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Green powerboards - worth the hassle?

Date

Gadgets on the go

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the "digital lounge room".

View more entries from Gadgets on the go

Watching television.

Watching television.

Cutting back on standby power is a great idea, but some green powerboards are more annoying than others.

The door-to-door green power spruiker finally made it to my house this week, offering free energy-saving CFL light bulbs and green powerboards designed to cut the power to your television and other AV gear when they're not in use. At first I thought he was one of those dodgy people trying to trick me into changing my electricity provider and I nearly closed the door on him before he could explain himself -- something he said happens a lot.

The guy was also offering free door draught seals, which I actually needed, so while he was installing those we got talking about the green powerboards. I understood the basics -- they can detect the power drop when your television switches to standby and then they cut the power to your television completely along with any other AV gear attached to the board such as your DVD/Blu-ray player. But I knew that different models offered different features and was interested in what he had to offer.

He was offering free Emerald Planet power boards, which have a socket for your television and several others for slave devices. There's also a bypass socket for gear that needs to stay switched on such as your Personal Video Recorder. Attached to the board is an infrared receiver on a long cable, so the powerboard can tell when you're trying to turn on your television and restore the power.

So far so good, but that hassle with the Emerald Planet boards is they automatically turn themselves off after an hour if you don't use the remote control. When it detects an infrared signal from a remote it resets the one hour timer. There's no way to extend this time or disable this feature. A tiny light flashes on the infrared receiver when your hour is almost up, but I really don't want to feel like I'm on the clock when I'm watching television. No-one wants to deal with that when they're in the middle of a movie. It's also impractical for people who have young kids and want to put on a movie for them while they're out of the room.

I understand why the board has a timer, but I don't tend to leave my television on for hours at a time unattended so I don't need that feature. I just want it to kill the power when I decide to turn off the television, I don't want it taking matters into its own hands. Forcing such a hassle on my family wasn't going to go down well -- it got voted down in a family meeting over dinner that night. Your mileage may vary, but I wonder how many people install one of these boards and then soon abandon it when they realise how much of a hassle it is.

I did a little research and found that the competing Embertec power-saving gear gives you the option to extend the timer to two or three hours, but you can't disable it completely. Three hours sounds much more reasonable and I doubt we'd even notice it was there. It's not going to waste any more standby power, because I never leave the television on unattended anyway. I don't understand what makes the Emerald Planet's designers think that one hour is practical. It's actually counterproductive if it encourages people to simply uninstall the power board.

There are a few other brands around so I need to do some more research, but I'm not prepared to put up with a 60 minute timer. It's not that I don't want to save power and protect the environment, I went on an energy-saving push earlier this year which has helped curb my electricity usage. But when I finally sit down to relax at the end of the day, the last thing I need is to deal with is a pushy power board with Genuine People Personality.

Have you upgraded to a green powerboard in the lounge room? Which works best for you?

56 comments so far

  • I did a little juggling wih Powerboards and extension cords and put all those things that draw vampire loads onto one board and plugged it into an easilly accesable switch. When we want to use the TV you need to turn it on, took a while to remember to turn it off everytime but it was quick and easy. The devices like the modem etc that need to stay on are on a seperate board.

    Commenter
    athan.68
    Location
    BNE CBD
    Date and time
    October 12, 2012, 12:32PM
    • I've got one of the 3-hour boards and I don't like it, but will continue to use it as it's the right thing to do.

      I've been caught out a couple of times where it turns itself off (I didn't notice the flashing timer) but my main issues are:
      1. Tricky to turn on.Need to press Power on the remote control twice (without turning it off)
      2. I've got a Foxtel box and it powers that off too and it takes a couple of minutes to fire up and re-find all the channels.

      Neither is a big deal and I'll continue to use the board.

      Commenter
      Tony B
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 12:43PM
      • Your Foxtel can't record when it is off so if you use series record you will miss programs - the Foxtel should go into an always on plug - otherwise the Embertec switches are great - who watches 3 hours with using their remote to at least pause?

        Commenter
        the Truth
        Location
        Melbourne via Paris
        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 8:14PM
      • When the installer was installing our embertec boards he recommended that we dont connect to anything with a hard drive for that reason. Memory loss and an inability to record shows. After we installed three boards our electricity bill went up %33. We also had a smart meter installed. We had those light bulbs replaced and we reduced our usage. Bascically its a waste of time.

        Commenter
        nick
        Location
        melb
        Date and time
        October 13, 2012, 8:55AM
    • We've got 4 Embertec devices, 2 on A/V systems and 2 on computer systems. Initially we found the 1 hour timeout a hassle, but once I found out how to extend it to 3 hours, there's been no worries. I find them really useful for turning off all the gear when we're not using them.

      Commenter
      sjdeez
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 1:01PM
      • We had those damn things. I couldn't get it to extend the turn off time so it kept wanting to turn the TV off while we were watching it. What was even more annoying was that the stupid thing kept turning the power on when we merely walked past. We just junked the lot! What a waste.

        We now use a simple remote controlled power switch. It leaves the TV on while we are watching it and leaves it off when we are not. Give these Embertec devices wide berth. They are not worth the money even when they are free.

        Commenter
        Brian
        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 9:53PM
    • I've used a wireless remote power board for years, its simple and easy, just one or two other buttons to press to turn on the devices.

      Wish I had more.

      Commenter
      Waz
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 1:19PM
      • I have also had remote control power boards for years. Holiday house, one button press on locking up when leaving, only a refrigerator left running. Home has 3 boards, 1 for my office to kill all electrics (TV, PC, laptop, printer etc.). 1 in the bedroom (TV, PVR , VHS recorder, STP. We haven't divested ourselves of old analogue working units) and 1 in the living area (TV, PVR, STB, DVD/VHS player, Foxtel box, table lamps etc.). All work beautifully.
        Refused offer of free Embertec switch as obviously useless for my needs. Keep getting persistent calls about them despite being on the "Do Not Call" register, so someone is making lots of money from the process of supplying them.

        Commenter
        mal
        Location
        Melb
        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 4:42PM
    • Why cant the TV simply draw the same small power for its IR receiver as the powerboard?

      Commenter
      Bardman
      Date and time
      October 12, 2012, 1:21PM
      • I have been using the Embertec for 8 months. Works really well. Doesn't seem to be a hassle for the family. I think I've got it set for the 3 hours and hasn't ever been a problem.

        Commenter
        Vit
        Date and time
        October 12, 2012, 1:29PM

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