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Blog Jul 26, 2018

Complete Guide to Vampire Energy

Energy Saving
reducing energy

Whether the electricity bill is unpredictable from month to month or it’s consistently higher than you would like, vampire energy may be the culprit. Learn how to identify and manage phantom devices in your home, and you may be surprised to find a reduction in power costs. Here’s everything you need to know about it, energy-draining appliances, and quick fixes for saving electricity at home.

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Why Do Devices Leak Energy?

Essentially, every cord that remains plugged into an outlet is pulling electricity out. While many devices have sleep or standby modes, they still continuously use Energy to perform updates, connect to remote servers, and record data.

The connectivity of modern technology is one reason why our devices leak energy. Even when the TV is off, for example, it’s still ready to receive a signal from the remote to power on at any time. Your DVR is always “lying in wait” until it’s time to record the next show or running behind-the-scenes updates.

Regularly available power means your devices can respond quickly when you decide to use them. However, this handy feature comes at a cost regarding your monthly and yearly electricity costs. Most households have many devices that use vampire power in standby mode.

Remote Ready Energy Leaking Appliances

Remote ready appliances are those which remain in a standby state ready to receive orders to switch on. Often, these devices require a one-button operation to wake them. Common remote-ready appliances that “leak” electricity include:

  • Desktop computers and displays
  • Faxes and printers
  • Satellite and cable boxes
  • Stereos
  • TVs
  • Microwaves
  • Garage door openers
  • Video game consoles

For some devices, the “on” and “off” electricity loads are almost identical. For example, an inkjet fax machine uses an average of 6.22 watts while it’s on and 5.31 when it’s in standby mode. Unfortunately, that means you may be doubling (or more) your monthly  bill by leaving remote ready devices in standby mode rather than switching them all the way off.

Obvious Non-Remote Appliances

Non-remote appliances that waste energy due to being on all the time don’t have standby or sleep modes. Rather, the electricity that is used to power background functions even when you’re not operating them.

Non-remote phantom load appliances include:

  • Microwaves
  • Digital clocks
  • Cable modems
  • Answering machines

Though you may decide to unplug your microwave between uses, many other non-remote appliances are ones that need to remain on. Digital clocks, for example, need a constant power source to maintain accurate time. Cable modems and answering machines have the same requirement if we want to use our internet and receive phone messages.

Not So Obvious Vampire Power Menaces

Finally, there are many other menaces when it comes to phantom energy use. Most devices that use the highest amount of power while sitting on the counter, shelf, or table are ones that you would least expect.

More discreet phantom power drains include:

  • Household furnace
  • Air conditioner unit
  • Gas range
  • Coffeemaker
  • Electric toothbrushes
  • Plugged in devices such as cell phones and laptops (once charged)

Although avoiding power drain from these sources is sometimes impossible, such as with the furnace or gas range, there are steps you can take to reduce or eliminate these sneaky devices.

How Much Energy is it Costing You?

According to a report from the National Resource Defense Council, Americans spend about $19 billion per year in energy costs. On average, that means about $165 to $440 per household depending on tier rates and location.

With so many digital devices, device drain is constant and inescapable unless you’re willing to unplug every device in your home after you use it. When it comes to what appliances use the most electricity when turned off, those are mostly modern amenities with digital displays and internet connectivity. But if you’re wondering about other appliances, like do lamps use electricity when turned off, some use on-off switches that do effectively cut power.

General Vampire Power Stats in the US

As green as you may think your household is, the truth is that most Americans are victims of in their homes. As the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains, around 23 percent of American power consumption is in the form of “idle load electricity.”

Unfortunately, electricity usage and costs only continue to grow. Other studies indicate that it may account for up to 20 percent of home electricity use. Smart devices with extra features may harbor some of the responsibility for the increase, with smart refrigerators that have extra features like internet connectivity drawing additional power.

And while energy efficient appliances are becoming more common, we’re still seeing surges that are off the charts in terms of excess power that consumers are continuing to pay for.

List of Energy Vampire Devices

Here are the stats for some of the biggest offenders. Wattage information comes from Berkeley Lab’s Standby Power Summary Table.

How to Stop Phantom Power Appliances

Does unplugging electronics save electricity? It does- however, it’s not often feasible to unplug every appliance when you’re finished with it. Especially for larger appliances, we must turn to other electricity-saving methods to cut back. But the benefits are clear; studies have found that phantom electricity accounts for anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of household electricity. Here are five ways to stop phantom power appliances.

Use Energy Star Certified Appliances

While you may not want to rush out and purchase all-new appliances, shop smart when the time comes to replace an outdated refrigerator or washing machine. Most appliances carry a label that endorses them as an Energy Star participant. Often, the labeling also includes expected power costs.

Energy Star labels identify products that meet electric efficiency qualifications that the EPA sets. Not only are these products more efficient than their counterparts, but they must also meet quality and performance standards. While you may pay more up-front, the savings in electricity costs over the life of the product often make up the difference.

Plug into Power Strips

Since most households use multiple phantom appliances, it wouldn’t make sense to attempt to unplug each one after every use. However, there is a simple solution that can help cut back on electricity seepage. Electric strips are easily accessible and can shut off power to assorted devices at the same time.

Rather than manually unplug each device or flip a light switch, you can press one button to cut off power to a bank of appliances. If you own a desktop computer, you may already use a surge protector power strip to protect your device’s components. Using power strips elsewhere in your home can help consolidate cords and make saving electricity even simpler.

Activate Energy Saver Modes

Though you won’t always have a power saving mode, depending on the device, many modern appliances and products come with one. Electric saving modes put electronics to sleep, such as when your computer monitor powers down when you step away for a while.

Whenever a power saving mode is an option, take advantage of it. Most devices then require a quick push of a button to start back up when you’re ready to use them.

Unplug When Charged

Since most consumers today own at least one smartphone or tablet, charging such devices often takes precedence in terms of power consumption. But modern technology means faster charging times. At the same time, many users leave their devices to charge overnight or for extra hours during the day.

While “extra” charging time won’t give your device’s battery an extra boost, it is putting additional strain on your household’s energy demands. The telltale sign of prolonged charger use is that the unit will feel hot to the touch. The solution to this dilemma is to unplug devices when they finish charging. Using a power strip for portable device charging can also help.

Unplug Lesser Used Items

While you won’t want to unplug every appliance in your home each day, identifying the ones you use less frequently can help zero in on phantom energy draws. For example, the refrigerator needs its constant power, but if you only use the microwave every few days, unplugging it after each use may pose a benefit.

Similarly, appliances such as washing machines and dryers, blenders, coffee pots, and juicers don’t need constant power when not in use. Unplugging countertop appliances is a relatively simple energy conservation strategy that won’t add time to your routine.

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