Posting in Energy
New York start-up ThinkEco introduces the modlet, an electricity-monitoring device to help shut down office vampire loads.
Many electronic devices left plugged in suck electricity from outlets even when turned off or in stand-by mode. The Department of Energy estimates stand-by power represents about 100 billion kilowatt hours of nationwide energy consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.
How many of those dollars are yours or your company's? That may depend on whether employees shut down their computers and other office equipment at day's end.
New York start-up ThinkEco has one strategy to finding out: the modlet. The "modern outlet" fits over a regular outlet and collects data on what electronic devices are using how much power and when. Accompanying software then allows office managers to program when to shut down the copier, the fax machine, etc., whatever device is plugged into the modlet.
The company says the energy-monitoring system can pay for itself within 6 months by encouraging energy-use reductions between 35 and 80 percent. After its pilot study, ThinkEco said one company expected to see $65,000 shaved off its annual electric bill. They didn't say how big the company is or how many modlets were at play in the savings.
According to CNET, the product will sell for around $40 when it becomes available in the spring.
ThinkEco President Jun Shimada in a statement:
You can make big changes that will save energy, like installing insulated windows, a more efficient HVAC system, or by switching to fluorescent lights. Recouping plug-load waste, though, requires finding savings through dozens and hundreds of small actions, which individually you may never notice...For energy saving actions that can't be automated, the modlet makes the connection for people between what they do and what is shown on the power bill. Just like posting calories in a restaurant doesn't force you to eat better, being able to see the numbers still leads to a natural improvement of behavior.
I'm not sure calorie labels improve everybody's eating habits, but for those people who care about their energy expenditures, knowing exactly what they are is a good step to decreasing them. And for those who don't care? Perhaps competitions between departments to be the most energy efficient would be inspirational. An office pizza party to sweeten the deal.
Related on SmartPlanet:
- Networked 'smart plug' can monitor appliance energy use; make house smarter
- AT&T fights vampire loads with new charger
Nov 10, 2010
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I don't think this device actually turns anything off. I believe it just records usage information to allow managers to make informed decisions as to when to turn something off. I could be mistaken...
Just monitoring is not good enough, many products do that now. A truly smart device would monitor when something is plugged in or not. Being designed to turn off the power when nothing is using the plug is better. The devices that you use to charge that cell phone, etc are usually located in an inconvenient location to plug and unplug each time you want to use it. Most people will not even bother. Companies already know that if people turn off computers, printers, etc., it will save money. There was recently in the news about some schools that had all teachers and students turn off computers, peripherals and lights when leaving a room, this made a big difference in their power bill.
That's one smart little electrical outlet! In the building where I work, which is part of a huge campus, I can see it saving 100s of thousands of dollars a year. Because it's programmable, the administrator can view usage and schedule shutdowns accordingly. There may be instances like tech_ed's office where people work odd hours but most businesses still have standard business hours for most employees. Of the other 12 + hours of low usage, I bet a well-managed office could figure out a way to save a bundle.
This won't work in a modern United States office where employees are at their desk at all hours of the day and night. I know for a fact that where I work, there is someone here 24 hours a day working. I regularly work odd hours where I'm at work at 4 in the morning, or until 11 at night. Turning off outlets at work in this situation is not smart! And when you consider that most copiers and corporate printing machines are usually leased or have some kind of service contract, these machine regularly connect to the service company and downloads statistics that are used to bill the company for the consumables used in that printer. If you used one of these things, you run the risk of damaging that data flow. And some printers when they have determined that they can no longer reach the service company will shut down with an error message to call the service company for...SERVICE! which will cost you more money than this plug in device would have saved you! Now, for countries that have laws against making workers work more than 40 hours a week, yeah...this will be find for some outlets. But those perks are getting fewer and fewer as more and more companies adopt the 24/7 working ethic that Americans suffer with!