Watching television.

Photo: Rodger Cummins

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.

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. 

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?