 9:20am

    Get yourself one of these and you will know for sure.

    I have several of these devices and they work very well. You can even get readings an kilowatt hours, find the multiplier on your electric bill, and get an exact cost in $$

    http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/travelpower/7657/

     

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    G, Dec 2nd, 2008 @ 9:03pm

    other ideas

    Cutting life support to vegetative patients would also save energy. How about we do that too? What about putting a solar panel on every home in the USA? What about actually upgrading the power grid to reduce loss during transmission? There was an article a couple of years ago in New Scientist that declared a new type of highly efficient conductive material was discovered which could be used to drastically improve the grid. Of course, not long after word of it disappeared from the map. Probably sucked up by the pentagon. ;P

     

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    Electronics Mississauga, Jun 6th, 2011 @ 5:38am

    This article is extremely helpful! Thank you.

     

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