If you're like the typical American, you've probably got about 40 household appliances that you routinely leave plugged in – even when these devices aren't actively being used.
But did you know that even when they're turned off, appliances and electronic gadgets gobble up energy, costing you money?
The average U.S. household spends about $1,900 a year on energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And the DOE says that anywhere from 5% to 10% of your residential electricity is sapped by devices that are plugged in 24 hours a day.
Experts say that most plugged-in appliances generally only eat up low levels of electricity, just about a watt or two. But some electronics – like computers and TVs – consume a lot more power, even when they're just in standby mode. And it's the cumulative effect of having so many devices plugged in around the clock that can really add up – hurting your efforts to be eco-friendly and cost conscious.
So here's a quick rundown of a dozen household appliances and electronics you should unplug to save both energy and money:
DVD players and VCRs
Cable TV boxes
Stereos and radios
iPods and electronic gadgets sapping energy from a plug-in transformer
Things like your DVR and alarm clock need to stay on for obvious reasons -- you don't want to miss a TV program you meant to tape or wake up late for work because your alarm clock wasn't plugged in.
Alternatives to Unplugging Household Appliances
While it's smart to unplug to save money, some devices don't lend themselves well to being constantly unplugged and then re-plugged. Take your cable box, for instance. Unplugging it means the cable box may need a few minutes to reprogram once you plug it back in. That's kind of a pain, especially if your box doesn't reboot itself automatically and you have to do a manual reconfiguration of everything.
And what about your washer and dryer? It could certainly help to unplug those mammoth appliances, too. But depending on where and how your washer and dryer are set up, it may not be easy – or even possible – to push those heavy-duty appliances to the side and get to the plugs on a daily basis.
These are just a few reasons why it can be a hassle to go around unplugging devices and then plugging them up again the next day. Besides, who has time to do that every day? So here's another option: Use a power strip for various devices, and simply flip the power strip switch, rather than unplug everything.
Another tip: Opt for devices with built-in, energy-saving features. For example, some cell phone chargers "unplug" internally when no phone is connected. Also, various retailers offer plug adapters or power strips that only use power for a pre-set time (like three or six hours) After the pre-determined time ends, these gadgets stop eating electricity.
Finally, if you don't want to go through the trouble of unplugging electronics around your house, think about ways to tweak your energy use. For instance, say you and the kids are big Wii fans. If you keep the Wi-Fi connection active on your Nintendo Wii even while the game isn't in use, it's sucking up about 10 watts of power. But by turning off the Wi-Fi connection, your energy usage drops to just 1.3 watts.
Other Ways to Become More Energy Efficient
In addition to unplugging electronics and household appliances when they're not in use, there are other energy-saving tips you can use to save money this summer, and all year long.
During summer, when the temperatures rise, cooling our homes and apartments is often the single largest expense on Americans' energy bills. Yet lots of us waste plenty of energy around the house – and it costs of hundreds of dollars per year. To shave your energy costs, try these strategies:
Lower your thermostat just one degree. This simple step can save as much as 10% of your heating bill.
Take shorter showers. This will cut your water and heating bills.
Install a low-flow showerhead. These are cheap to buy, and the energy and water savings you'll reap will quickly outmatch what you paid for the showerhead.
Put a faucet aerator on each faucet. These are inexpensive, yet do a great job of conserving heat and water, while simultaneously keeping water pressure high.
Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs. These often last longer and use less wattage than incandescent bulbs.
Tighten your windows. Experts from Columbia University say installing energy-efficient windows would save the average household $150 annually. But a cheaper, easier option is to insulate your windows during the colder months using transparent film that keeps the heat in and the cold out.
Being more conscious about your household appliances, and your overall energy use, is a great way to help the environment, and help boost your finances, too.