Power Sucking Wall Warts — Time to Get Smarter


Nokia has plans to start an advertising campaign designed to save the world from it’s over consumption of electricity. Their plan? Unplug your cell phone when it’s done charging.

Why is leaving your cell phone plugged in a problem?

According to Nokia:

To reduce the energy consumption of mobile phones the manufacturers have agreed to take action by equipping phones with reminders to unplug chargers once the battery is recharged. Nokia plans to have these alerts in new phones by the middle of next year.

Nokia estimates that if this measure led to only 10% of the world’s mobile phone users turning off the electricity supply to the chargers after use this would save enough energy in one year to power 60,000 European homes annually.

Going about it all wrong

Those of us in the “green” mindset have long known that “wall warts” (those annoying, non-standard, AC to DC transformer blocks that protrude from our power outlets like warts on a witch’s nose) suck power — even when they’re not connected to anything, let along powering it. What’s worse, Nokia’s solution is to have all phone manufacturers put a nag screen (maybe even an annoying alarm) on the phone to “remind” users to unplug the wall-wart.

Say that again

Yes, wall-warts (including chargers used by phone manufacturers) suck power even when they’re not charging the phone, and even when the phone isn’t even connected to it!

A better solution

I propose a better solution: Rather than nag consumers to do something they may not do, make the wall-warts smarter!

How difficult could it be to throw a little bit of intelligence into the transformer block so that it could effectively “disconnect” the transformer from the power supply when it notices there is no longer a power-draw (i.e., when the phone is unplugged).

Take this a step further: add some intelligence into the phone as well to stop the power draw to the phone once the battery is charged, thereby “turning off” the wall-wart in the process. Of course, the phone should be smart enough to see if the charge has dipped and reconnect to the transformer to top-off the charge. This way the phone stays charged within a few percent of full, and saves power at the same time.

Now, let’s do the same thing for ANY device that plugs into a wall-wart (TVs, battery chargers, PDAs, iPods & MP3 players, digital cameras, alarm clocks, computers, etc.).

Based on Nokia’s numbers of 10% of phone users unplugging the charger reclaiming enough juice to power 60,000 homes per year, if 100% of phones manufactured included the ability I’ve just described you’d reclaim enough juice to power 600,000 homes per year.

Add that technology to ten devices per home and you’ve saved enough electricity to power 6,000,000 homes per year.

Fuzzy Math

Granted, Nokia gave no basis for their numbers, nor detailed the scientific method used in calculating electricity that could be saved, and the homes they refer to are European homes, but, even still, six MILLION homes per year! When do we start?

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