Introduction: Power Adapters Suck - Yank the Plug!

Picture of Power Adapters Suck - Yank the Plug!

'There are an estimated 190 million cell phones in the United States. A quick back of the envelope calculation says that the combined stand-by usage of all those cell phone chargers, each sucking a measly watt, could add up to 190 megawatts per day. That's enough to power approximately 100,000 homes!'*

This is my take on a Green Project that is simple, low cost and can be adapted for anyone's use.

My idea comes from the thought of simplicity. I already grab the charger's connector every time I unplug and plug in my phone, so why add another step to disconnect the charger from the mains?

By connecting the switch directly to the charging cord, it's as simple as a light pull to fully disconnect the charger from the power grid. Although the title says 'Yank the Plug!', don't actually yank on it. It's easy to pull lightly and switch off the power.

A Green Fact:
Unless a device has a mechanical on/off switch that fully disconnects it's internals from the mains power supply, it's still drawing electricity from the wall. A stereo uses power to "listen" for it's remote and a power adapter will be transforming electricity from 120V to ~5V all day no matter what. Unplug these devices or use a mechanical switch to disconnect them when they're not in use

There is a video demonstrating this Instructable in Step 7.

Plea: Please vote for the Epilog Challenge!

*source: found all across the web - taken from

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

I bought everything new, not only because they're cheap components, but because I wanted to make a good looking project for you guys.
It came out a little differently than I'd expected, but it'd be simple enough to make another using what I know now and parts found around the house or shop.

A Green Tip:
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - Find these parts at the thrift shop or in Grandma's basement!

Shallow Wall Electrical Box - $1.09
Pull Switch - $3.49
Extension Cord - $3.79

Other Items You'll Need:
Heat Shrink Tubing or Electrical Tape

Wire Stripper
Hot Glue Gun

$8.37 and about half an hour of your time

MacBook Pro's camera isn't the best, sorry.

Step 2: Place the Switch

Picture of Place the Switch

I decided to mount the switch so the mouth faces up from the side of the box.

You might decide to drill a hole to accommodate it more cleanly.

I found one in the 'back' of the box that you could use. (pictured)

Step 3: Cut the Cord

Picture of Cut the Cord

Pop out one of the holes in the box to accept the extension cord.

Cut the extension cord about four inches away from the plug end.

Pull the cord through the hole in the box.

Tie a knot about four inches down so the cord doesn't pull back out of the box.

Step 4: Strip Party

Picture of Strip Party

Separate and strip the wires from the cord and outlet end of the cord. The wires on my switch kit came pre stripped.

Assemble the simple circuit shown in the second picture. Essentially, you're using the switch to break the circuit with one of the wires.

Make sure you put the heat shrink tubing on before you twist and or solder!

Shrink the tubing with the heat of a lighter or your preferred method

Fit the wires to the back of the box so it looks clean

Disclaimer- Mains voltage is dangerous; BE CAREFUL. Acquire the help of a professional or experienced friend if you're not comfortable with wiring. Insulate all connections well. I won't be held accountable for fried kitties or kiddies. (=D

Step 5: Squeeze and Glue

Picture of Squeeze and Glue

Squeeze everything inside the box

Glue the extension cord end to the edge of the box.

Use a lot of glue if you feel necessary, but I tried to keep everything looking clean.

*If you'd rather use a real electrical outlet, just wire one into the circuit instead of the end of the extension cord.*

Put on a custom cover if you want. I mocked up a post-it to show you what could be done with plastic and some more hot glue.

Step 6: Plug in the Charger

Picture of Plug in the Charger

Plug in the charger.

Using the string that came with the pull switch kit, tie a few knots around the wire so we don't destroy our charger. Leave slack so when you pull on the wire, it doesn't pull on the charger itself. Use it for other chargers when you change phones or devices.

Tips for Tying:

Hold both cord and string parallel straight up and down.

Loop the string once around cord, ending with the string on top of itself to make a loop. (This sounds confusing, but it might help someone)

Push the string up through the loop, tighten and repeat at least once farther up the cord.

Step 7: Check and Test

Picture of Check and Test
Do a mental check to make sure you didn't skip a step

All connections are solid and insulated with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing

All items that are glued are secured sufficiently

Plug it in and test it out. You might want to use something less vital to your life, like a night light, first.

I always thought it was funny how outlets looked so scared.

You've been forewarned, the video is quite boring. The good thing is it'll give you an idea of how this works.

Step 8: Place It and Use It

Picture of Place It and Use It

I put mine under my bedside table between it and the bed, but it can go anywhere.

Both sides are anchored for optimum switching action, but you really only need one. Hide it or make it pretty with paint.

This could also turn on and off your night light when you go to bed and wake up in the morning. It will help you know if the charger is on or off.

Other uses:
Laptop Charging Adapters
Portable Gaming Adapters
Desktop Speaker Set Adapters
Anything that is 'soft powered' where the power button doesn't mechanically disconnect and connect it to power. If pulling on the cord isn't an option, consider the string that came with the switch. Hide it at the back of the desk.

If you enjoyed my Instructable, please rate it and vote for the Epilog Challenge at the top of the page. Thanks for your time and interest!


zzoe (author)2011-03-30

Nicely green, good work.

kenjlee (author)2009-04-20

For half the price of the materials you can purchase a switched four outlet extension switch.

crazyrog17 (author)kenjlee2009-04-20

True, but two things...

1) You can use scrounged parts, or find deals to keep the price low

2) Power strips and foot switches don't have the same simplicity of a gentle tug on the cord. Instead, you'll have to reach down to the plug, or use your foot to control the switch.

It's a matter of opinion, but I feel this is the simplest way to disconnect the charger from the grid.

DIY-Guy (author)crazyrog172010-10-31

I like to use a footswitch for my router and power up (and down) my internet connection in case of #!*&*(!)zzzzZZTT

smheath (author)2009-04-19

Most phone "chargers" aren't actually chargers, they're just power adapters. The actual part that charges the battery is inside the phone. No electricity is used until you plug the "charger" into the phone. So for most people, this won't actually save any electricity. That's not to say that this is a bad idea. This will save electricity if used with other types of chargers like AA/AAA chargers or power tool battery chargers.

crazyrog17 (author)smheath2009-04-20

That statement is correct in the fact that they're technically only 'power adapters.' Power adapters do, however, use power even if they're not charging anything. I tried mine on a Kill-A-Watt and it was drawing 1.6 Watts with nothing attached to it. This does prove useful for phone power adapters or power adapters of any kind. Thanks for your reply!

jimtran93 (author)crazyrog172009-04-23

also, if you do a little research on how power transformers work, you will better understand why it still uses energy while it is not charging

here are some sites:

crazyrog17 (author)jimtran932009-04-24

Thank you for the links. I love howstuffworks, haha. They just confirmed that my assumptions were correct. The power adapter is constantly running current through the windings to create a magnetic field. Whether or not the other winding is using the power, the magnetic field is still there.

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