'Going green' is a zeitgeist today, and one focus has been to remove unnecessary energy waste around homes. One culprit has been power lost when appliances are turned off, called phantom power or standby power. For details see:
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Essentially, this is power lost simply by having a device plugged into an AC socket, even if powered off. The losses can be intentional, such as to keep infra-red sensors in TVs or DVD players working, or losses unintentional, such as those in black "brick" chargers used for cellphones. You may feel some of this loss as heat coming from a plugged-in but unused charger. These same inefficiencies could also exists inside devices like printers, scanners, routers, LCD monitors etc., even when powered off. As the government site demonstrates, losses vary for devices, but most exceed 1 watt. If electricity were at ~ $0.10 a kilowatt, 1 watt of power costs $0.88/year. If one counts all the plugged in devices one has at home, these unneeded losses add up. In my case, my PC and peripherals drew about 10 watts when off, measured with a watt meter, or at least $8.80/year in wasted power.
A simple way to eliminate standby power loss is to insure devices are disconnected from an AC socket supply when not used, and a certain way to do so is to unplug the device, or use a mechanical switch. Devices plugged into surge protectors can be powered off with a mechanical switch on the protector, but the protector is often inconveniently on a floor or behind furniture. For over 20 years, under monitor power controllers or stations did the task of mechanically switching power to computers and peripherals: they were often found underneath CRT monitors or on tables, and provided easy access power switches for items plugged into it.
APC finds Old Stock, MPN-POW6T?
About a year ago, the POW6 appeared on the market, but its a curious design. The internal paperwork and box are date stamped between 1994-1999. The photos on the box are obsolete computers with CRT monitors, and while the box is sealed and item new, the cardboard on the box is slightly yellowed. Its clearly old stock, but its reappearance come at good time. The POW6 can be found for as low as $10.
In the Box
An instruction, sheet, the station, registration cards, make up the contents.
The device has the perimeter of an ATX case PC, and about 1.5" thick. The first 3rd houses the surge and power electronics, while the posterior 2/3rd is a cord keeper housing. The box is entirely plastic and rated to support 70#. The power cord is 8' long.
Power cords enter 2/3rds into the unit, so only the cords are left exposed at the back, allowing the POW6 to lay nearly flush to a wall or back of a desk. Excess cords can be wrapped inside the cord holder of the POW6, reducing clutter. The plastic box has a better flat aesthetic design, and lays more flush with a desktop, and has no sharp corners. There is one built in extension cord within the POW6 for a single brick power supply, so separate power strips are needed if more brick supplies are used that can then be plugged into the POW6.
The front panel has 4 switches, one is a master switch and controls 2 sockets. 3 switches control individual POW6 sockets that are slaves to the master. One 'convenience' socket is always ON, independent of the master switch and is on the side.
Inside the POW6
The POW uses an older UL 1449 surge protector specification. The interior electronics are cleanly made, and well soldered. It has generous numbers of coils to suppress interference. The MOV are not housed in a separate box to provide extra protection against violent burns. The thermal fuses are not tightly bound to the MOV compared to newer designed, and more ideal, APC surge protectors. Surge protection exists for all 3 line power lines but its older design would best be supplemented by a more modern surge protector.
The toggle push switches are mounted on the PC board, are easy actuating and are covered by knobs on the case exterior. Green LEDs provide annunicators and are PC board mounted. There is an amount of support electronics to drive the LEDs. The PC board is snap fit to the case, and supported when the sandwich halves are assembled. The switches rear are supported by the rigid backplane of the AC sockets. A plastic len guides LED light to the exterior of the case. This design is very subtle for its benefits: it electrically isolates users from the PC board; the switches on/off force is supported by the backplane as well as the PC board. This design allows APC to use less expensive, less rigid switches and mount in a less rigid case.
Off Angle Power Cords
There is a trend in some newer power cord design to make them flush to wall AC sockets and offset at an angle. These cords were made specifically to be plugged directly into the AC socket. It will not fit the POW6 properly, and can block other sockets when plugged into power strips or surge protectors.
Options Beyond Power Stations
Another option to a power controller is a 'smart strip'. A smart strip is an electronically controlled power strip that uses one plugged in device as a "master", to physically turn off or on, "slave" devices plugged into the power strip. When a master device is turned on, the current draw is sensed by the strip, which then energizes other device plugged into slave sockets. Smart strips also have built into surge protection circuitry against lightning strikes or similar transient high power anomalies.
Whichever you choose depends on convenience, cost and reliability. What is more reliable, a mechanical toggle switch for $10 or an electronic switch for $30? Could you risk the smart strip turning off or on inappropriately if your RAID disk array were plugged into it? Do you care if you manually switch on a power station before using a device, or should a device automatically do this for you? The last power station I used worked for 20 years until a switch stopped working.
The POW6 cost $10. From electricity saved, the POW6 will be paid for in about a year, or sooner if I pay more than 10c a kilowatt. Using a power controller is a simple way to stay green and insure your devices are truly powered off. It would be better to plug delicate and expensive gear into a modern surger protector, which is then plugged into the POW6, given its older surge protection design, thus its appeal is reduced to 4 stars.
Given the bargain with the POW6, I bought another to control power to my entertainment system. My DVD player sits on top of the POW6.