Browsing around Tesco on my lunch break today, I picked up a Standby Saver for £20. I’d seen it pitched on Dragons’ Den, and the box boasts of an average electricity saving of £37 per year, which seemed like a decent enough saving given the price of the unit.
At first glance, the Standby Saver looks much like any other 6-way power adaptor. Closer inspection reveals a small headphone-like socket (into which connects the supplied infrared receiver), an LED and a recessed push switch.
The first thing to do is unplug your devices (for me, the TV, Freesat box, PS3, Wii, CD player and amplifier) from the mains and plug them into the Standby Saver. At this point I should mention that two of the six plugs are switched, so you can use them either as “mains” (e.g. for a Sky+ box or DVD recorder which obviously must remain on to record programs) or “standby” which means that, like the other four sockets, they will be powered down when the Standby Saver is in “standby” mode.
The next step is to plug the unit into the mains, switch it on at the wall, wait a few seconds, then and then push down the recessed “mode” button (the setup guide advises against using anything metallic, which is probably good advice as you’re fairly close to mains electricity – I went for a matchstick) until the LED turns red. Then point the remote at the supplied IR receiver, press the button on your remote (I chose the standby button on my TV remote) twice to set the “on” command, and then press the “off” button (I again went for the TV “standby” button, although you can use different commands for on and off if you wish). And that’s it… theoretically!
Unfortunately I had some problems getting started, which required a visit to the Troubleshooting section of the Standby Saver website. The instructions don’t mention this, but the LED was green when I first switched the unit on (it shouldn’t be illuminated at all) meaning that I had to follow the eight-step guide from the website before I was able to perform the above setup process successfully.
Once the setup is complete, the devices plugged into the four main switches (and either of the two switched ones, if the switches are in “Standby” position) should be completely powered off (as if they were unplugged from the mains). I pressed the Standby button on my TV remote and my devices sprung to life. Pressing Standby again powered everything off. Simples!
I found that “power off” can be a bit finicky – my TV (a Samsung 32″ LCD) reacts to the “standby” button before the Standby Saver, so if I don’t hold down the standby button for long enough to power everything off, the TV goes into standby and everything else stays on. A second push of the button remedies this though.
So, for those reasons, I’m out… no wait, I’m in… and I give the Standby Saver 9 out of 10. Despite the initial frustration in setting it up, it does what it says on the tin, although only time will tell whether it has made the advertised difference to my electricity bills. The two switchable sockets are a nice feature, and the Standby Saver’s clever way of “piggybacking” onto the signal from the chosen remote means that you don’t have to leave a “master” device (e.g. a TV) in standby at all times. A friend has a similar device that instead monitors the power draw of his LCD TV and when the the device believes the TV is in standby, it drops power to his connected devices. Unfortunately this means that if the screen goes dark for a few seconds due to whatever video source he is using, it drops the power!
I should point out that there’s also a USB version of the Standby Saver available, which I haven’t tried but appears to work in a similar way: instead of the IR receiver, it has a USB lead, which is plugged into your PC or laptop. When machine is powered off, the Standby Saver detects this and drops power to connected peripherals.