CES: Tablets, ereaders, TVs — need power savers?

January 9, 2010

minipakPower sockets that sense when you leave a room and shut down.  Portable hydrogen fuel cells.  Pocket windmills that store electricity. Those were some of the little-noticed green power-savers tucked into a little corner of the otherwise monstrous Consumer Electronics Show floor in Las Vegas.

Gadgets that help conserve electricity are nothing new, but if there’s one thing the profusion of giant TVs, backlit tablet computers and 3D projectors trotted out at this year’s show will need, it’s gizmos that help cut down your electricity bill.  Industry executives say they have yet to filter into the mass public consciousness despite the heightened environmental awareness of today.

“The biggest problem we’re having is teaching the public about this technology,” said Scott Wilson, VP of sales at Bits Ltd, which was hawking a $39 power strip that can sense when a device goes to sleep or is turned off, and automatically shuts down a pre-determined number of linked devices.

One gadget that drew a crowd of curious onlookers was Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies’ “MiniPak” handheld fuel-cell charger, which takes bottled water, breaks it down, and funnels power to any USB device, letting, say, campers charge their cellphones in the wild.

Still, saving power may not come as cheap as you might think. HiSaver’s motion-sensing power strip (the one that automatically shuts down your TV after you’ve left the room for awhile) goes for $99 — about 10 times the cost of your regular version. Kinesis’s wind and solar charger — displayed at CES in lurid green — goes for $99.95. The MiniPak will relieve you of $500.

Executives argue you can recoup that initial outlay eventually on your eletricity bill.

“It pays for itself in less than a year,” said Bits engineer Bruce Barton of his power strip.

But my personal favorite — a tiny power-generator the size of a tiny cellphone that doubles as a weight-loss device. Users pull on a cord to automatically put out electricity, charging any USB-connected device.

yogen“It’s for emergencies,” explained Nathan Ryalls at Easy Energy, which makes the “Yogen” gizmo.

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