Power Saving device scams – they don’t save electricity nor do they reduce your power bill

The local free magazine had the local PoolMart pushing a GO4GREEN EnergySmart device with promises that it will save you up to 10% on your power bills. I had hoped that after the Earthwise PowerSavers device promoted by A Current Affair (ACA) and Today Tonight in January 2011 was exposed as being unable to meet any of it’s claims that the sale of these devices would drop off but it seems there are plenty of people willing to hand over good money for snake oil.

A Current Affair removed their promotion of the device from their website soon afterwards they were presented with evidence it was a scam however by that time plenty of people had purchased the $895 box that promised power savings of up to 25% whereas Today Tonight has left it’s information on their website.

To understand why these devices don’t work you need to understand there are two ways that power is billed, Real power and Apparent power.

Real power

This is how households and small businesses (under ~$30K power spend per year) are billed and it’s based on the amount of  watts (W) consumed (true power).

Apparent power

This is how businesses (above ~$30K power spend per year) and factories are generally billed and it’s based on volt-amperes (VA) drawn.

Power Factor

Power factor is defined as Real Power divided by Apparent Power.

A circuit that consists of resistive loads such as incandescent/halogen bulbs, ovens and bar heaters will have a power factor of 1.0 whereas circuits containing inductive or capacitive elements such as electric motors and florescent ballasts which have a power factor of less then 1.0.

When these devices are being demonstrated they will usually use a wireless power meters that work by placing a clamp around the active conductor and measure Apparent Power not Real Power hence why when they demonstrate with an inductive load like an electric motor power “savings” are seen as the Power Factor is around .8 to .9. If the same test were performed by using an incandescent or halogen bulbs no saving will be seen as it’s Power Factor will be 1.0.

Essentially Power Factor is something that only matters if you are being billed for Apparent Power, these power saving devices are targeted at households where they make no difference to the size of the power bill and they are promoted through misleading methods including the use of wireless power meters that measure Apparent power.

This is a photo of the inside of a typical plug in power saver, they all work on the same principle which is a AC capacitor, a few components and a LED or two for looks (and to consume power so not only did you pay for something that doesn’t work it actually costs you money to have it plugged in). Cost to manufacture these devices would vary between $5 to $20 and they retail for $149 to over $1000, hence why so many people are willing to sell these as they are so profitable.

Devices

EnergySmart

The EnergySmart is being sold for between $149 and $299 by the following retailers; Poolmart Kenmore, iintegrate technology

Earthwise

Sells for $895 (installed up to $1500)

Promoted by A Current Affair (ACA) and Today Tonight (ACA took down their article soon after broadcast – Today Tonight left theirs online and added another segment covering it the next day)

Claims to also protect you from cancer (electromagnetic radiation) and has a reference from Panacea University (not recognised as a university).

Mark Maxwell said a number of times it’s capacitor based and works like a battery to save you power. All the excess electricity coming through is stored until required and it’s released, most of the devices use far too much power when they don’t need it and this capacitor based power saver stores a bit of that and this is where the power savings come from – video HIA Home Show Sydney 2011.

Other videos

Earthwise Power Savers featured on Today Tonight

Earthwise Power Savers Save Electricity Dirty Electricity = Harmful EMF and Facts (ok not real facts)

Earthwise Power Savers Saving Watt’s

Reegen Microplug

No longer for sale – Choice awarded this with their Shonky Award of 2009.

Claims to save up to 30% on your power bills – see presentation and video.

Enersonic Power Saver

Sold by Auscha Corporation – ACCC took them to court and they were ordered to stop selling – sell ACCC action below.

ACCC Action

The ACCC has taken action against a number of sellers of these devices, the most recent was action taken against Auscha Corporation Pty Ltd in July 2010 for it’s activities in 2008 and 2009 selling a power saving product. As you can see the ACCC is slow to act so don’t think that lack of action against any current sellers in any way legitimises their products.

  • the Power Saver was not capable of reducing the amount of electrical power consumed by domestic consumers as measured by retail electricity suppliers, and therefore domestic consumers could not save up to 24% on their electrical power consumption by using the Power Saver
  • use of the Power Saver could not lead to domestic consumers saving on their electrical power consumption as measured by retail electricity suppliers, and therefore domestic consumers could not save money by using the Power Saver, and
  • the Power Saver was not designed and engineered in Australia.

Read the full release at the ACCC website – Federal Court declares consumers misled over Power Saver device

Further Information

Power Factor Correction Scam Review

Do Energy Savers Really Work?

Energy Saving Gadgets – Do They Work?

