Power Strips: Energy Saving Made Easy

Smart powerstrip infographic from green.harvard.edu
Smart power strip infographic from green.harvard.edu

Did you know that your electronics and appliances always use energy when plugged in, even when not in use?

During their freshman year, Eco-Advisors Amina Awad ‘18 and Flor Marmolejo ‘18 began to explore how to increase sustainable behavior on campus.

“We were thinking about ways that energy is being wasted on campus,” Marmolejo said. “We didn’t want to make a massive campaign like a competition to see who can use the least energy because we found that to be a less personalized approach.”

Instead, Awad and Marmolejo decided to draw people’s attention to an object that they most likely already used.

“People can use power strips on their own and it’s not that much work,” Marmolejo said. “It seemed like an easy way to be environmentally friendly.”

Awad and Marmolejo spent several weeks in Paresky Student Center tabling and presenting their research on the use of power strips to other students.

“Not a lot of people came up to us when we were tabling,” Marmolejo admitted. “A lot of people did use power strips already, though they also admitted to not turning them off.”

The power consumed by several outlets being used starts to add up. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, phone chargers that are left plugged in consume about .26 watts when they’re not being used and 2.24 watts when they’re plugged into a device that is already fully charged. The power consumption for laptop chargers increases to 4.42 when they’re not being used and 29.48 watts when the charger is plugged into a laptop that is fully charged. Even if a student only kept a phone and laptop charger plugged in at all times, that’s at least 4.68 watts being wasted.

“It’s easier to not have to remember to unplug every single outlet if you just have one power strip that you can turn off instead of unplugging everything,” Marmolejo said. “It’s being environmentally friendly in the guise of making your life easier. I guess combining those two things is the best way to go about it, making it easier for yourself while using a product that’s environmentally friendly. You don’t really have to think about it, you just do it because it’s easy.”

Smart power strips make this convenience even greater. Unlike regular power strips, smart power strips come with a variety of energy saving features. For example, smart power strips can shut off power to devices that are in standby mode. At Boston University, some rooms are already equipped with smart power strips, while at Stanford University, the Office of Sustainability found that the university could save “nearly over $150,000 per year in electricity costs through the installation of smart power strips with computer equipment”.

Using power strips (and turning them off when not in use!) is one small but convenient step toward a more sustainable campus.



Claudia Reyes ’18 was a 2016 summer intern at the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives.