12 October 2012

Labor promises 'off' switches

| Jazz
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In my week highlighting what I consider to be impractical election promises that are unlikely to be implemented without a majority government i’ve decided to share Labor’s plan to save everyone money on energy use.

The plan is to provide you some online tools (which incidentally are already available from the Home Energy Advice Team and also legislate a single off switch for all non essential appliances in new homes. Knowing, in advance of course, what non essential appliances you might plug into each and every power point in your home.

Good plan or not?

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c_c said :

Nightshade said :

2 telephones sitting on their chargers (one with answering machine), 2 laptop computers (on but closed)… hot water service

Hm, I do wonder about the assessment process. I wouldn’t count a hot water system as a standby device, nor the phone with an answering machine.

The laptops are a bit murky, I’m not sure what you mean by closed but on. Do you mean functioning but the screen closed, or off but charging? In either case I still wouldn’t regard those as standby devices. Once the laptop is charged and if it continues to drawn phantom/trickle current, then it becomes a standby device.

Whole thing is messed up. I suspect a government buy back of second fridges and giant plasma TVs for the kids room would cut power bills more.

I suspect that the assessment very much depends on who shows up on the day. The guy who did our assessment – who was awesome – didn’t bother to measure things like telephones with answering machines, our baby monitor, fridge etc. He understood that some things needed to be kept powered on despite the fact they were consuming energy while not being actively used.

When it comes to power usage though, I’d prefer the government to run education campaigns as to what energy hungry appliances actually cost to run, rather than increasing the cost of housing by forcing changes that will result in minimal impacts.

It’s a lesson I learnt the hard way this past winter, when instead of running ducted gas overnight, we had electric column heaters in the two kid’s rooms. I hadn’t set the timers on the heaters aggressively enough, and didn’t realise just how much power they were drawing until our quarterly electricity bill jumped by about $250. No master switch was going to help us out there.

Legislating for some type of master switch only helps in new homes, and does nothing to address the energy use of people when they are actually at home. Seems like a bit of an arse-backwards policy to me.

Wow, what a terrible policy.

Apart from the existing practical problems already indicated (and thinking of my own household, it wouldn’t be used at all), we are approaching a near future of the internet of things[1], where every device in your household has it’s own internet address.
Every device would need access to power in order to communicate and remotely power on through home automation, which would make a duplicated set of house wiring completely redundant because everything now needs to be plugged into the ‘essential’ set of wires.

Besides technology in the future potentially making a duplicate set of essential/non-essential house wiring useless, we are already seeing more efficient devices that are going a long way to make the issue of standby power usage almost irrelevant [2], leaving us with no reason to bother with this idea.

In addition, technology already exists to largely implement this on individual power points/powerboards for a lot less cost for those who do want this functionality today [3].

Glen Takkenberg
Pirate Party ACT for Ginninderra

1. http://www.theinternetofthings.eu/
2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Watt_Initiative
3. http://www.originecostore.com.au/Remote-Standby-Eliminator-4-Sockets-1-Remote-Efergy/RCS-4-AU.htm

wildturkeycanoe8:25 pm 13 Oct 12

I see the point about it being for new houses, however, the costs are still there to a lesser extent. I’d say materials alone would add up to at least a couple hundred dollars [red power points are a tad more expensive than white ones]. But if the government is paying for it, what do I care? Oh, that’s right, it’s coming out of my rates if you believe the Liberals.
All in all it’ll be just like rainwater tanks and solar systems, they cost you heaps up front and by the time your little benefits pay them off over ten years they are due for replacement. In the end you aren’t any better off than your neighbor who didn’t bother at all.
Fully agree about the tiny amount of power being used on standby, I could barely see a difference in my house when I switched everything off. Then I had to go and reset the clock on the microwave, reboot the computer, reset the clock and radio stations on the stereo, etc. I would seriously hate to have to do this every time I wake in the morning. Mind you, the only hours we would have these all turned off would be from near midnight, till 5:30 AM. 5 and half hours of saving mere milliamps. Huge difference in my annual bill – NOT.

