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Phantom Energy Loss May Be Costing You More Than You Think

You don’t have to live in an old creaky house at the end of a long dark lane under some big scary trees for your home to have phantoms and vampires. In fact, “phantom” power loss, also known as Standby Power, Vampire Power or Phantom Loads, is lurking in nearly every room in every home in every sunlit corner of the land.

These energy vampires as they are, come in the form of appliances and other plugged-in electronic gadgets like computers, coffee makers and cable boxes that continue to draw energy (phantom loads) when they’re plugged in but not in use. While it may not sound like the boogey man, these phantom loads are far from negligible. They account for more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of annual U.S. electricity consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.1Back at the home front, it means an average of 75% of the electricity used to power such devices is consumed while they’re turned off.2 Dastardly, isn’t it?

So all the while you’ve been diligently conserving your energy use, the very marvels of modern life, your beloved TVs, DVRs and video game consoles, have been consuming electricity even as they sat idle. And when you consider that the average American household has forty electronic devices drawing power, you can begin to see real fast how these phantom loads can translate into a frightening waste of energy.3

But hold on, before you call Ghostbusters, there are several steps you can take to extricate your home of this phantom energy loss. To begin with, simply unplug your electronics when they’re not in use. That’s it. No séances required. And for the devices that need to stay in standby mode to operate properly, here are some additional ideas to help you avoid being slimed by phantom energy loss:

Use power strips as a central “turn off” point. 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.

Buy ENERGY STAR® equipment. They have a lower standby consumption than your average device and generally use less energy in all their functions.

Curb idle time on devices such as computers. Simply switching to sleep mode and manually turning monitors off will help save energy. Or, if available, enable the ENERGY STAR power management settings on your computer and monitor so they go into power save mode when not in use.

Unplug your chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use. Cell phone chargers, camera chargers, battery chargers and power adapters all still draw energy even when not in use.

Purchase and use “smart strips,” which will automatically cut power to devices that aren’t being used.

This advice, while not glamorous or revolutionary, works and can help you and your family slay the energy vampires that are adding to your energy bills every day.


1.       ENERGY STAR

2.       The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory