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Plug into green tech

Smart Power Strips 101: A Beginner's Guide

Kimberly Hutchings
February 26, 2024

Convenient outlets are an essential amenity in any modern home, but having enough of them isn't always a given — especially for those of us living in older homes and apartment buildings built long before this current tech-centric era of life.

It's a fact that's made power strips an essential tool for many households, transforming one outlet into many and allowing us to power the appliances and devices we rely on in our day-to-day routines.

But as convenient as they are, power strips aren't without their downfalls too, and plugging in multiple devices at once is an energy vampire's dream come true!

Wait — vampires, you say? Like Twilight?

No, no, not that type of vampire! We're talking about the kind that sucks energy over blood.

The term 'energy vampire' refers to any device that continues to drain power, even when you think they're off — think of your microwave's digital clock, your TV and video game systems, or your iPhone charger left plugged in beside your bed.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), these devices waste over 100 billion kilowatt-hours every single year — costing Americans more than $19 billion annually. In other words, it's enough wasted energy to power 11,000,000 homes!

For a single household? It's roughly $200 in energy expenses each year, with nothing to show for it — yikes!

Luckily, there's a smarter alternative that can help you combat wasted energy without compromising on outlets.

It's the smart power strip! Here's how they can help you save money (and the planet). But first, take a look at some safety measures that apply to regular power strips and smart power strips.

What is a Smart Power Strip?

On the outside, a smart power strip looks a lot like a traditional power strip, but on the inside, there's a critical difference that sets them apart.

Smart power strips have the added feature of monitoring and automating routines that cut power to devices when they're no longer in use (such as when an object enters standby mode).

A smart power strip's monitoring function can take a variety of forms, but generally, The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) notes five types worth remembering:

Timer Power Strip

As the name suggests, timer power strips run on timers, allowing you to pre-set a schedule for when outlets are on and off.

Activity Monitor Power Strip

These smart power strips are equipped with motion detectors. They can sense when there's activity in the room and automatically power outlets on or off accordingly.

Remote Switch Power Strip

You can activate these smart power strips with a remote control or app. They're a good option if you're looking for a DIY approach to controlling your devices.

Master-Controlled Power Strip

Master-controlled power strips are an excellent choice for rooms like home offices or living rooms where you often use multiple devices simultaneously. You'll choose one primary device (for example, a computer). When that device is switched off, the power strip will automatically cut electricity to other connected devices (like a printer, phone charger, or paper shredder).

Masterless Power Strip

And finally, there's the masterless power strip, sometimes known as s current-sensing power strip. With these smart power strips, power is cut off completely when all devices are detected as being off or in standby mode, automatically eliminating the risk of wasted vampire energy.

You can use this handy flowchart from the NREL to determine which type of smart power strip is best for your needs and lifestyle!

The Benefits of Smart Power Strips

The benefits of using a smart power strip are significant.

For starters, they allow you to take a set-it-and-forget-it approach to energy saving, automating routines that will help you save money with minimal effort.

And for the environment, it's a significant win, too.

100 billion kilowatt-hours of annual wasted energy is equal to 80 million tons of carbon dioxide. If each of us used a smart power strip to help reduce our contributions, it would have a pretty major impact on the planet!

Smart power strips also help extend the life of your electronic devices. Constant power consumption can cause electrical components to wear down and break, so reducing how often your electronics are actively engaged can increase their lifespan in the long term.

And then there's the safety factor, and smart power strips (like regular power strips) are typically equipped with surge protection. Also known as surge suppression, this feature protects your devices from damage caused by sudden changes in electrical current during events like severe storms or blackouts.

Smart Power Strip Safety Tips

When it comes to setting up your new smart power strip, there are a few basic rules you'll want to follow. Keep in mind the following to ensure you're plugged in safely.

All of the electrical outlets in your home are grouped into circuits, and each circuit has a total electrical capacity measured in watts.

Adding additional outlets through a power strip doesn't change your total capacity, so considering which appliances and devices you group together is crucial to avoiding overload.

It may take a little investigative work (or simply asking your landlord) to determine which outlets are linked together, but once you know, you’ll be able to decide which devices can be plugged in and where.

In addition, you'll also want to ensure that the devices plugged into your power strip are within the maximum wattage of the strip itself. You'll typically find this wattage capacity labeled directly on your power strip!

To reduce the risk of overloading your power strip, avoid doing the following:

  • Don't use power strips for high-wattage electronics like hair dryers, microwaves, or air conditioners. These devices typically have wattages too high to be accommodated by a power strip or extension cord.
  • Don’t daisy-chain! Connecting additional power strips or extension cords to your power strip is a surefire way to go over your allotted wattage. Only ever plug these tools directly into a main outlet.

You can find more tips on avoiding electrical overload with power strips and extension cords in our blog post here.

OhmConnect's Smart Power Strip Picks For 2024

Ready to get started on your smart power strip journey? Here are our top three power strip picks for 2024!

Kasa Smart Plug Power Strip

OhmConnect Compatible? Yes

Why we love it:

  • Equipped with three smart outlets and two USB ports.
  • You can set schedules and timers to turn outlets on or off during specific times.
  • Outlets can be controlled remotely using the Kasa app.
  • Surge protection helps to keep your devices safe.

Eve Energy Strip

OhmConnect Compatible? No

Why we love it:

  • Equipped with three generously spaced outlets.
  • You can set schedules and timers to turn outlets on or off during specific times.
  • Compatible with Apple Home Kit, allowing you to activate outlets with Siri voice control.
  • Surge protection helps to keep your devices safe.

Editor’s note: If you make a purchase through our affiliate partner links, we may receive a commission. This does not impact the recommendations we make.

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