Thumper said :

IrishPete said :

Thumper said :

Skidbladnir said :

1) This is a shit idea, and a heavy-handed policy solution to something that is behavioural in nature.
2) In the non-essential classification, some devices are more essential than others. How does this scheme deal with such granularity?
3) How is this different from a circuitboard?
4) This isn’t a ‘saving’ as the media release suggests, its a cost avoidance. As per the media release logic, if we could all just tear out any electrical cabling, burn down the internet, and live out the 15th century all over again, we’d save billions on electricity expenditure.

My house has a mains switch. When I flick it off I use no power whatsoever.

I guess that Katy is talking about doing this.

Fuck me…

Yes, very clever Peeps.

My house’s switches/circuitboard are in the meter box, outside, often in the dark, rain and cold. While Ms Gallagher’s idea may be a bit of overkillswitch, it’s just as silly to say that this already exists in houses. It doesn’t.

IP

Well turn everything off. You know, it’s not that difficult, really.

Dark, rain and cold. Seriously, if you’re that worried buy a torch and brave the scary outdoors.

They are talking about NEW homes in the blurb.

No dark, no cold.

I’m still waiting for the ‘on’ switch to be flicked to ‘on’ for Labor’s promised open government….

so what happens if something dangerous is left on, turned off centrally and forgotten, then unknowingly turned back on when the circuit is re activated?

the idea doesn’t work anyway, people with new homes have new appliances, thanks to the Europeans the parasitical load of these are now negligible. My TV uses .25 w/hr in standby, why bother turning it off?

For older appliances that take significant power in standby buy a Belkin Conserve Socket Power Timer from DS for $15, it will pay for itself within 12 months.

Stupid. Expensive. No point. Nanny state.

Christ I’m sick of these twits.

This is the worst idea i’ve heard from this election. I wonder if Katy wants to pay for rewiring a house twice?

This would be a nightmare for new houses being rewired, even before the wall panels have been put up.

wildturkeycanoe said :

This idea might look good on paper, but to retrofit a house with a main non-essential switch, let’s add it up. At roughly $100 per point [includes cost of wire, power outlet, time for the tradesman [read 1st year apprentice] to crawl through the ceiling and pull said wire down the wall cavity], if you were to place one outlet in each room of a 3 bedroom house – say seven rooms [3 beds, kitchen, laundry, living, garage] there is an initial cost of at least $700. With the savings of $100 per year as quoted to “thatsnotme”, it will take seven years to recoup the costs before any savings are made.
By the time this scheme is even getting off the ground, the government will have changed hands twice and the whole debacle will be forgotten. Also, as mentioned, these non essentials [phone chargers? How do you use your cordless if the power is off?] will lose their clock settings, channels will need re-scanning and you still need to remember to turn the switch off and back on again.
BUT, bring it on I say! If it gives more work to electricians, I’m all for it.

It’s not saying anything abut retrofitting, but making it a standard for new homes.

I don’t think it’s an anything special idea, but it’s not going to hurt anyone or anything either. Having a single switch to turn these everything off at night time or before going to work in the morning would make things more convenient for people.

The energy savings would probably be negligible in the short-term, but in the long-term over all new houses they would add up.

c_c said :

Hm, I do wonder about the assessment process. I wouldn’t count a hot water system as a standby device, nor the phone with an answering machine.

The laptops are a bit murky, I’m not sure what you mean by closed but on. Do you mean functioning but the screen closed, or off but charging? In either case I still wouldn’t regard those as standby devices. Once the laptop is charged and if it continues to drawn phantom/trickle current, then it becomes a standby device.

