'Vampire Power' Under Fire From Two Start-Ups

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New York - Two start-up companies armed only with prototypes came to the Consumer Electronics Association's (CEA) Line Shows event intent on helping consumers lower energy consumption and their energy bills with simple plug-in solutions.


ThinkEco had on display a sample of its Modlet, a plug-in adapter that monitors and controls the energy use of any appliance or device that is plugged into it by cutting power according to a manually or preset schedule. Standby power draw -- "vampire power" -- is significantly reduced. Through wireless Zigbee browser-based technology, a user can schedule when the Modlet (a riff on "modern electric outlet") cuts power cold to each device from a PC through a simple slider interface.

A spokeswoman for ThinkEco said that plugged-in appliances make up a significant share of residential and commercial energy use today: 40 percent of residential and 26 percent of commercial, on average. They are the fastest-growing energy load in both sectors and are expected to triple by 2030 because everyone is buying more electronics. She said the Modlet can save a household 10 percent to 20 percent off its electricity bill with minimal effort out of the box and as much as 40 percent with diligent programming. The actual amount depends on the types of appliances and how much the Modlets are used.

The spokeswoman estimated that Modlets will be available in the fourth quarter or Q1 2011 at an estimated retail of $40.

The Modlet was a finalist in CEA's i-Stage competition at International CES in January.

Tenrehte Technologies is bringing to market a similar product, the PicoWatt Smart Plug, a Smart Grid-compatible Wi-Fi enabled outlet adapter that automatically generates an energy-monitoring and control web page that provides remote energy monitoring, remote power control, time-of-use pricing and demand scheduling. The Smart Plug was originally shown at CES and is also expected to be available in the fourth quarter or Q1 2011.


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