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Phantom Loads

Now while the US Department of Energy suggests that everyone purchase surge protector with on/off buttons to minimize the effects of phantom loads, it isn't "the solution" nor is it always practical, but it does help reduce waste caused by phantom loads if you remember to turn off the switch.

What I found that is practical is the USB Ecostrip from Beaming Sun. I spoke with Jonathan LeClere over at Beamingsun. The key thing about lowering costs of energy is to make it simple for the users. Every computer, IMHO, needs power protection. This includes terminals running thin clients. The Ecostrip uses any USB port for connection and can also use an unused PS2 port. The Ecostrip can potentially save an organization $70 yearly by eliminating phantom loads on a user computer/terminal. Beamingsun is pretty excited about their recent orders from Penn State University and the city of Rockville, Maryland. It's one solution that is simple to implement and appears to have a positive ROI. The idea is fairly simple since the Ecostrip shuts down power to the computer or terminal and the related devices once the user shuts down the computer or workstation. A potential obstacle in implementing the Ecostrip is when to perform patch and change management to computers.

So how do you go about identifying phantom loads?

There are two low cost devices on the market for identifying leaky power. One model for consumers is the Kill-A-Watt appliance monitor. The commercial unit is WattsUp. There are tools and resources available for all areas of energy consumption in an enterprise. The very first line item is effectively evaluating how a network appliance or any gear uses power including the ones that are Energy Star compliant. An example is standby power. How long will a device idle at the full power cycle before going into standby and how much standby power does it consume once it reaches standby mode? Another question to ask is how long it will take the device to reach standby mode?

Phantom loads exist in residences and commercial places of business and virtually anywhere electricity is used. Because OFF doesn't always mean OFF, a huge amount of energy is being wasted by phantom loads. For individuals the cost of phantom loads just for a resident may add between $7-20 to their monthly utility cost. Considering all users- residential or commercial, there's an opportunity to design products differently to reduce and even eliminate phantom loads. Wasted power caused by phantom loads account for as much as 15% of the bill and perhaps even higher in office environments. For the record, if there is something I can find on the telephony or network side, I'll report back on this later. We've never been trained to think in these terms of powering devices down, but instead keeping them up and available 24x7. I can't cite any telephony system as being Energy Star compliant. But for the server guys, your power hogging days are numbered. (More on this later) Powering Down is something to consider and no longer an option unless of course you have a free and unlimited supply of power.