Discovering Energy “Vampires” That Suck Power and Money

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

When we were children, our fathers often reminded us that we didn’t need to’ “turn every light in the house on,” because they were well aware of how using unnecessary energy drives up the electric bill. It was an important lesson to learn and hopefully we continue to heed their advice by tuning off unnecessary lights and other energy-using appliances around our house, like fans, electric blankets, space heaters, televisions and outdoor lighting.

Sometimes we don’t even realize how much energy we’re using at any given time. It’s a good idea to give the subject some thought so as to become more aware of what is using energy without giving us any particular benefit. Between being vigilant around the house and making some minor changes like raising the temperature on the thermostat in the Summer and lowering it in the Winter, using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs and automating the on/off times of our lighting and temperature control, we can really help cut back on energy usage. After all, the less power we consume, the less our energy provider can bill us for.

A newer take on wasteful power consumption focuses on less-obvious sources of energy usage: the energy that electrical appliances use when they are plugged in but NOT in use. It’s true – some appliances suck power even when they’re not actively being used. This type of energy drain is sometimes referred to as, “vampire,” “standby”or “phantom” energy loss. According to the Union for Concerned Scientists’ “Greentips” feature, phantom energy loss accounts for approximately five percent of a U.S. home’s electric consumption, at a cumulative nation-wide cost of $5.8 billion per year.

The frugal among us don’t want to pay for something from which we get no benefit, so let’s discuss which appliances are the biggest energy vampires. These are the major culprits:

  • Battery chargers (for phones, digital cameras, electronic devices, tools…) draw power even when the device is fully charged or not even connected.
  • Appliances and equipment which have standby or “sleep” mode, like computers and monitors, draw power to keep the device “on” even when it’s inactive.

Basically, any appliance that needs power available to update information or display data (like a modem or digital clock) can be considered a vampire if what it produces serves no benefit to you when you’re not using it. For example, a game console that remembers the date and time is a vampire if it’s sitting hooked up but unplayed.

Here’s an interesting and handy Energy Calculator to help you become aware of and familiar with the things around your house that can secretly suck power, wasting energy and your money. Going through the exercise of discovering the appliances and devices that draw energy – and how much – will help you to cut back where you see waste.

It’s recommended that you unplug appliances and devices that you use infrequently so they’re not displaying, say, the time or their status, when you’re not using it. To avoid hassle of plugging and unplugging more frequently-used vampires, plug all your phone chargers, for instance, into one power strip which can easily be plugged in when needed and unplugged when it’s not.

It’s always nice to find small ways to save that don’t significantly impact your standard of living or disrupt your habits or routines. In the same way a sale price, a coupon or an all-around frugal mindset saves a little here and a little there, these small changes can and do add up to big savings and more money at your command.

Where are your energy vampires lurking?

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