Off Switch

“So, what might be the best of green design for 2010 are the things that don’t get designed. Don’t design me a new iPhone, figure out how to make my old one last. Don’t design me a new “green house”, figure out how to make the one I have more efficient. Don’t sell me physical objects, help me re-purpose the ones I have or otherwise give me digital tools for a higher quality of life that don’t require Chinese injection moldings.”

Saul Griffith on Green Design

I want an off button for our house.

That is, a single button, probably located somewhere by the front door, which we can use when we’re leaving or when we got to bed in the evening, which turns off all of the lights and all of the appliances that don’t need to stay in stand-by.

If you’re building a new house then getting this sort of thing setup is relatively easy, if not cheap.  Either way, I don’t think it would be too hard to justify the cost of installation if you ran the numbers, as I’d hate to think how much of our monthly power bill is wasted on these two things alone.

But, if this sort of stuff is so expensive that it’s only installed in new homes then the savings will be a long time coming.

Who is solving this sort of problem for old/existing homes?


Is Home automation the new green choice?

10 thoughts on “Off Switch”

  1. Yup, that’s what I was thinking. It’s usually the big switch thingy located on your mains switchboard. However think carefully what’s in your fridge and freezer before switching everything off.

    Alternately you could just switch off selected power and light isolation switches, ie the circuits your TVs are plugged into, not the one your fridge is plugged into.

  2. Hey Rowan

    Putting on my electrician hat from a former life – this is easy – you have one now (albeit not by the front door) it’s the main switch.

    As another commentor suggested – you want to think about freezers and fridges – it’s not a huge job for someone to set up a contactor so that all circuits bar the “essential” ones can be isolated from one switch – easy job


  3. Ben,

    Rowan’s got a good point here. It seems simple and yet doesn’t get done.

    Why does he need to conceive, plan and contract an electrician for it as an individual, why shouldn’t people have the solution suggested to them with opportunities already arranged to purchase the service? Or education given to electricians on how to sell and implement this?

    The fact he can retro-fit a solution doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.


  4. I’m laying out the electrics for our eco-house right now, and I can’t work out if your idea is a good one or not. Yes, everything but the fridge and server can be turned off, but hell, I don’t think I have any other appliances that live on standby.

    Admittedly, we’re not key audience for home automation, we haven’t got seven TVs, as suggested by this home automation brochure:

  5. As someone with a vested interest in this post, I can see that switching everything off at the mains (except fridge, server, etc) would be a great idea…until one of the kids needed to get up in the night to go to the loo.

  6. I’m sorry but this isn’t workable unless you spend a lot more on cable and powerpoints.

    A house has a useful lifetime of, lets say, 50 years. Multiple people will live in this during this time, and even then you’ll go through phases of reorganising your house (home office->baby room->home office etc).

    The upshot of this is that the powerpoints that you want to be controlled now are not the ones that you, or subsequent owners, want in the future. If any of those change and they’re connected in series with others then you’re in for significant expense.

    This is a completely parallel case to the red UPS powerpoints installed in business premises. They’re never where you want, or they’re double-provisioned alongside non-UPS ones.

    I agree you could do this half-right, most of the time, for fridges and other very fixed items. But my server likes being on, as does my timemachine etc etc.

    Far better to add intelligence to the appliances and be able to command them all to turn off. And synchronise their clocks while you’re at it.

    1. Thanks, I hadn’t seen that.

      I liked this quote from the comments:

      Uh, if you’re leaving for long enough to warrant that you want to make sure every appliance is turned off (i.e. vacation, weekend, etc) then wouldn’t you just connect this switch to the main line running into your house, and live without automatic sprinklers for the day? I mean… I’m assuming people CAN live without automatic sprinklers.

      I’m not sure we can!

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