Don't pay for what you don't use

In most offices, after you've powered down your equipment and left for the evening, computers and other equipment continue to draw power. Sure, it would be smart to unplug everything at the end of the day...but let's be honest. That's just not going to happen.

That's why advanced power strips (APS) are such a smart, simple way to save on electricity costs.

An APS works by turning off power to plugged-in devices when not in use, with different ways of sensing when they're not in use. This helps eliminate the power drain of devices that are "turned off" but still drawing power.

Choosing the right APS for your environment

There are three main types of APS devices:

Timer-equipped strips work very well if your office keeps regular hours. These are reliable and easy for users to understand. A recent study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy found that a scheduled timer was by far the most efficient type of APS, with energy savings of nearly 50 percent.

Occupancy-sensing strips are similar to timer-equipped strips, but a little more complex. They shut off devices after-hours by sensing when no users are present. This also helps save energy during business hours when people are away from their workstations.

Current-sensing strips are a common solution in offices. A typical current-sensing APS has one master control outlet and up to six switched outlets, plus a few always-on outlets. When equipment with low-power states, such as computer workstations, go into sleep mode, they trigger the smart outlet to shut down power to the switched outlets, turning off printers, monitors and lights.

In the Department of Energy study, all three types of APS saved energy. For individual equipment, APS controls reduced printer energy use by 35 percent, kitchen appliances by 46 percent and laptops by 21 percent. Overall, the study found that an APS can pay for itself as soon as under a year, to within eight years.

More affordable than you may realize

A current-sensing APS will cost between $25 and $40, typically with one control outlet and four to six switched outlets, plus a few always-on outlets. Most hardware stores and retailers that sell appliances carry digital timer APS devices for about $20, and occupant-sensing strips sell in the $75 to $100 range.

Other options include remote controlled strips for $40 and up. Web-enabled devices starting at $250 will let you monitor and control energy use remotely in real-time.


Image provided courtesy of WattStopper.

More tips & recommendations

  • Timer-equipped strips are great for shutting an office down after normal business hours
  • Occupancy-sensing strips can tell when there isn't a user nearby and powers down devices plugged into it
  • Current-sensing strips will detect a drop in electric current as devices go into low-power mode, shutting off the device or other devices plugged into the strip

Visit PG&E's Ways to Save power strip page for more tips and ideas.

"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
© 2014 Pacific Gas and Electric Company. All rights reserved.