Product Focus: Magic of the Power Genie

Invented by two Victorians, the Power Genie is an ingenious energy saving device that automatically switches equipment on and off…

The Power Genie™ is a little black box which automatically turns off selected household appliances when a primary ‘control’ appliance is turned off to standby mode. Turning the selected appliances off completely is an environmental and cost-saving measure, as it reduces the energy that is normally used, in many cases unnecessarily, as standby power. It simply interfaces between any existing equipment whether plugged in via an extension board or directly into a wall socket. Power Genie automatically turns appliances and electrical devices off and on (as if switched at the power point) yet still provides power to the control device to maintain VCR clocks, computer functions, etc. Most electronic equipment, when not turned off at the power point, may not be off and still uses electricity. This wasted electricity is called standby current.

Did you realize that the average home office or TV and entertainment system, if used for 5 hours a day, 7 days a week, is actually on standby, wasting electricity for almost 7,000 hours per year? A recent study in Australia showed that almost 12% of Australia’s household electricity usage is wasted standby current. This wasted electricity costs Australian households approximately $500 million per year. Five million tonnes of greenhouse gas are generated every year by this wasted electricity.

The Power Genie was invented by Russ Nielsen, an industrial designer, and David Baughan, who owns a computer business. David became aware of standby energy during the course of his work, when he noticed all of the standby lights on his computer equipment when not in use. He decided to do something about it, and patented the idea in 1996. It wasn’t until Russ was contracted that the idea was realised into a prototype, and a new patent was taken out in 2002. Last year, the product won the ‘People’s Choice’ Award on The New Inventors. The Power Genie connects to the main power socket on the wall via a lead. The box itself has 2 sockets – one for the ‘control’ appliance, and one for a powerboard into which the user plugs related appliances. The control appliance is generally one which actually needs standby power, such as displaying the time. For example, you could choose your VHS player as the control device, and switch it to standby power so the clock was still displayed. As you do this, the Power Genie senses the power used in the control device – VHS player – has lessened, and relays this message to switch off all appliances connected to the powerboard, such as the TV, stereo, DVD player etc. These are switched off completely, as if they had been unplugged at the wall. The Power Genie’s own standby power is 1/2watt. Based on a typical home office, Russ Nielsen estimates that the Power Genie could save approximately $90 a year in power bills (for the office alone). Power Genie will recover its own cost and the more peripheral devices that are controlled by Power Genie, the faster the cost recovery. And it will continue to save money long after as it removes the human factor of having to remember to switch things off.

A major benefit of the Power Genie is that, by removing the mains supply, it reduces the fire risk of controlled devices to zero. Power Genie extends equipment life and this is especially true of battery operated equipment such as mobile phones and laptops, where battery life is greatly reduced when these devices are left on charge at all times. Power Genie is suited to all commercial and domestic office and entertainment equipment.

A light sensor accessory is currently in the design stage and will soon be available for use with the Power Genie. This device will automatically turn off equipment when office lights are switched off or when the sun sets – ideally suited for photocopiers, urns and microwaves and other electrical devices that are usually out of sight and forgotten to be switched off. For more information visit: