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Slaying the Vampire

The standby energy vampires won’t suck your blood, just your wallets, and maybe your conscience.

The standby energy vampires won’t suck your blood, just your wallets, and maybe your conscience. To put stakes through their hearts, manufacturers are getting down and “green” with current-sensing devices that cut off energy-wasting power.

For basic devices, the Panamax PM8-GAV surge protection solution is an eight-outlet strip at a modest price point that senses a current threshold level and will cut off power to unused devices once that threshold has been reached.
Load shedding, or the elimination of “vampire” power consumption, is a fairly new term that is gaining traction in the custom integration channel, said PS Audio VP of sales and marketing Ryan Conway. “As power demands and energy costs continue to rise, we’ll see a greater need for integrators not only to protect gear, but also reduce power consumption through the implementation of advanced power management devices. Gone are the days when a decent surge protector will fit the bill. Consumers are demanding more from systems and their integrators.”

PS Audio offers several products that the company says provide an intelligent managed power solution. These products include the AV-3000 and AV-5000 Power Centers and the PowerPlay IPC-8000 and IPC-9000 web-connected power conditioners. “We originally introduced our PowerPlay line of power conditioners at CEDIA 2008,” Conway said. “Since delivery, we’ve had integrators partnering the PowerPlay devices with third-party control to cut power from vampire devices.”

Recently, PS took the remote power management features of its PowerPlay products to the next level by allowing end users and/or integrators to schedule devices to be on or off remotely through its Globalnet web interface. “Devices can be scheduled on a very granular level, and have monitored and tracked power consumption in real time since release, allowing integrators and clients to compare past power consumption to changes made through the scheduling features,” Conway said.

Vampire power is one small entity of the green movement, said Panamax Inc. national trainer Marshall Currier. “It’s real, but depending on whom you ask, its effects may or may not be as devastating as some make it out to be.”

From a micro standpoint, he says, vampire power lurks in desktop computers in standby mode and plugged-in phone chargers. “In macro terms, it’s about all the electronics in your rack that need to sit idle, ready for infrared or home automation commands to wake up, not to mention home appliances.”

APC AV’S flagship product is the S20, which is IP addressable, allowing network manageability so the installer can shed loads and turn off power remotely.

For basic devices, the Panamax PM8-GAV surge protection solution is an eight-outlet strip at a modest price point that senses a current threshold level and will cut off power to unused devices once that threshold has been reached. For energy management in and out of the AV rack, Panamax recently introduced the BlueBOLT platform of power management solutions with remote IP control for three SKU’s in the Panamax family.

“We’re just getting started with BlueBOLT,” Currier said. “We’re building on it, looking to play in the energy management space from a whole-house standpoint. We recently exited a beta test and have had glowing reviews.”

Current-sensing is just a small piece, Currier said, of the whole energy management pie. “We’re offering current sense shut-off technology at an entry level and introducing BlueBOLT as a recipe for a number of solutions, including energy management. Because it’s software-based we can tie in metrics at a later time, and really start to offer an entire suite of energy management solutions. We’ll be showing a variety of new BlueBOLT-based features at CEDIA EXPO 2010 in Atlanta.”

Ready for CEDIA

SurgeX also will exhibit at CEDIA 2010 in Atlanta, its first foray to EXPO since it was acquired by ESP last year, said CFO/SVP of sales Shannon Townley.

“We’re excited because we have just launched a residential product line focused on the CEDIA channel. Among other products, the XW715 Web Enabled Power Conditioning Management System with remote administration,” he said. “It brings all our core patented technology for surge elimination vs. surge suppression.”

Specifically, the product is IP based, and will monitor, manage, and sequence individual outlets by password input and login, according to Townley.

“On the commercial side, we’ve been able to work with various customers who are trying to get LEED certifications.”

Advantages of IP Control

Blair Brommel, a Chicago-based electronic systems contractor, believes that SurgeX’s IP-enabled devices give his company, Blair & Associates, the ability to remotely trigger activities within the house as well as manage and reset its customers’ systems without the expense or hassle of rolling its trucks for a minor issue.

