You are here

Are Energy Vampires Sucking You Dry?

October 30, 2014 - 8:22am

Addthis

Max Schreck in Nosferatu, presumably climbing the stairs to plug in some unused appliances. | Photo from Wikipedia, Public Domain in the U.S.

Max Schreck in Nosferatu, presumably climbing the stairs to plug in some unused appliances. | Photo from Wikipedia, Public Domain in the U.S.

To commemorate National Energy Action Month, we’re featuring some scarily effective ways to save energy at home. As cooler weather lurks around the corner, tune in to Energy.gov all week long for ways to save energy and money -- and avoid cold weather terrors like energy vampires. We also put together some energy-themed pumpkin patterns to help “energize” your neighborhood for Halloween. Send us photos of your energy-themed jack-o-lanterns via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or email at newmedia@hq.doe.gov and we'll share our favorites.

This week, ghosts, ghouls and goblins will emerge to walk the streets and inspire scares. But while they’re out seeking sustenance (mostly in the form of fun-sized candy bars), an actual terror may already be in your home, leeching off your energy supply. Unlike the creatures commonly associated with Halloween, these “energy vampires” are all too real and all around you, running up your energy bill even when you’re not actively using them.

Take, for example, the seemingly innocuous cell phone charger. As cellphones have become a staple of modern life, so have the devices that power them. To ensure that they’re able to be in constant contact, many Americans carry chargers in their bags, have them in their cars and even their office. So it shouldn’t come as much surprise to find that many cell phone users have one or more chargers constantly plugged in at their home. What most people don’t realize is that these chargers are continually drawing power, even when no device is connected to them. In fact, the average charger is consuming .26 watts of energy when not in use, and 2.24 watts even when a fully charged device is connected to it.

By themseves, those watts won't cause a huge increase in your energy bill. But if you add other common devices to the equation, you’ll begin to see why energy vampires are often responsible for adding 10 percent or more to your monthly utility bill.

Take a cable box. As HDTVs and digital cable have increased their market share, these devices have also skyrocketed in use -- and they’re certainly having an impact on your energy bill. Even when they’re powered off, these devices consume an average of 17.83 watts. That means that even if you simply left your cable box plugged in for a year and never turned it off, it would add $17.83 to your electrical bill. Make that a cable box with DVR capabilities, which is an increasingly popular option, and your total more than doubles to $43.46.

With the average American household owning 25 consumer electronic devices, you can begin to see how these phantom loads can translate into a significant chunk of your energy bill. You don’t have to succumb, though, as there are several simple and convenient strategies that will help you drive a stake through these energy vampires:

  • Unplug devices you don’t use often. This probably won’t work for your cable box or clock radio, but if you have an extra TV, an old desktop computer or a stereo you only use from time to time, you should consider unplugging them completely until the next time you need to use them. 
     
  • Use power strips. Power strips allow you to toggle the power flow on and off. This will allow you to control the power usage of clusters of devices so that they’re not consuming electricity when you’re not around. Using a light switch that turns power outlets on and off accomplishes the same end, if you have one in your home.
     
  • Curb idle time in devices such as computers and video game consoles. Simply setting your computer to sleep mode or saving a game and powering down instead of leaving it paused for a prolonged period can actually save more than $100 a year in many cases.
     
  • Make smart upgrades. When it comes time to send your old devices to the graveyard, you should also consider replacing them with ENERGY STAR devices. They have a lower standby consumption than your average device and generally use less energy in all their functions – a savings you should take into account when comparing similar products.

None of these strategies will eliminate your electric bill entirely, but together these tricks can help you slay energy vampires while saving money, a treat you can appreciate long after Halloween has passed.

Addthis