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When electronic gifts come your way, know how to get into a savings mode

Electronic and digital gadgets are the most popular gift items during the holiday season, but they are certainly on the wish list of consumers at other times of the year.

With so many electronics available to the consumer, it would be wise to understand the conservation tips and money-saving mode you should be in when a new electronic device finds its way into your home.

Virtually everything we own these days has a “sleep” or power-down mode, but many devices are fine left unplugged when not in use.

Digital and analog televisions, desktop and laptop computers, cable or satellite set-top boxes, compact audio and DVD players, cordless telephones, home theater systems, stand-alone DVD or DVR players, telephone answering systems, VCRs and video game players are becoming common in most households all over the world.

Monitors of our energy use, such as Energy Star, estimate that many of us spend as much as $100 or more a year on “phantom power” – or power that is needed just to keep a device plugged into the wall, even if it is not used for days at a time.

A website titled digitaltips.org provides an energy calculator as part of its guide to consumer electronics. The calculator allows you to input the number of hours you use an electronic device; the number of hours it is in idle or “sleep” mode; and the number of hours it is completely off, or not on the electricity load at all (unplugged).

When you tally all of your devices, the calculator gives you a monthly cost and a yearly cost. You can gauge what you are paying for one device to be in sleep mode most of the day, or you can figure out your yearly bill total for how you use every electronic device you own.

Energy Star calls these devices “energy vampires” for the way they suck energy from your system and money from your wallet.

The best place to start to defeat those vampires is in the easiest places – by unplugging chargers from outlets after phones, digital camera battery packs, handheld vacuum cleaners or power tools are fully charged.

Using the power management features, or sleep modes, on electronic devices is also a good way to save power. The sleep mode on a computer uses less power than a screen saver.

Many electronic devices have automatic shutdown modes. Most TVs offer that option, which comes in handy for those who tend to watch late-night television only to nod off a few hours before actually turning off the TV. Many video-game players also have the automatic shut-off, since many kids tend to leave electronic devices on when not in use for long periods of time.

A power strip to cluster many devices that can all be turned off at the same time is another common piece of advice. A device called a Smart Strip by Bits Limited is now available and has the capability to cut idle currents to monitors, printers, desk lamps and other items when you turn off your computer’s power.

As consumers are learning more about how to conserve energy and save money in this green era, handling electronic devices properly can go a long way.

In terms of educating the public, electronics are close to equal footing with energy savings related to water. When you tell someone that they spend $2,500 a year on water, and that using less hot water could reduce that amount dramatically, that will get people’s attention.

In the same manner, wise use of the home’s electronic devices can save hundreds of dollars over several years.


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