PowerGenie aims to cut passive energy costs in the home

Unless they're unplugged, your television or DVD player are never truly off.

Through what's known as "passive" or "phantom" energy, household appliances drive up your energy bill even after you flip the off switch. And unless you unplug those appliances, there's no easy way to stop it.

That could change if a team of young Cincinnati entrepreneurs get their energy-saving power outlet on the market. The PowerGenie, envisioned as a smart version of a traditional power strip, is the first product under development by Sustain-A-Watt Energy Solutions.

Passive energy is a big money and energy waster. It can add up to $40 a month to an average home's energy bill, or $5 billion a year across the U.S., says company co-founder and recent University of Cincinnati grad Rod Ghavami.

Appliances plugged into the PowerGenie can be turned off through a smart phone application that users can control from any location. The patent pending PowerGenie is still in the early development stage, but has won several business and innovation competitions. Most recently, it was a winner in the Cincinnati Innovates competition, winning the LPK Design and Branding Award.

"We have a proof-of-concept prototype, basically a Frankenstein prototype," Ghavami says. "Since graduation, some of the people on our team earlier have disappeared, and we've brought on some new people who are excited about the project and want to work on it."

The PowerGenie started as a class project for the Electrical Engineering student.

"As part of our senior design project, we came up with the idea of monitoring real-time electricity consumption from an outlet. That's how the PowerGenie came to be," Ghavami says.

After winning a Green Energy Business competition, the idea was further refined.

"We realized we could turn this into a real product and help the average person save energy," he says.

The PowerGenie is designed for residential use, but the technology could be expanded eventually for business use, Ghavami adds.

LPK will be soon start working with the company on marketing and consumer design. The company is also seeking angel investment and is working on a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding. The goal is to create a product ready for production by early next year.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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