EcoSwitch on ‘The New Inventors’
In today’s world, you haven’t really made it until you appear on national television. While we haven’t reached true Truman Show status where people are being secretly filmed for entertainment, the best way to get an idea out there is to be on TV. Which is fine by us, because that means the EcoSwitch ‘made it’ back in 2007, when creator Rod Sheppard appeared with the product in an episode of The New Inventors, hosted by James O’Loghlin.
The New Inventors
A sequel to the classic 1970s program The Inventors (naturally), The New Inventors brings on three inventors and their creations where they present their wondrous new idea to a panel of three judges. The judges get to ask questions, and then a winner is chosen to go on to a final best of episode where the Inventor of the Year is chosen. It’s been described as The X Factor for inventors, and while it perhaps lacks some of the glitz and glamour of The X Factor, it’s popularity is based, at least in part, on the amazing ideas that the show brings to light.
In 2007, Rod was invited to appear along with his signature invention, the EcoSwitch. Like all clever inventions, the EcoSwitch is a deceptively simple idea: it’s a device to eliminate standby power by acting as a portable electrical main, in a sense. Rod, always interested in energy conservation and sustainable living, had focused on the problem of ‘phantom load’ – the constant sipping of standby energy from wall outlets that wastes power and runs up electricity bills. His solution: the EcoSwitch. Plugged into the wall, or via a standard powerboard, the EcoSwitch allows all connected devices to be turned off instantly, saving electricity.
Pleading the EcoSwitch case
As one of three contestants/guests on the program (the others being Marc Lee promoting the Shinfin and Ron Baihelfer with his Adjustable Duct), Rod was able to make the case for his invention. He spoke with passion about his desire to improve the energy efficiency of the devices in our homes, which shamelessly sip power from the wall outlets twenty-four hours a day at great expense and waste and with very little benefit to the consumer. He described a likely scenario where an entertainment system was plugged into an EcoSwitch, allowing for enjoyment of the evening’s viewing or listening for as long as desired, with the entire system switched off – truly off, with no ‘phantom load’ – at the touch of a button.
Rod was then subjected to the usual grilling by the expert panel on the true usefulness and novelty of his invention, an exciting and challenging moment for any inventor. Although Rod wasn’t chosen the winner of the episode, the EcoSwitch was selected as the Viewer’s Choice winner for the episode and a Top 5 People’s Choice finalist for the entire year, which proved that people were ready and interested in ways they could reduce their carbon footprint and live their lives in a more environmentally-friendly manner.
This insight was further supported by the comments the episode generated. As one viewer later wrote on the ABC forums for the episode: ‘I sat there watching this great invention trying to total the number I would have to buy for not only my home but those of my two daughters. A really much needed item.’ Other viewers requested information on where to purchase the EcoSwitch, or expressed delight that someone had finally thought up a solution to this age-old problem.
In the end, Rod was satisfied at having educated people on the existence of standby power and the reasons why it needs to be controlled, and considered having been chosen the Viewers Choice winner to be all the victory he needed. While being on television is very exciting, and the challenge of defending your invention in front of a panel of experts is the sort of thing most inventors savour and enjoy, his main goal is to see every house benefit from a ‘turn it off at the wall’ policy that is easily and effectively implemented. Plus, he occasionally gets recognised from television, and that’s always fun!