Living Green: Smart power strips

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SARASOTA - Right now, electronics inside your home are using electricity even though they're turned off. Some call them "vampires", sucking electricity when they're not in use. Fortunately, there is a green gadget that can ward off these energy vampires.

Take a look around your home. Televisions, DVD players and video games. They're not on, but these little red lights show they're still using electricity. Power off? Not quite. According to the Department of Energy, phantom load as they call it, can add at least 5% to your yearly energy use and it annoys homeowner, Jennifer Breuer. "All this stuff is on right now, the receiver, the cable box, the VCR, the speakers and none of this stuff needs to be on. The only thing that needs to be on would be the cable box and the rest of it is all using vampire energy," says Breuer.

But there is help. It's called a smart strip, a surge protector power strip that will only send power to your DVD or game controller when you're using them. Your cable or satellite box will always be powered, but the other electronics will not add to your power bill when you don't want them to.

"This particular strip can detect when you're not using something, say a computer or a fax machine for instance for maybe 30 minutes or so, it will know its inactive and it will know that most likely you won't be using that appliance or electronic item for some time so it will automatically shut it off for you," says Sarah Marmion of Florida Power and Light.

The company that makes this device claims it can save you up to $39 a year. You can find smart power strips at most home improvement stores and online. They cost about $30.