“By combining that accessibility with the proven surge elimination technology from SurgeX, we are able to simplify the process even more,” Brommel said. “It also means we only have to carry one SKU now, and from reliable partner like SurgeX that’s a big plus. Before the XW715, we would have to plug a separate IP-enabled device into our SurgeX Power Conditioning device. Now we only have to install one box, which makes our lives a lot easier.”

Advantages of Green Power

The important part of the green power management movement is in tying it back to a tangible product, said Shannon Talbert, national account manager for Schneider Electric subsidiary, APC AV. “We’ve seen an increase in installers and resellers looking to tie into the green side.”

In 2005, APC AV launched a product line specific to home theaters and AV. “Our flagship product is the S20, which is IP addressable, allowing network manageability so the installer can shed loads and turn off power remotely,” she said. “It also helps consumers make intelligent decisions; they can see the detailed history of their power consumption and spot problems.”

The company plans to introduce some new midrange products in the next year with master and control outlets for AV that will allow the user to program in utility rates.

APC AV is in a strategic spot within a competitive field,” Talbot said. “There will be tighter competition, and we’re uniquely positioned in the marketplace. Schneider Electric encompasses every aspect of the energy business from the distribution level and solar solutions down to APC with residential power management.

SurgeX’s Shannon Townley says he is excited about plans to launch the XW715 Web Enabled Power Conditioning Management System at CEDIA EXPO in September. Experience is Power

“Power is the foundation of any system, and I find it most interesting to look at companies playing the green power game,” Tripp-Lite AV brand manager Dennis Mariasis said.

Tripp-Lite’s innovations are not new, he said, given that the company was one of the first to come into the residential AV marketplace with five UPSs and four power outlet strips with IP management capability.

“We’ve been innovators in IP management technology, helping to reduce energy waste, and we have assisted dealers in going above and beyond the way they service clients with remote power diagnostics, control and access,” Mariasis said. “Understanding the green movement means having a deep respect for the world we live in and going green for us is part of a natural extension about how we view the environment.”

Tripp-Lite’s new ECO Series line of power strips and UPSs, including the ECO750-UPS, allows integrators to design their systems in a manner in which they choose a main component to act as the master. Once that piece of equipment is turned off or goes into hibernation, it commands the outlets that are feeding the unnecessary vampire electronics to turn off completely, only to bring back power when the master comes back to life.

“Consumers expect to pay more to save the planet, and in the current economic climate, paying more is a hard sell for integrators,” he said. “The Eco Series starts at under $100, and, when designed correctly into a system, these products can save anywhere up to $50 in a year in energy cost.”

How a system is designed by the integrator can determine the effectiveness of any energy management device. “There isn’t a cookie-cutter solution,” Mariasis said. “Every integrator has a unique way of wiring and designing a system. By educating themselves, integrators are becoming more aware of how to design green systems to save their clients money.”

How Green is Green?

Not all green products are the same, cautions Accell director of marketing Michael Weizer. “Some companies claim their surge protectors are green, but they’re not as green as they can be as they use more than one watt of power just to operate.”

Accell’s new GreenGenius Smart Surge Protectors line, with its master, controlled, and “always on” outlets, incorporates Smart Strip technology allowing the protectors to use less than one watt of power. When the master device, such as a computer, is shut off, power is cut to peripherals, saving money and energy by cutting power left on accidentally and eliminating power by products that draw power when in off mode.

GreenGenius for use with AV also includes two pairs of protected coaxial connectors as well as a pair of RJ45 ports to protect Ethernet connections going to TVs, Blu-ray players, and other ethernet-supported devices.

Accell’s Smart Strip technology is patented and licensed from the inventor, Weizer said. “Because our surge protectors use less than one watt to operate, they are GSA approved and can be sold to government agencies. A U.S. Dept. of Energy study showed an average yearly savings of $39 with our Smart Surge protectors, so they pay for themselves in less than a year.”