When you use them correctly, smart power strips can help you conserve energy in your home. But you'll want to think through your electronics setup so you can choose the best strip for your needs. There are lots of potential challenges, but we'll highlight some common issues here.
If you choose a power strip that uses a USB cable to detect power levels from your computer, keep in mind that many computers power their USB ports all the time. If your computer is one of these, a smart power strip plugged into the USB port would never shut anything down. However, some computers let you configure whether USB ports are powered when the computer is shut down, so with a bit of tweaking, this kind of strip could work just fine.
Smart power strips that plug into the wall can have power detection challenges, too. If the strip's sensors aren't precise enough to detect when devices go into standby mode, electronics can continue to draw power when they don't need to. Some power strip models have controls that let you adjust the voltage sensitivity. If you notice that devices are still in standby when they should be shut down, try adjusting this setting.
Motion detector smart strips may pose problems when used with some types of devices. If you plug a computer into one of these strips and walk out of the room without saving your data, you might come back to find that everything has shut down with your work unsaved. For this reason, motion detector strips are best used with lights and other devices that won't be negatively affected by sudden shutdowns.
Of course, some products, such as a DVR, need ready access to power so they can perform scheduled tasks. An abrupt power loss can also damage some devices, such as inkjet and laser printers that have a controlled shutdown sequence. The best way to turn off these products is to use their onboard power switches rather than a smart strip.
Finally, you don't have to switch to smart strips to fight vampire power. Instead, you can just remember to unplug devices or flip the master switch on your regular power strips. Most computer operating systems also have settings that will let you run your computer in a more energy-efficient mode. No matter which combination of methods you choose to save energy, in the end, you may very well see nice savings on your electrical bill and reduce strain on the environment, too.