Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Power Bricks Are Wasting Your Energy

We all have them in our house: power bricks supplying energy to all our electronic devices. Even if they are internal, all electronic devices require them to convert AC power which your house gets from the grid to DC power which all electronic devices require to run. They are mostly redundant because each device needs to have its own brick. But that's not the bad part: the internal components of the power brick draw power even when the device they are powering is turned off. So, every power brick in your home is consuming power at all times if it is plugged in.
Wasn't too hard to find a random handful for the photo

There's no getting around this simple fact that the local grid only supplies us with AC. The battle over which type of current to build our infrastructure from was fought years ago between two powerful men, Tesla and Edison. Tesla won the battle, mostly because AC-- while much more dangerous than DC-- is easier and more efficient to transport.

The world we live in delivers power to every home in a format that these days most of the devices in the house cannot use, and because of that, we all waste a certain amount of power from these things. Just think about how much power the country uses with millions of power bricks plugged in, just sitting there doing nothing. As electronic devices become even more ingrained in our lives, we should see more standardization and compatibility between devices. Our houses should have DC ports just like it has AC plugs, and those ports shouldn't be drawing from the grid when they are not use. In the meantime, we are stuck with a house full of these little plastic abominations.

Paring down the number of power bricks in your house is a matter of compromise between savings and convenience. Unplugging unused or unneeded devices is a no-brainer. There's a few other tricks like plugging power bricks into a power strip or surge protector with a built in switch, and being able to switch off a whole group of devices when you go home for the day. Another trick we use is to have as many devices use the now-universal USB charging interface as possible, which cuts down on the number of chargers we have plugged in. But certain devices like your larger appliances have their own internal transformers to convert to DC and aren't really practical to unplug when not in use.

At my house we make a decent effort at simplifying what we need plugged in at any given time. This also eliminates much of the clutter we used to have. We have a pretty good sized house, so taking these kind of steps all add up to a big impact on our electric bill. It's definitely worth it to go through your home and ask yourself: does this thing need to be plugged in?

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