People are always looking for new ways to save power. When you leave the house you turn down the thermostat and make sure all the lights are off. But are you aware of all of the appliances in your home that are draining power when not in use?
The typical American household is always drawing power, even when the appliances appear to be off. And that can add up quickly. Estimates say about a quarter of all residential energy consumption is attributed to electronic devices in idle mode. This has been referred to as “vampire power” or “phantom energy.”
Two of the largest contributors to this energy loss are televisions and broadband internet routers. In 2016, it’s estimated that more than 102 million Americans have broadband internet in their homes, and more than 40 million of those have smart TVs that are always connected to the internet. If your TV is in quick-start mode (which avoids the painful 15 second boot up every time), it’s drawing even more power.
There are also an increasing number of traditional household appliances that are now connected to the Internet. This internetworking of physical devices is referred to as the Internet of Things. Items like lighting, refrigerators, coffee makers, ovens, and even mattresses that are connected to the Internet are continually drawing power.
Many appliances that aren’t connected to the internet also draw power. Here are the areas in your house where you could be wasting energy:
All of the listed appliances use standby power when turned off. So does unplugging them when not in use save you a significant amount of energy and money? Here are a few more easy steps you can take to reduce your phantom load.
Plug all of your related electronics into a single power bar. Group things like your TV, DVD player and satellite TV box into one group and switch them off when not in use. Newer devices called smart strips can completely turn off groups of devices. For example, when you shut down your computer it will completely turn off your printer, scanner, speakers and other related devices.
When you turn on your computer, the peripherals will all turn on. This way there is no idle current or “phantom load” flowing to your peripherals. There is no need to switch anything on the power bar as it automatically comes on when the computer does.
Some devices use more power than others, and the draw can vary between manufacturers. Often, devices that have remote controls and digital displays use more energy when switched off. Inexpensive meters, such as the Kill A Watt, can help identify which electronic devices are the biggest energy drains when they appear to be switched off.
An easier method for identifying phantom loads is to go hunting for these devices at night. Switch off all of the lights in your home and look for any small LED lights that are glowing. Another good tip is that any device that requires resetting after a blackout or power surge is probably using phantom energy.
When it’s time to shop for a new TV or other electronic device, look for those with an Energy Star label. They provide the same performance as similar models, but use up to 50 percent less energy than their less-efficient competitors. Energy Star products are independently certified to save energy without sacrificing features or functionality. You can find a list of certified products on the Energy Star website.
Once a cell phone, camera, or any device with a rechargeable battery is fully powered, it should be unplugged. You should also unplug any remote charging stations, such as those used for recharging batteries used in digital cameras, tools and small electronics.