The Death of Vampires?

Vertatique has been covering the issue of 'vampire' devices: e-gear that sucks power at night and other times when we think the gear is 'off'. As devices proliferate in the home and office, this becomes an increasing bigger energy drain, even as manufactures and regulators work to (slowly) reduce vampire consumption in some of them. New devices they say it are zero-draw solutions for one class of vampire devices: those ubiquitous bricks (chargers and adapters) into which we plug our e-gear.

The AT&T ZERO Charger uses Freestyle[1] technology. AT&T claims, "It’s compatible with most USB charging cables, which means you can charge handsets, iPods, MP3 players, BLUETOOTH® headsets, and portable gaming devices." The unit lists for US$20.

The IDAPT i1 Eco "features an Auto off system that turns off the charger while not in use and includes a re-start button to wake it when necessary." The unit sells for US$30.

Another developer of smart adapter technology is Green Plug. There are no devices on the market yet using its technology, but the company says it is working with digital radio manufacturer Pure on a smart adapter.

I look forward to seeing this sort of technology available in the future for higher-draw devices like laptop adapters.

Click here for more about vampire devices and what to do about them.

Bench test of Zero Charger - Jan 2011

Test Device Indicator Off When
Test Device Unplugged
Indicator Off When
Test Device Charged
2.3 yr. old LG VX8360 mobile phone Yes (0.0 MA) No (2.2 MA)
4 yr. old iPod Nano Yes No
New iPod Nano Yes No

Based on the indicator light, it appeared that the charger cannot detect when a device is charged, only unplugged. This was confirmed by a bench test of the mobile phone conducted with the assistance of one of our technical partners.

My conclusion is that the ZERO Charger will eliminate vampire draw for use cases in which the charger is always plugged in but the device is not attached. There is still a small vampire draw as long as a charged device is attached, which, unfortunately, is the use case for which I purchased the device. Although the ZERO Charger is rated as a 5W unit, it appears to charge an iPad2.

Freestyle describes its Watt Saver technology:

Freescale's innovative no-load consumption for AC adapters, or Watt Saver solution, prevents the wasting of power in an AC adapter when:
* A rechargeable device is not plugged into the AC adaptor.
* A rechargeable device is plugged in but the battery is fully charged.
* An AC plugged-in device is in stand-by mode.

Freescale chips are also used in Alcatel-Lucent's new lightRadio™ energy-efficient mobile/broadband infrastructure products.