Adapter reduction

Have you ever seen a fuse-box closet of a Domotica enthousiast? They’re always loaded with all kinds of interfaces for various Domotica related hardware: X-10, PLCBUS, RF receivers, you name it. Here’s my list:

  • Synology NAS (powered directly from mains)
  • PLCBUS interface (mains)
  • ACT TI213 for X-10 interface (mains)
  • Somfy RS485 RF Transmitter (mains)
  • Digi Portserver TS4 (mains)
  • Sollae EZL-200F for Somfy RS485,  5V DC
  • Visonic, 9V AC 1A
  • Siemens M20T GSM modem, 8V – 28.8V DC (12V)
  • RFXCOM RFXMeter, 9V AC 250mA or 9-12V DC 250mA
  • Sollae EZL-400 4-port RS232 to Ethernet, 5V DC 500 mA
  • 8-port Ethernet Giga Switch, 5V DC 2A
  • Alphatronics Receiver, 12V DC 45 mA
  • AVM Fritz! Box, 12V DC 1.2A
  • Ethernet Doorbell, 5V DC
  • ACT-1000 RS485 to Ethernet for Nemef, 9-12V DC
  • Nemef RF Module, 12V DC 150 mA
  • Lavalink RS232 to Ethernet for Visonic, 9V DC

I’m sure this list will keep on growing in the future. Just count the number of adapters I need! Currently there are 11 adapters in use, and the number just keeps on growing! And you can imagine it’s one big chaos of power-strips, adapters and wires in there. So, a long time ago I bought a few adapters that should be able to supply power to more than just a single piece of hardware. 5V DC is used a lot, 12V DC and 9V AC more than once too. All I needed was a way to connect all the hardware to the right adapter so I could save on the number of mains sockets I need and probably on total power usage as well.

This week I decided to start working on this adapter reduction job and came up with these ‘power boxes’:

Adapter killer

InsideNow I can connect up to 8 devices to the same adapter. With 3 adapters and the same amount of these power boxes I can get rid of a lot of adapters and at least 2 power-strips.

In use 5 adapters (4 x 12V, 1 x 5V) have already been removed and the hardware that was connected to those adapters is now being powered from these boxes; 5 adapters done, another 5 to go! Will I notice this in my nightly power consumption? I don’t know, but it sure reduces the number of power-strips I need over there and there’s enough room for expansion.

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17 Responses to Adapter reduction

  1. Harry Buurman says:

    Hi Robert,

    what a good idea! What type of adapters do you use? They must have quit the capacity?

  2. Lee Tickett says:

    Cool idea. Out of interest- did you hook the 12V and 5V boxes up each with their own mains adapter or have you used one and cleverly split the voltage?

  3. Harry Buurman says:

    Thanks robert!

  4. Freddy Martens says:

    Robert,

    This is a good tip. Do you have any suffestions for a noob starting on this. Do i need to connect all my 12V devices into one socket first an measure the current and then perform the same steps for the other voltages?

    Wouldn’t it be better to have a power source offering 12, 9 and 5 volt?

    Freddy

  5. Hi Freddy,

    That would probably be the best way, measuring the power consumption. I tried to find as much as possible about the power consumption of all the devices (manuals and such) and made a rough estimate. So far this has worked for me. A single power source would also create a single point of failure – 1 adapter broken and *everything* stops working… in that case, I would sleep better with a backup power source nearby. Choices …

  6. Freddy Martens says:

    Hi Robert and others,

    I was thinking to abuse an ATX power supply to feed all the devices I have. The limitation would be 12V and 5V. The question is: Is it doable and more energy efficient than all the powerbricks combined?
    Freddy

  7. An ATX power supply can provide a lot of power. But the efficiency of an ATX PSU drops if you only use part of it. For example, let’s say you only use 60W (for me that would be a lot!) of the 500W your PSU can deliver, power efficiency can be low.
    In that case, I would first have a look at a PicoPSU, which can deliver both 5 and 12V, 120W and are known to be very efficient.

  8. Pingback: Killing adapters does save energy?

  9. llaurén says:

    What a nifty idea! One contributing fact is that i’m cronically out of power bricks and/or available sockets to plug those PSUs into.

    I’d probably change the banana connectors into something else though, so i don’t have to risk reversing the polarity by accident, and so i have only one plug to insert into the power box.

    The next question is whether i should have different connectors for different voltages or would that just annoy the heck off me when i don’t have the right cable?

    Hmm… which one to choose?

    • Right, and it’s easy to do! After removing all the adapters, I could also remove 2 power bricks. Using different plugs to prevent mistakes with regard to polarity and voltage is a good idea, didn’t think of that actually 😉 Next ‘adapter job’ will be the cupboard under the stairs where 6 adapters need to be eliminated; maybe I will use your tip there. OTOH, I want to able to easily move things around if I want to. Well, just like you said, choices…

  10. LcNessie says:

    As an addition to llaurén’s response, you could use Deans or T-connectors, as they are called. Or those new nifty yellow connectors, XT60.

    Just take a gander at any RC-hobby shop for good polarity-safe plugs. For example: hobbyking dot com. You could even use different types of plugs for different voltages…

  11. llaurén says:

    Ooh! I had no idea of the XT60 but having taken a quick google about it, i totally agree. The Deans/T-Connector also seems nice in that it can probably be easier to connect, disconnect and reconnect. The XT60 seems more suitable for a semipermanent installation.

    I’m sure you’ve all tried to disconnect those white plugs from the hard disks or CD drives in your computers… Not fun.

    Still, the XT60 seems to be available only as “wire end” connectors, and nothing you could fix to the lid of a box like an XLR 🙂 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XLR_connector

  12. llaurén says:

    I’ve thought about using a PC power supply to replace all the “power warts” i use. While the good thing is that it gives both five and twelve volts, i’ve read that it’s not really efficient under low loads. And if each device uses just watts or fractions thereof, it doesn’t sound like the most power-efficient solution.

    Plus all my ATX PSUs have fans.

    Then there’s the question whether one connected gadget going boinks can destroy other gadgets connected to the same 5/12 V power box. But hey, we’re tinkerers and makers, so that’s not a problem, it’s a journey! 🙂

  13. Frank says:

    Good idea. I did it with a slightly different approach. My NAS (Synology DS114) has a 12V 4A adapter.

    With my multimeter i measured the amps of each device (router, switch, modem) in my meter cabinet. I calculated that in total (incl. NAS itself) the usage is about ~3,5A at max. So the adapter should take it fine.

    I ordered a bunch of DC barrel connectors from eBay and create a extension cord from 1 input to 4 outputs. Works fine!

    And a more technical issue is the fact that the NAS adapter is now more loaded, so it has a bigger efficiency. Sounds weird, but you also mentioned it for a ATX PSU. A too light load breaks the efficiency. Best efficiency sits around 80-85% i thought, so i am in the perfect range

    • Thanks for your comments. I never really measured the total gain in efficiency actually; but the fact that some of the old, mostly cheap adapters were getting warm (where the single adapter in use now doesn’t) tells me there must be something gained 😉 Another nice thing is that I don’t have to worry about a free wall socket anymore – plenty of free connections!

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