Things that go bump

If it weren`t for the standby lights in our lounge, I may have lost my life this weekend.
Kimberly Guest
By Kimberly Guest, ITWeb contributor
Johannesburg, 27 Nov 2007

There`s nothing quite like stumbling through the house at 2:00am in response to a plaintive child`s cry. However, after a weekend of miserable weather, the scattered remains of attempts at kiddie distraction could quite easily claim your life.

It`s what I call "things that go [expletive censored] in the night". And in this case the thing was me.

Having barely negotiated my way down the hallway with my life intact, I was greeted by my two-year-old son who had woken up and realised that he had not gone to bed with his train. Complete disaster.

I vaguely remembered seeing said train in the lounge - another obstacle course awaited me. Using the sweeping feet manoeuvres of an ice-skater I headed in that direction.

To be greeted by lights. Many, many lights.

Is it a bird?

As far as my barely-functioning brain could remember, we hadn`t put up our Christmas decorations. But there was no denying that our lounge looked like an alien had taken up residence.

It took a moment to realise that the light display was actually a multitude of gadgets displaying their standby status.

Of course, by this time I had missed the deadline to get my own alien back to sleep, and so the two of us sat in the lounge pondering our household`s drain on the country`s power grid.

Not really off

To be honest, I was quite taken aback by the evidence of our squandering lifestyle. After all, I`ve reported on the power that standby functions gobble up.

In the UK, government and power utilities have started targeting "standby consumption" in their electricity-saving initiatives. This follows various research initiatives conducted around the world, which have shown that this function accounts for between 5% and 10% of household electricity usage.

Of course, I could blame my husband - the tech freak - who instigated the purchase of the wide screen TV, DSTV, amp, DVD player, video recorder, Hi-Fi, Wii, PlayStation and the particularly annoying router for the wireless home, which has flashy blue lights proceeding in a tight circle.

But I must admit that alongside his much-loved Apple laptop was my piece of [expletive censored] laptop. Both of these were plugged in and on "standby".

Buoyed by lack of sleep, I proceeded to traverse the house, turning off every appliance and device not currently in use and critical.

My son followed, and thinking it was a game, turned everything back on. Which led to the whole family waking up.

Act like adults

It took a moment to realise that the light display was actually a multitude of gadgets displaying their standby status.

Kimberly Guest, senior journalist, ITWeb

My husband and daughter stared at me bleary-eyed, while I did the power-off circuit again. Ah-ha, I thought, a perfect opportunity to enter a lecture on power-saving.

Perhaps it was the shock of being wrenched from a happy dream, or the crazed look in my eyes, but my message got through. There`s a good chance my family may forever be too scared to turn on any appliance.

My question, though, is what will it take to get through to the rest of SA? And not just our households either. If you are the first or last to enter your office environment, take a look around at the amount of lights and devices that are left on - never mind standby - overnight.

It`s easy to point at Eskom for their lack of energy planning, or even the device manufacturers for introducing a standby function in the first place. Nevertheless, whichever way you look at it, the short-term solution has to come from us.

Tired of blackouts? Look within your own home. And lobby your employer to introduce power-efficient computing solutions.

And if you have kids, make sure that all passages are cleared of debris before heading to bed. Alternatively, keep a torch at hand. It could save your life.