The idea seemed to be to measure the power the house is drawing when you’re not actively using anything. While we were talking, the assessor was listening to the fridge and waited for the motor to cut out as she didn’t want to measure that. She said to leave on anything I would normally leave on at the powerpoint. I was just thinking back to what is normally switched on. The assessment was in the morning and I use hot water mainly at night, so the hot water would only be maintaining temperature (but you’re right, it’s not something I’d ever switch on and off). I also wouldn’t switch off the phone chargers. I mostly leave the laptops connected to power when not in use, so they would have already been charged. I don’t generally shut them down, but leave them closed and in sleep mode.

My point was that all these things, all drawing their tiny bit of power, didn’t add up to something she could measure. Not sure that adding the kettle, toaster and washing machine (which I do switch off) would have changed that.

I don’t actually view most of them as non-essential. The only one that isn’t on for a purpose or to maintain clock settings is the TV, and is on mainly because it’s plugged into a powerboard which is behind the TV unit and difficult to reach. But since so little power was drawn, I didn’t see a reason to change that.

Waste of time, money and resources.

I am sick of these policies that really do nothing. If people are too lazy to switch their toaster/kettle/tv off at the powerpoint at night then why should the government help them. It is a 30second job.

As pointed out already, it isn’t a huge saving so what exactly is they trying to achieve?

wildturkeycanoe6:56 am 13 Oct 12

This idea might look good on paper, but to retrofit a house with a main non-essential switch, let’s add it up. At roughly $100 per point [includes cost of wire, power outlet, time for the tradesman [read 1st year apprentice] to crawl through the ceiling and pull said wire down the wall cavity], if you were to place one outlet in each room of a 3 bedroom house – say seven rooms [3 beds, kitchen, laundry, living, garage] there is an initial cost of at least $700. With the savings of $100 per year as quoted to “thatsnotme”, it will take seven years to recoup the costs before any savings are made.
By the time this scheme is even getting off the ground, the government will have changed hands twice and the whole debacle will be forgotten. Also, as mentioned, these non essentials [phone chargers? How do you use your cordless if the power is off?] will lose their clock settings, channels will need re-scanning and you still need to remember to turn the switch off and back on again.
BUT, bring it on I say! If it gives more work to electricians, I’m all for it.

Nightshade said :

2 telephones sitting on their chargers (one with answering machine), 2 laptop computers (on but closed)… hot water service

Hm, I do wonder about the assessment process. I wouldn’t count a hot water system as a standby device, nor the phone with an answering machine.

The laptops are a bit murky, I’m not sure what you mean by closed but on. Do you mean functioning but the screen closed, or off but charging? In either case I still wouldn’t regard those as standby devices. Once the laptop is charged and if it continues to drawn phantom/trickle current, then it becomes a standby device.

Whole thing is messed up. I suspect a government buy back of second fridges and giant plasma TVs for the kids room would cut power bills more.

thatsnotme said :

When we had a HEAT assessment done recently, the guy who did it went around measuring standby power, suggesting all sorts of remote switches we could use to fully power off devices.

When I had a HEAT assessment done, the standby power usage was so low the assessor couldn’t even get a reading for it. Appliances on at the wall but not actively in use were the microwave, the TV, VCR and DVD player, 2 telephones sitting on their chargers (one with answering machine), 2 laptop computers (on but closed), a laser printer, and the hot water service. After all the exhortations to switch things off at the wall, it was quite an anti-climax.

When we had a HEAT assessment done recently, the guy who did it went around measuring standby power, suggesting all sorts of remote switches we could use to fully power off devices.

The thing is, his assessment of the cost of our standby power was around $100 per year. 27 cents per day. It really makes the effort required to fully turn stuff off seem like too much work for such a small return.

So a single switch in theory sounds like a great idea – but modern technology is so diverse, how can which device is powered fully down vs which is left alone be controlled? For example, in my study I have a power board controlling a heap of computer equipment. One of those devices is my ADSL router, which also manages my VoIP outgoing calls, and my standard incoming calls – including voice mail. In the lounge room, my FetchTV box (a PVR) is in the same power board as the TV and DVD player. Not only does it take a good 5 minutes to boot up (seriously!), it needs to be on to record scheduled stuff. The router also needs to be available.

