"FakeTV" Promoted as Energy-Efficient Burglar Alarm


Light box emulates television to outwit intruders. Photo via Opto-Electronic Design

For anyone who keeps the TV on when out of the house to fake-out potential burglars, now there's FakeTV. Turn on this gizmo and stop wasting energy by leaving the television on for hours when no one's home--especially with Planet Green on the dial. This light-emitting device replicates the flickering images of a real television while consuming a fraction of the power—only one one-hundredth, claim the makers. Is this really a useful idea, just a clever placebo for peace of mind, or an addition to the "as seen on TV" collection destined for landfill?

Since the company states that televisions can't be switched on or off with a timer (though that's not actually accurate), the engineer-inventor of this faux set, Blaine Readler, built in a light sensor that turns on the FakeTV at dusk for up to four or seven hours. Created as a burglary deterrent, Readler of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, partnered with Opto-Electronic Design to build the box. "The best consequence of using the FakeTV," he says, "is that nothing much happens around our house when we're not there."

Superbright LEDs flash and fade, subtly pulsing with a glow which changes randomly to recreate various programs—from the reddish tinge of game shows to bluish outdoor scenes, static newscasts, and colorful commercials. Though the optical effect that illumines the opalescent lens may be mesmerizing, FakeTV's manufacturers warn: "It's never healthy to stare at any bright light source for an extended period of time." (Wouldn't that apply to real TVs, too?)

Auxiliary Motives
Though "Kill Your TV" proponents feel that television itself is a waste of energy, FakeTV is promoted as a power-saving crime-deterrent, boasting its about two-thirds effective against B&Es.; It also can extend the life of a television screen as well as unintentionally helping insomniacs fall asleep, acting as the visual equivalent of white noise. The company believes its mission "to hold high ethical standards" is particularly suited to technology, stating: "If we may quote Francis Bacon (1561-1626): A little science estranges a man from God; a little more brings him back."

At about $40, this low-tech solution may be cheaper than losing valuables, like that new flat screen replacing the old CRT set. Keep in mind, of course, that the power mongering 42-inch plasma uses the same amount of energy as a 25-cubic-foot fridge. Compare that to the 15-ounce FakeTV. And though a rear-projection television is a more energy-efficient television than an LCD, and both usually beat plasmas--size does matter.

Marketed to homeowners fearful about home safety, FakeTV is not a substitute for a security system and shouldn't replace locks and timed lights to fool possible prowlers. A little like a phony surveillance camera (perhaps the ultimate in energy-efficiency), this light apparatus simply encourages intruders to move onto another target. If only the shell were made with green packaging or was solar-paneled. Well, at least it won't need a digital converter this summer.

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Tags: Appliances | Electronics | Energy Efficiency | Television

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