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OnPlug eliminates standby power drain


February 14, 2011

The OnPlug is essentially a single-outlet power bar, that keeps household electric devices from drawing phantom power (Photo: OnPlug Innovations)

The OnPlug is essentially a single-outlet power bar, that keeps household electric devices from drawing phantom power (Photo: OnPlug Innovations)

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Call it standby power, phantom power or vampire power, but the current drawn by various household electrical devices when they are supposedly “off” can account for up to ten percent of a home’s energy use. Fortunately, there are gizmos available that act as “middle men” between wall outlets and devices, completely shutting off the power supply when the devices are not in use. One of the newest is the OnPlug, which manages to come in at quite a low price point by avoiding the bells and whistles of similar products.

The OnPlug is pretty much just a single-outlet power bar. It has a male plug that goes into a wall socket, with a single female receptacle that receives a household device’s power cord. An on/off switch allows current to flow – or not to flow – through the OnPlug and into the device. When that switch is in the On position and power is going to a device that isn’t in use, an LED on the OnPlug will alert users that it should be turned turned off.

While the US$11 OnPlug isn’t the only product to do what it does, it is one of the simplest and least expensive. The Energenie is probably its closest competitor, and is available in versions that automatically turn themselves off after half an hour, that turn themselves off when the connected device goes into standby mode, that can be turned on and off via a wireless remote, or that have a built-in timer. Definitely handy features, although prices range from approximately US$13 to $21.

One supposed “bell” (or is it a whistle?) that the OnPlug lacks is a ground plug. Although this limits its applications, the company decided that the reduction in the unit’s size was worth the sacrifice – two OnPlugs can fit into one dual wall outlet, a claim that reportedly cannot be made by any other such device.

At this point, however, a logical question to ask might be, “Why not just unplug your devices?”. Well, you can, although OnPlug Innovations’ Gerry Heffernan believes that many people simply won’t go to the extra effort involved in doing so.

“Many of us do not want the bother or the hassle of unplugging,” he told Gizmag. “The elderly find unplugging physically demanding. Sometimes outlets are located in an inconvenient place where bending over to touch off a switch would be easier.” He also noted that outlets are sometimes located in areas such as kitchen counters, where unplugged power cords would be in the way.

The OnPlug can be ordered from Real Goods.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

This invention is nothing new in the world although it is unknown in North America. In Australia they have these switches on every pair of outlets built into the wall. It\'s much simpler and I\'m sure costs alot less than this rather large and awkward looking plug. Rather than an led light there was a red dot like that on some models of cars to show locked vs unlocked. The idea is great but it has been done and done much better already.


Still kinda neat though, with the standby detect mode

Terry Penrose

Presumably you plug the OnPlug into the wall receptacle and would need to access it to switch it off. So what\'s the difference as opposed to pulling out your present plug from the same receptacle to achieve the same \'off\' result ? There are, you should remember, certain A/V components that need to be reset should you ever shut the power \'off\' from them. Seems there\'s no simple way yet of saving power costs other than having the manufacturers of these components dispense with these small LED lights altogether.

Old Xaverian

The simplest solutions can be the best. Truly brilliant!

Kelly McNeil

A power strip with five THREE PRONGED outlets and LED light on/off costs half the price at Big Lots. US$11 is really pricey for a glorious switch. For that price I would ask to have AT LEAST a wireless remote on/off so that you do not struggle to get behind your appliances and similar (I would not bother with on/off if inaccessible and NOBODY would).

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