Victim-blaming for vampire devices is no way to energy efficiency 

Victim-blaming for vampire devices is no way to energy efficiency 
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UK energy supplier British Gas hit the headline last week with a report that focused on ‘vampire devices’ that consume power while plugged-in but on standby. This was a way to help consumers reduce costs with record high electricity process across Europe. Unfortunately the report turned out to use old…
By Nick Flaherty

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UK energy supplier British Gas hit the headline last week with a report that focused on ‘vampire devices’ that consume power while plugged-in but on standby.

This was a way to help consumers reduce costs with record high electricity process across Europe.

Unfortunately the report turned out to use old data from 2015 in the US, and even then shot itself in the foot. The survey British Gas commissioned around the data found that only 16% of respondents had never heard of vampire devices, and most weren’t overly bothered.

The reason was clear in the data. A mobile phone charger plugged in costs just £1.26 (€1.50) a year in energy costs. Internet routers, which consume £18.89 (€25.00) a year increasingly need to stay powered-up to provide vital online services.   

This victim blaming also does a disservice to the power engineers that have been innovating for a decade to boost the efficiency of power conversion devices and meet the European Union’s ever tighter energy specifications to eliminate the effect of these vampire devices.

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Power designers from around the world are meeting in Nuremberg, Germany, this week for the PCIM exhibition and conference and are highlighting the dramatic advances.  

New designs in both silicon and gallium nitride are driving up efficiencies. Moving from 95% to 97, 98 or even 99% efficiency, especially at low load, cuts the power losses by up to 80%, making a dramatic contribution to energy efficiency.   

The higher frequencies of GaN are allowing smaller charger designs. This allows the chargers to fit into power sockets where eliminating that low load, vampire drain is vital. Companies from ST Microelectronics and Infineon in Europe to Navitas, GaN Systems, EPC and Transphorm in the US and Rohm in Japan are using GaN to drive up the efficiencies of all kinds of consumer equipment.

But innovation in silicon also continues to advance. Silanna is using both silicon and GaN devices with a new controller, as is Eggtronic in Italy. Both have in-socket designs. Vicor also uses silicon controllers for its modules that reach 99% efficiency using a resonant conversion topology. Using a module allows all the capacitive and inductive elements to be included in the resonant frequency to achieve that peak efficiency.

The incremental improvement in energy efficiency is a vital part of tackling the issues of energy security and global heating. Power engineers are at the forefront of this challenge, and victim-blaming designers and consumers for vampire devices is short-sighted and unthinking.

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