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Standby power controllers are free but ‘flawed’

Why standby power controllers are flawedThe following article: Standby power controllers are free but ‘flawed’ was recently published in The Age, a Victorian newspaper. In our opinion, the article should be an eye-opener for other States considering similar energy-saving schemes, and maybe the Federal Government too, should they should decide to create a similar national scheme.

The main problem consumers seem to have with these high-tech standby power controllers (SPCs) is that the technology is predicated on a master/slave relationship between the controlling appliance and the controlled appliances. However, particularly in an IT environment where a PC is the master, this is simply not how consumers use their peripheral appliances. Instead, most households have a ‘home office’ hub with a multitude of devices including printers, modems, wireless routers, speakers and scanners. This hub does not reflect true master/slave behaviour, as the connected devices are not necessarily dependant on the PC for their function.  It is entirely plausible that someone will want to use the printer or router, without any need for the PC. However the ‘solution’ offered by the SPC is to boot up the computer (and all the other peripherals by default) simply to use the standalone copy function of the printer.

A similar example can be seen in the TV environment (where a genuine master/slave relationship may exist). Consumer dissatisfaction often occurs because the TV automatically switches off without the consumer’s control (e.g. when listening to but not viewing the TV). Similarly, the master/slave arrangement means you can’t record overnight on Foxtel when the TV (as the master device) is switched off.  Of course, human nature dictates that consumers simply remove the Foxtel box from the master/slave powerboard and instead plug it into an entirely separate circuit – now remaining on standby 24/7. We call this the master/slave powerboard paradox.

Further undermining the value of an otherwise good scheme is when consumers remove an individual (slave) appliance from the SPC but keep the SPC otherwise installed. Not only do these SPCs use standby power 24/7 themselves, but this appliance (which is surely now plugged directly into the power-point using standby power as it was pre-SPC) has already been allocated a carbon credit, despite the fact that no savings will be generated. Therefore this particular problem is additional to the 17% for just the “disabled” SPCs mentioned in the article.

In summary, the article raises a number of interesting points that require consideration before mistakes are replicated. Instead of relying on yet more high-tech gadgets to be our salvation, maybe it’s time for us all to take back individual control and responsibility, and switch things off for ourselves?