I LOVE thisidea: a single off-switch for your whole house, to power down all of those non-essential appliances that suck electricity while you’re at work or out on the town.
OK, so it’s just a concept at this point. But it’s a good one. I know that my family could make good use of this. Yeah, sure, we try to be pretty careful about turning off lights, but every so often we leave a light burning in the basement. And of course, there’s always a handful of appliances—a stereo, a modem—that suck a bit of power whenever they’re plugged in, even when they’re off. (In many homes, the clock on the microwave uses more power than the oven itself.) But plugging and unplugging all these appliances from the wall is a royal pain, especially since we have kid-safe protectors on all of the outlets. A universal power-off switch would be a real boon.
Obviously, retrofitting my entire house to take advantage of this sort of switch would probably cost more than the energy I’d save. But at a minimum, the idea of a whole-house off switch is a good reminder that there’s plenty of waste left in the energy system—suggesting that, in theory at least, we could cut way back on our power consumption without affecting our lifestyles one whit.
More than just a concept – many houses and apartments in the developing world already figured this trick out a long time ago. Just hit the master-switch on the way out. This is an example of the way that the developing world can lead the developed world in resource frugality with simple common sense and an true need for cost cutting.
Matt the Engineer
This reminds me also of hotel rooms I’ve stayed in where you have to insert your room card key into a reader on the wall in order for power to come on. When you take the key, everything turns off. This must save a lot of energy, plus it’s quite convenient – you’ve already turned on a comfortable number of lights before you left.
I WISH my house had this option. One of the largest consumers of electricity in my home is a whole house ventilation system. Since I’m not home, why do I need fresh air? I have a timer on this to shut it down at set times, but an occupancy sensor would be even better.
Rob Harrison AIA
Responding to Matt’s post above…In the winter, your whole house ventilation system (I assume it’s a heat recovery system, correct?) might use 100-200 watts of electrical energy to extract and save the equivlalent of 2,000-3,000 watts of heat energy that would otherwise be sucked out in exhaust air. In the summer your HRV is keeping the house fresh and nice, and if it’s got a HEPA filter, keeping dust and pollen out of your house.By running the system continously (or with a timer, one hour on, two hours off say) moving low volumes of air (even when you’re not there)you’re less likely to even notice that it’s on, while you still get all of the benefits.I like the idea of a switch at the doors to turn off a dedicated circuit on your way out though. The circuit could be wired to different-colored outlets throughout the house, where you could plug in those nasty devices with phantom loads…. Now, if there were just a way to reset all of their clocks automatically….