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.