Don’t Worry About Those New Wall Warts

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by Tim Fulton on October 1, 2012

This past week I took some time to do some testing with the newfangled wall warts that come with all our modern gizmos (cell phones, tablets, i-pods, etc.) to charge them up. I checked the house and saw that I typically have 5 of these things plugged in 24/7/365. Now, I know with old brick type wall warts, those would be pulling at least a few watts constantly and effectively acting as constant small heaters (you can feel that they’re warm). However, I’ve been told that these new ‘switching type’ wall warts are much better on power.

So, I decided to test how much better these new devices actually are. I grabbed all 5 of the wall warts that I have plugged in all the time and plugged them into one power strip. I then plugged that power strip into my kill a watt and plugged that into the wall. With the old type wall warts I’d expect to see 10-20W being pulled. However, to my pleasant surprised my kill a watt registered absolutely nothing, zero watts. That is all 5 of them running together. In the past, I had been a stickler about unplugging these things, but thanks to the wonders of new technology this is no longer needed.

wall wart

Anyway, how do you know if your power supply is a new or old type? Well, the simplest way to check it out is to just touch the thing once it has been plugged in a while. If its warm, its the old type that wastes energy. If its the new type it won’t be warm. The new type also tend to be smaller where as the old type are very square/rectangular in shape. The older ones are also much heavier than the new types.

wall wart

Now, I actually lied, I do have a 6th wall wart out in the garage powering my dog’s invisible fence. I tested it and it pulls a constant 2W. I was going to replace it with a new type, but found out that it is a 12V power supply, not the normal 5V ones you get with cell phones (and that I have extras of just laying around). This brings up the question, does it warrant replacement? A new 12V power supply can be had on amazon for a very reasonable $6.00 with shipping. Assuming it would save me 1W continuously (which I’m not certain of), the pay back would be roughly 5 years. So, your annual savings would be about $1 per year. So, in general I don’t feel immediate the need to run out and replace old wall warts. I would definitely look into replacing old ones with new ones if you have extras laying around. Lastly, before these switching type power supplies, I did make a habbit of unplugging them if they weren’t in use which is a good idea for any electronic gadgets.

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