Hurrah! Another power-saving doodad!

Power Saver scam brought to you by Today Tonight and ACA

Earthwise power saver – scam or what?

Energysmart Go4Green power saver – is this a scam?

Whirlpool Snake Oil Post

World Health Organisation – Electromagnetic fields (EMF)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a number of reports that debunk these devices are saving any money.

NIST Team Demystifies Utility of Power Factor Correction Devices

NIST Technical Note 1654 – Regarding Electric Energy Savings, Power Factors, and Carbon Footprints: A Primer

Purchasing Isopropyl Alcohol in Australia (aka IPA, rubbing alcohol, propan-2-ol, 2-propanol and isopropanol)

Isopropyl Alcohol also known as IPA, rubbing alcohol, propan-2-ol, 2-propanol and isopropanol is an incredibly handy solvent and cleaner. Do not confuse it with the cheaper propan-1-ol or 1-propanol as this damages plastics unlike Isopropyl Alcohol. Anything above 99% is suitable for most of the uses I’ve listed, the purer the better.

It can be used for

  • cleaning contact connections such as on electrical devices and in cars
  • cleaning tape and disk heads (floppy drives, tape players, video cassette records, tape drives)
  • cleaning laser lenses (cd/dvd/bluray drives)
  • cleaning CPUs before applying thermal grease (also useful for removing old thermal grease)
  • cleaning mobile phones (smart phones, pdas)
  • cleaning LCD monitors (may damage some types of screens)
  • cleaning negatives
  • a release agent for glues (for example hot melt glue used in paintless dent removal)
  • and many more

Obtaining Isopropyl Alcohol in Australia however is getting harder partially due to it’s use in the manufacture of illicit drugs, chemists used to be able to supply 100% pure at a reasonable price and some outlets like Dick Smith Electronics used to sell Helmar ISO PRO which was 99.7% but no longer do carry it. Jaycar Electronics carry a 50% and finally a 99.8% concentration.

After looking around I found the following for a decent price and ended up ordering from element 14.

element14 (was Farnell)

Isopropyl Alcohol 99.7% – 1 litre for $16.65 (delivery free for online orders)

Adelaide Moulding & Casting Supplies

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% – 500 ml

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% – 1 litre

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% – 5 litres for $54.00 (delivery to Brisbane $22.00)

Isopropyl Alcohol 99% – 20 litres

GNB Salon Supplies

Isopropyl Alcohol 100% – 1 litre for $13.99 (delivery $12-15)

Places that I’ve heard stock it

Altronics has 2L containers for under $40.

Prime Electronics in Brisbane

Electrolube Isopropyl Alcohol 99.8% 500 ml for $12.38

Electrolube Isopropyl Alcohol 99.8% 1 litre for $18.24

Electrolube Isopropyl Alcohol 99.8% 5 litre for $64.34

Electrolube Isopropyl Alcohol 99.8% 20 litre for $228.79

sells 20 litre drums for $144 (part number CHELISO020)

Updating the B&N Nook Color using CyanogenMod 7 (CM7) firmware

I’ve been using the CyanogenMod 7 (CM7) firmware on a B&N Nook Colour for a while now and it brings with it Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” to not only the Nook Color but other devices as well.

Installing the CM7 is easy by following the guide at xdadevelopers – Install CM7, OC kernel and Clockworkmod

Keeping the Nook Color up to date is easy, there are two types of updates stable and nightly, as the name implies the stable releases  are stable and the nightly releases are changes made each day so it may not be as stable but on the other hand you get the latest fixes and features. Actually there are three but the third is Release Candidate and this is only available before a firmware becomes stable so I won’t include it in the ones to worry about updating as they are rarely released.

CyanogenMod 7 firmware downloads for the encore (Stable)
CyanogenMod 7 firmware downloads for the encore (Release Candidate)
CyanogenMod 7 firmware downloads for the encore (Nightly)

CyanogenMod has a wiki site with more information – Barnes & Noble Nook Color

Fatal error: Call to undefined function get_userdata() …… /wp-includes/capabilities.php on line 488

WordPress 3.1.1 site was down with error

Error establishing a database connection.

