No, we don’t mean blood-sucking monsters, or the people in your life who have the ability to suck positive energy out of you–we mean the sneaky devices in our homes and offices that ’stand by’ and consume energy without you knowing. To us at Practically Green, these vampires are the scariest of all!
First you need to identify the culprit with some awesome visuals from Duke-Energy’s article, “Identify and Eliminate Energy Vampires“.
You can improve your home’s energy savings by identifying and unplugging your energy vampires. Here are some examples of energy vampires:
Wall Warts: Devices – such as cell phone chargers – have a large plug. They consume energy, even when the device to be charged is not attached.
Bricks: Cords used with laptop computers, televisions and some cable TV equipment are often joined in the middle by large black boxes. These “bricks” use energy continuously as long as they remain plugged in.
Get the nitty-gritty answers following these three questions–and look ahead for more solutions from Yahoo!Green’s post, “Energy Vampires: Fact versus Fiction,” by Lori Bongiorno (2/26/09)
1) Which electronic devices waste the most energy when they are turned off but still plugged in?
Set-top cable boxes and digital video recorders are some of the biggest energy hogs. Unfortunately, there’s little consumers can do since television shows can’t be taped if boxes are unplugged. It also typically takes a long time to reboot boxes.
However, some of the other major consumers of standby power are more easily dealt with: computers, multifunction printers, flat-screen TVs, DVDs, VCRs, CD players, power tools, and hand-held vacuums. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) measured standby power for a long list of products. (Lauren here: I was shocked by how much energy a seemingly-innocent amplifier eats up when turned on whether it is playing or not playing…)
While it’s true that each individual product draws relatively little standby power, the LBNL says that when added together, standby power can amount to 10% of residential energy use.
2) Why do electronic devices use energy when they are switched off?
Electronics consume standby power for one of two reasons, says Chris Kielich of the Department of Energy. They either have an adapter that will continue to draw electricity, or they have devices (such as clocks and touchpads) that draw power. Anything with a remote control will also draw standby power, she says, since the device needs to be able to detect the remote when it’s pushed.
3) Does everything suck energy when it’s plugged in and turned off?
No. If your coffeemaker or toaster doesn’t have a clock, then it’s probably not using standby power, says Kielich. Chances are your hair dryer and lamps (although they may have a power adapter for the dimmer) are not drawing standby power either, she says. Devices with a switch that physically breaks the circuit don’t consume standby power.
Here are some good numbers from WorldChanging’s post, “Vampire Power,” by Jeremy Faludi (5/2/06)
Anything with a transformer, such as chargers for mobile devices or computer power supplies, keep using power whenever they are plugged in. Sometimes it’s just a watt or two, but sometimes it’s much higher. As GrinningPlanet points out, this still only amounts to 10% of most people’s energy bills, but that still adds up, particularly in an office.
Now, I don’t mean to be a downer, but it’s also important to know the ghoulish info on total vampire energy loss from the Union of Concerned Scientists’ article, “Are Energy Vampires in Your Home?” (Greentips: April 2006)
This wasted energy, known as standby or phantom-energy loss, represents a relatively small but growing percentage of an individual home’s electricity use (about 5%), but taken across all U.S. households, adds up to an estimated 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. This extra electricity costs consumers more than $5.8 billion annually and sends more than 87 billion pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. (Lauren: Ughh. That one hurts…)
And here’s a wonderful graph by The Architect of the Capitol’s web document, “Beware of Energy Vampires.”
What can you do (without bringing out garlic and silver crucifixes) to protect your home?
Plugging electronics into a power strip and turning it off when you’re not using it is a widely prescribed solution for curbing vampire power. Here are answers to common questions:
- Power strips draw energy when they are turned on, but not when they are switched off.
- Any decent power strip should have surge protection, according to Kielich (Lauren: Remember, she is from the Department of Energy, so she probably knows more about power strips than I ever will!). Flicking your power strip on and off will not create a power surge capable of damaging electronic devices. In fact, it will protect devices from other surges.
- Several readers were worried about the possibility of fires caused by plugging too many things in at once. If you plug in the allowed number of devices, then power strips are safe, says Kielich. Just don’t plug your power strip into another power strip, or you run the risk of creating an overload.
So, what do you think? Was this helpful? What safety route are you taking: power strips? Diligent unplugging? Or what?