For anything like this to work, it must be granular and easily customisable. New houses must also be built with many more individual power outlets – because power boards kill this entire idea.

IrishPete said :

Thumper said :

Skidbladnir said :

1) This is a shit idea, and a heavy-handed policy solution to something that is behavioural in nature.
2) In the non-essential classification, some devices are more essential than others. How does this scheme deal with such granularity?
3) How is this different from a circuitboard?
4) This isn’t a ‘saving’ as the media release suggests, its a cost avoidance. As per the media release logic, if we could all just tear out any electrical cabling, burn down the internet, and live out the 15th century all over again, we’d save billions on electricity expenditure.

My house has a mains switch. When I flick it off I use no power whatsoever.

I guess that Katy is talking about doing this.

Fuck me…

Yes, very clever Peeps.

My house’s switches/circuitboard are in the meter box, outside, often in the dark, rain and cold. While Ms Gallagher’s idea may be a bit of overkillswitch, it’s just as silly to say that this already exists in houses. It doesn’t.

IP

Well turn everything off. You know, it’s not that difficult, really.

Dark, rain and cold. Seriously, if you’re that worried buy a torch and brave the scary outdoors.

Truly the most ridiculous, impractical and useless policy I’ve heard announced yet.

a) Most of those appliances that draw phantom power or are left on, tend to need to be that way to retain settings.

b) If people can’t be bother turning those that can be turned off already, what makes them think they’ll bother with this switch – particularly as they’ll need to turn it on and off every time they need to use one of the ‘non-essential’ devices.

c) You can already buy powerboards that are individually switched, and relatively inexpensive smart adaptors that offer more flexibility and scalability.

Thumper said :

Skidbladnir said :

1) This is a shit idea, and a heavy-handed policy solution to something that is behavioural in nature.
2) In the non-essential classification, some devices are more essential than others. How does this scheme deal with such granularity?
3) How is this different from a circuitboard?
4) This isn’t a ‘saving’ as the media release suggests, its a cost avoidance. As per the media release logic, if we could all just tear out any electrical cabling, burn down the internet, and live out the 15th century all over again, we’d save billions on electricity expenditure.

My house has a mains switch. When I flick it off I use no power whatsoever.

I guess that Katy is talking about doing this.

Fuck me…

Yes, very clever Peeps.

My house’s switches/circuitboard are in the meter box, outside, often in the dark, rain and cold. While Ms Gallagher’s idea may be a bit of overkillswitch, it’s just as silly to say that this already exists in houses. It doesn’t.

IP

I have often wondered about this idea and don’t think it is really all that bad an initiative. Hotels have been doing this for years (so they have obviously justified the cost savings). The cost for a mains switch near the front door would not be significant and it might even be justifiable to have a switch at the entrance to every or most rooms. If you don’t like the idea in your new house don’t turn the switch off.

Apart from the clock issue above (which I think is an appliance design flaw and should be automatically set by satellite) not many appliances need constant power (eg fridge, freezer, security systems, telephone answering machine and possibly web servers. Other timer based systems (heaters, ovens, kitchen appliances, PVRs etc) might need power occasionally when you’re not home and some forethought might be needed for other appliances left running when you go out (dishwashers, washing machines etc).

If you don’t like this idea, perhaps another option would be to make all cabling for data and power plumbing in conduits external to the wall (eg behind removable cornices, skirtings and architraves). People might then be less reticent about reworking or retrofitting services as times change.

Stupid idea.

This is like the man-with-the-red-flag-who-had-to-walk-ahead-of-a-motorvehicle-on-a-public-road kind of idea.

We now have http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_Things

You don’t need physical infrastructure to manage your power usage.

Skidbladnir said :

1) This is a shit idea, and a heavy-handed policy solution to something that is behavioural in nature.
2) In the non-essential classification, some devices are more essential than others. How does this scheme deal with such granularity?
3) How is this different from a circuitboard?
4) This isn’t a ‘saving’ as the media release suggests, its a cost avoidance. As per the media release logic, if we could all just tear out any electrical cabling, burn down the internet, and live out the 15th century all over again, we’d save billions on electricity expenditure.