Checking the server logs showed memory errors

[Fri Apr 15 18:03:41 2011] [error] [client xxx.xx.xxx.xx] (12)Cannot allocate memory: couldn’t create child process: /opt/suphp/sbin/suphp for /home/……/public_html/index.php, referer: http://www.google.ro/url?………
[Fri Apr 15 18:03:20 2011] [error] [client xx.xx.xxx.xx] (12)Cannot allocate memory: couldn’t create child process: /opt/suphp/sbin/suphp for /home/……./public_html/index.php
[Fri Apr 15 18:03:20 2011]  [error] [client xx.xx.xxx.xx] (12)Cannot allocate memory: couldn’t create child process: /opt/suphp/sbin/suphp for /home/……./public_html/index.php
[Fri Apr 15 18:03:20 2011] [error] [client xx.xx.xxx.xx] (12)Cannot allocate memory: couldn’t create child process: /opt/suphp/sbin/suphp for /home/……./public_html/index.php

A reboot of the VPS cleared the memory error however this error appeared in it’s place

Fatal error: Call to undefined function get_userdata() …… /wp-includes/capabilities.php on line 488

A repair of the mysql database didn’t fix this problem. Googling the error didn’t come back with anything useful either.

Testing with another browser allowed most pages to come up without this error so it appeared to be something to do with the other browser having a cookie for the admin user which corresponds to the error about get_userdata.

Deleting the admin user (the only one) from the wp_users table allowed both browsers to view the site.

Recreating the user with the same user_pass and other details allowed both browsers to view the site so there was a problem with the wp_users table preventing the site from operating.

Boycott the retailers pushing for GST on online overseas purchases

Store Wars - picture from news.com.auRetailers started complaining about the $1000 GST threshold on overseas goods imported by private individuals back in November 2010 and threw around many false and misleading claims to back up their position.

Retailers call for GST on overseas sales

In January the group of retailers grew and they have now launched advertising in the press (with TV to follow) with their false and misleading claims to try and gather support for their push.

“AUSTRALIA’S biggest retailers will launch an advertising campaign aimed at pressuring the government to impose GST on all goods bought over the internet.

Retailers, who will pour millions of dollars into the campaign, have warned that thousands of jobs are at risk if the government fails to act.” (2)

Claim 1: The federal government would reap at least $600 million if it started charging GST on all imports according to Australian Retailers Association chief executive Russell Government, National Retail Association executive director Gary Black questioned this and said it would be more like $20-30 million (1).
Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes estimated the government was forgoing up to $2.5 billion a year in GST and duty on internet sales. “That would build a lot of schools,” he said.

Fact: The federal government has said the cost of collecting the GST on imports under $1000 would exceed the amount raised.

Claim 2: The retailers claim that overseas purchases are to blame for everything from falling sales, staff being sacked right through to global warming.

Fact: In 2009 3% of all purchases were made online ($19-24 billion), of these 50 to 80 precent were on Australian websites leaving .6 to 1.5 percent of purchases being made overseas (3)

The current lack of sales has nothing to do with online purchases but everything to do with higher interest rates, tightening of finance availability, higher utility costs (power, water, rates) and thus less disposable income. This reduction in disposable income combines with retailer greed in wanting to maintain high margins is what is hurting retailers in the short term.

Claim 3: Harvey Norman and Myer both have promised to setup online stores in China to ship goods direct under $1000 with no GST in order to compete with the overseas online retailers.

“Myer is working on an international retailing website that will sell goods to Australian customers, shipping them from a warehouse in Shenzhen in southern China to avoid the GST and make Myer more competitive.” (4)

“Harvey Norman chief Gerry Harvey said his company’s site will be in place possibly before Myer’s, as traditional retailers struggle to compete against a tide of inexpensive merchandise bought online and imported directly by consumers.” (5)

Fact: They won’t setup these online stores, both Harvey Norman and Myer take years to make any changes to their business and any savings on removing GST from the sale would be eaten up by shipping. The issue isn’t just the GST but rather the excessive markups that both companies have on their products. Many products are under half the price including shipping from overseas so adding GST doesn’t mean you will stop people from shopping overseas but it will turn people against these retailers. The constant press coverage will only have people checking online to see what prices are like and drive more people to shop overseas.

