Tech Toy of the Month: USB EcoStrip

Ecostrip.pngA lot of environmentally-conscious consumers are realizing that many electronic peripherals draw small amounts of power even when they are turned off. While there is still some debate as to whether these “phantom” or “vampire” loads actually add up to a significant amount of electricity, for those who want to save this power usage, the USB EcoStrip offers a very convenient way to shut off all the peripherals attached to a computer when not in use.

The USB EcoStrip looks like an ordinary power strip. However, this device communicates with a connected computer by a USB cable. When the computer is on, the EcoStrip allows power to flow to its outlets just like a normal surge strip. However, when the computer turns off, the EcoStrip cuts off the power flow, effectively stopping the devices plugged into it from drawing power when they are not in use. After all, if your computer is off, the peripherals connected to it won’t be needed, right?

Certainly this seems like a great idea, but consider a couple of things. At $44.95 plus about $10 in shipping, will you save enough electricity to generate a return on your investment? It is certainly possible, but you should carefully consider how much power your devices draw when off to make sure it will be worth it to you. Of course, if you are considering this device for purely environmental reasons, then that probably won’t matter much. The other thing to consider is that things like routers and networked printers are shared network devices, which means that other users may want to use them even if the nearby computer is off. So it would make no sense to connect things like that to the USB EcoStrip, since they really do need to be on all the time. For some people, those devices make up the majority of peripherals connected to their computers, so the USB EcoStrip may not really serve any purpose in those cases.

Overall, I think the USB EcoStrip is a great idea for those users who would make effective use of it. If you have come across an interesting technology product, let me know and I may feature it as a future Tech Toy of the Month!