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How to Unplug Without Unplugging to Save Energy

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NATIONAL REPORT—Items that plug into the walls of your hotel using a three-pronged plug can eat up energy in three ways: while operating, while using standby power, or even while they are off. Yes, some electronic devices draw some power even when they are turned off. This is commonly referred to as vampire power. Other than waiting for your monthly utility bill, how do you really know how much energy plugged-in items are consuming? At least two companies—P3 International Corp. and ThinkEco, Inc.—are making it easier to not only measure electricity consumption in real time but also control it and monitor it remotely.

P3 International’s Kill A Watt Wireless system includes a sensor and a display. One simply plugs an item—a lamp for example—into the sensor and then the sensor into the wall outlet. The sensor communicates wirelessly with the display, allowing one to view eight units of measurement. Some of the measurements include: kilowatt hours, total expense, volts, amps and watts. Up to eight sensors can be running at the same time, supplying constant electricity consumption data. One can calculate electricity expenses for a day, week, month or year.

P3 International’s Save A Watt timer allows one to turn on or off electronics and appliances based on one’s preferred settings. The Kill A Watt GT from P3 International offers both timer and measurement capabilities.

ThinkEco Inc. Innovation

At this fall’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, ThinkEco Inc. introduced its modlet (modern electrical outlet). It plugs into an outlet. Electronics or appliances can then be plugged into the modlet. Users of the modlet can monitor and manager power consumption using a Web browser or a mobile device. The modlet’s built in smarts allow it to wirelessly communicate to a PC through a USB receiver. Multiple modlets can “talk” to one another and form a mesh network. According to Annette Bellafiore, communications and marketing manager for ThinkEco, Inc., a single modlet can only communicate within one room or the adjacent room (range of 300 feet), but users can span an entire area by wirelessly networking a few across different rooms using a single USB.

Through ThinkEco’s web-based software, one can view real-time energy consumption and set schedules for turning devices off and on. The modlet monitors baseline energy use and recommends autosaving schedules for users to implement via the software. If the user’s schedule happens to change temporarily, modlet schedules can be overridden with a tap of the modlet button. Users can track and compare how much money and energy has been saved over time.

While lodging applications may be initially somewhat limited, Bellafiore explained that her company is currently working on a router that will extend the communication range just as an Internet router would in a hotel. The router should be ready in 2012. Some examples of where a modlet might currently be used in a hotel: with printers, scanners, fax machines, computer monitors, televisions, vending machines, or in a break room with water coolers or coffee makers.

Bellafiore said that ThinkEco is also working on a modlet that would support 240 volt, 20 amp appliances.

Glenn Hasek can be reached at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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