Gadget Zone: Computer gadgets can save power from 'energy vampires'

Consumer electronics are notorious energy vampires, sucking energy even when they're not in use. But going green in your office may be easier than you think.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, consumer electronics - 25 devices in the average American home - use as much as 25 percent of their power when in standby mode. Consider the computer, monitor and cable modem. Together, they use 11 watts of power even when powered down.

Here are some devices that can control energy use, as suggested by the Los Angeles Times.

Kill A Watt - A device that tells you how much wattage is used by anything that plugs into a socket. It's a handy gadget that helps you get a handle on your electricity usage.

SmartStrip - A power strip and surge protector that automatically cuts off power to devices that are shut down. It's used with computers or home entertainment systems in which components operate in clusters. If, for example, the TV is off, the SmartStrip also shuts down the DVD player, surround-sound speakers and cable box. The Mini Power Minder does the same thing and retails for $15.

Solio Charger - A device that takes rechargeable cell phones off the grid. It attaches with a section cup to a window, where it soaks up solar energy and can power up to two cell phones.

LocalCooling - A free application that can help you adjust your computer's power settings if your computer runs Vista or Windows XP. It tells you which PC components are using the most power, and gives you the option of low, medium, or high power savings mode. According to the folks at LocalCooling, more than 30 billion kilowatt-hours of energy is wasted because people don't shut down computers when not in use. This gadget allows you to see your savings translated into how many trees or gallons of oil you have saved.

Energy-saving practices are getting a boost with a new partnership that promises to accelerate the use of more energy-efficient PCs and servers. The Climate Savers Computing Initiative has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to create Energy Star specifications for the technology industry. Already in wide use on household appliances, the Energy Star label will make it easier for consumers to identify energy-efficient systems.

The Climate Savers Computing Initiative aims to reduce computer power consumption by 50 percent by 2010.

Consumers can take a few simple steps now: Unplug scanners or printers when they're not in use, remove your cell phone charger from the socket, and dim the brightness of your monitor. The best tool of all? The off button.

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