My house has a mains switch. When I flick it off I use no power whatsoever.

I guess that Katy is talking about doing this.

Fuck me…

Biggles, old chap, that is a top idea. Pip pip and what!

I have no words.

Seriously.

The government is going to give us an on/off switch?

‘Scuse me while I laugh. Lots.

Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd7:04 pm 12 Oct 12

Little_Green_Bag said :

When I saw the head of this story I thought you were referring to Conroy’s Internet censorship plans.

Labor hasn’t dumped this policy, it’s just on hold and a little bird has told me that if Australians are stupid enough to re-elect Gillard next year it will be going through within weeks of the election.

Liar. It has been proven that such a filter is ineffective and only will work on interweb noobs.

Try again, mr g.

1) This is a shit idea, and a heavy-handed policy solution to something that is behavioural in nature.
2) In the non-essential classification, some devices are more essential than others. How does this scheme deal with such granularity?
3) How is this different from a circuitboard?
4) This isn’t a ‘saving’ as the media release suggests, its a cost avoidance. As per the media release logic, if we could all just tear out any electrical cabling, burn down the internet, and live out the 15th century all over again, we’d save billions on electricity expenditure.

AlexanderWatson6:45 pm 12 Oct 12

Keijidosha said :

The premise of a single off switch sounds pretty logical if it was implemented so every electrical outlet had marked sockets – one for essential and another for non-essential supply. This type of solution would be far simpler and much cheaper than smart wiring a house.

Top idea… Kill the power to your standby consuming appliances and other non essential items when you hit the hay and if you need power once its off, say for a laptop or phone charge, you can plug into an essential socket. I like it.

Pirate_Biggles5:39 pm 12 Oct 12

A single ‘off switch’ for non-essential electrical appliances raises some interesting points:
Some appliances are more non-essential than others – many modern devices maintain a clock even when powered down. I’m sure everyone has had the experience of coming home to find a short power outage has reset every clock on every device in the house.

Not to mention that unexpectedly dropping power to computers, storage and networking devices isn’t good for them. Particularly during backup operations.

Maybe more than one ‘off switch’ might be needed?
Say, one for kitchen power points (not the fridge or oven) one for bedroom power points, one for living room power points, one for hot water, one for the laundry etc.
Obviously you’d need to wire these as separate circuits.
These ‘off switches’ would then ‘break’ each designated circuit.
Then you could put in a panel to have them all on for easy access – maybe one with a cover so you don’t accidentally brush the important ones.
Like a wall mounted box or something.
Yep. That’s definitely a clever idea. You could call it a ‘circuit breaker box’.

I support this idea wholeheartedly.

Stuart Biggs
Pirate Party for Molonglo

Keijidosha said :

The premise of a single off switch sounds pretty logical if it was implemented so every electrical outlet had marked sockets – one for essential and another for non-essential supply. This type of solution would be far simpler and much cheaper than smart wiring a house.

You could do it the way they do UPS systems. Red outlets for UPS power, and white ones for standard mains power. The only problem is you end up needing twice the hardware (power outlets, cabling, etc.) to do the same job.

Anyway, people will forget, and plug stuff into the wrong outlet, and the switch will end up with a piece of sticky tape over it to stop it getting switched off, because that will be easier than thinking about it.

Little_Green_Bag5:26 pm 12 Oct 12

When I saw the head of this story I thought you were referring to Conroy’s Internet censorship plans.

Labor hasn’t dumped this policy, it’s just on hold and a little bird has told me that if Australians are stupid enough to re-elect Gillard next year it will be going through within weeks of the election.

The premise of a single off switch sounds pretty logical if it was implemented so every electrical outlet had marked sockets – one for essential and another for non-essential supply. This type of solution would be far simpler and much cheaper than smart wiring a house.

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