AT&T’s New ZERO Charger a Stake Through the Heart of Vampire Power

No, it’s not an euphemism for a two-year-old cellphone battery. The new ZERO Charger from AT&T, in stores in May, automatically cuts off the electrical circuit when not charging, eliminating wasted electricity, also known as “vampire power.”

The US Department of Energy estimates internal and external adapters burn through about 120 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year of electricity wasted as heat, costing consumers more than $12 billion in electric bills.

Why don’t we have these already?

The ZERO charger, which AT&T calls a “global first,” incorporates a circuit which senses when the charged device is disconnected and breaks the electrical circuit. The “block and cable” design gives it universal compatibility, and AT&T said the ZERO will cost the same as existing replacement chargers.

The ZERO will come in recycled paper packaging, part of AT&T efforts to reduce the amount of waste in its product packaging.

More good news on the charger front

In February, the GSMA announced a deal with major cellphone manufacturers to introduce a single standard for power adapters by 2012, eliminating the need to have a different adapter for each brand of handset. The new standard could have a huge positive environmental impact, reducing the amount of plastic wasted on those little black boxes worldwide.

BC (Ben) Upham is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. He has written for the New York Times, and was a writer and editor for News Communications, Inc., a local paper consortium serving Manhattan. When he's not blogging on green issues -- and especially renewable energy -- he's hiking in the Angeles Mountains or hanging out at El Matador.

5 responses

  1. Ugh, there are lots of misconceptions in my opinion about vampire power. You can purchase a Kill-A-Watt meter and measure your cell phone charger yourself.

    I'm not arguing that the DOE is wrong in its stats, but we are focusing on the wrong appliances. Even when fully charging your cell phone, your charger only draws about 3 Watts. The coffee maker on the other hand draws nearly 800 watts. The 10 minutes it takes to make a pot of coffee uses 133wH you would have to leave your phone plugged into your charger for 43 hours to use the same amount of power, assuming it pulled the 3 Watts the whole time.

    When you test your cell phone charger without your phone attached, the Kill-A-Watt will show zero (so I'm assume its very low but not quite zero.

    The real appliances that cause problems are DVRs, computers and printers, cable or dsl modems and routers. A typical DVR can use almost 50 Watts even when its “powered off.” Some laptop chargers pull 20 or 30 watts even with the battery full and the laptop powered off.

    If you want to cut down on your power usage, put your computer on a surge strip and flip the switch off when you are sleeping or away from home.

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