The problems as I see it with Australian retailing are

  • Retailers are stuck back in the 1980’s, look at any Myers, Harvey Norman or David Jones store to see that nothing has changed in 30 years and to top it off these companies have a weak online presence. Cutting the number of suppliers and items that you stock to a few select high profit brands is hardly a way to increase sales, consumers want a choice and with more doing research online it’s not acceptable to offer only a few alternatives.
  • The online stores if they do have one have a very limited range of stock, there are no live stock displays nor information on where the products can be viewed. The prices are the same as in store and generally not far from the retail price. There are many online stores in Australia that are 20-30% cheaper on electronic products.
  • Price match guarantees are useless if you won’t sell below your inflated floor cost and set dozens of conditions, why would you waste your time when you can purchase it cheaper elsewhere including from an online retailer (both in Australia and overseas).
  • Goods overseas are substantially cheaper then the same goods in Australia, part of the difference  is our tax system, part is our higher wages but a substantial amount is the higher profits and poor business practices of retailers in Australia.
  • The retailers involved in the push for GST on online overseas purchases are the same ones who have created many problems with retailing in Australia including the wiping out of local production through purchasing cheap garments and other products from Asian countries and retailing at the prices Australian made garments were sold for. The retailers were happy to make massive profits without passing on any savings to customers and the same applies when our dollar which has appreciated 25% over the last 12 months is taken into account. (6)
  • The benefits that online shoppers are benefiting from at present also benefit the importers and retailers, whilst there is a delay for the importers and retailers in getting the benefits of our strong Australian dollar they still receive the benefits.
  • Australian retailers are just plain boring, their idea of innovation is a variation of interest free and yet another % off sale. They need to wake up and take a look at what retailers are doing around the world.

The Greens support the push with their leader Bob Brown saying

“GST on imported goods is a reasonable thing,” he told reporters in Hobart on Tuesday.

“Why should the shop up the street have to charge GST for its customers but the shop selling goods out of Tokyo or California not have to charge GST?” (7)

Those stores are not based in Australia and as such our tax laws do not apply and second of all the tax would be collected at the point of entry to Australia like it is now. You would think the leader of the Greens would actually understand something about how the GST operates and even the small fact that the cost of collection of the GST on private imports under $1000 is not viable before supporting the retailers in their absurd claim.

The National Retailer Association (8) has joined the campaign representing 3700 small shops and has come out with absurd comments like

“The Australian community will pay an escalating price for the failure to address this blatant inequity,” the association’s director Gary Black said in a statement today.

“This price will result from GST lost, from duties and tariffs foregone, from customs fees and charges foregone.

“From job losses, payroll tax revenue reductions, and the cost to the economy of inevitable business failures.”

A previous statement (9) from the NRA has seen claims of this being the biggest threat to bricks and mortar stores in decades, that there is rampent fraud occurirng, suggestions of mandatory charges for all imports to cover the cost of enforcement and so on. Read the statement here.

The retailers involved in the push for GST on online overseas purchases are

  • Angus & Robertson
  • Borders
  • David Jones
  • Dotti*
  • French Connection
  • Harvey Norman
  • House
  • Jacqui.E*
  • JayJays*
  • Just Jeans*
  • Mimco
  • Myer
  • Nine West
  • Peter Alexander*
  • Portmans*
  • Seed
  • Smiggle*
  • Steve Madden
  • SuperChef Warehouse
  • Target
  • Witchery
  • National Retailers Association members (3700), it seems that the various associations want to keep their members identities a secret.

* All part of the same company – The Just Group

I’ll be avoiding all of these retailers wherever I can even if that means paying more to another retailer. If enough people did boycott these retailers they would either change their business model or go bust, either way it would be a good thing for Australian consumers.

(1) Retailers call for GST on overseas sales

(2) Online sales will kill jobs: retailers

(3) No GST change to curb online shopping

(4) GST pushes Myer online to China

(5) Harvey Norman plans to match Myer’s internet move

(6) Blanket online GST an administrative nightmare, says Nick Xenophon

(7) Greens back online shopping GST call

(8) Retail war on online GST sales grows

(9) Customs must move to combat cheap online import fraud

Upgrading the Google Nexus One Eclair 2.1 (FRF50) to Froyo 2.2 (FRF83) – Release Version

The release version of Froyo 2.2 has been released for Google Nexus One users.

  1. Download the 1828kb update file from Google
    (filename:  signed-passion-FRF83-from-FRF50.38d66b26.zip)
  2. Follow the instructions here – Upgrading the Google Nexus One Eclair 2.1 to Froyo 2.2 – unrooted stock
    (note that step 9 may require you to press reboot )

Updating Froyo 2.2 from FRF50 to FRF72

An update for Froyo 2.2 from FRF50 to FRF72 has been released and is available from Google’s website now.

The update is similar to the Eclair 2.1 to Froyo 2.2 with one change.

  1. Download the 1.9mb update file from Google
    (signed-passion-FRF72-from-FRF50.bc033f9e.zip)
  2. Follow instructions here –  Upgrading the Google Nexus One Eclair 2.1 to Froyo 2.2 – unrooted stock – starting with step 2 and returning her after step 9.
  3. The phone when complete will sit there with the same menu seen in step 8. Press the trackball to reboot.