How Energy Vampires Suck the Money from Your Wallet
Forget Halloween. Every month has become vampire season. Energy vampire, that is. The average home is chock full of appliances and consumer electronics that, even when you think they're off, could be adding another 10 percent to your electric bill, according to MarketWatch. That can mean hundreds of dollars a year.
The reason you're sending extra money to the electric company for no apparent reason is that many electronic devices and appliances constantly consume power. If it has an electronic display that's always on, even if it's just showing you the time, you've got an energy vampire. Ditto if there's a remote control. Even if it's a battery charger, like for your mobile phone, left plugged into the wall, there's a constant drip, drip of power being wasted.
Take that charger, for a moment. The devices have a small power transformer, which takes household current and drops it to the low level the phone needs and then turns it into direct current, or DC, that is compatible with the battery. But so long as the charger is plugged in, the transformer is constantly working and consuming some power, even if the phone isn't connected to it.
According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which is run by the federal government, the average phone power supply consumes 0.26 watts without the phone. It's a small amount but adds up. Even in the cheapest average power region in the U.S., according to U.S. Energy Information Administration, left plugged in all the time the charger costs 56 cents a year. Nothing, right? But leaving a charged phone connected ,and the power consumption jumps by 8.6 times.
Other common devices consume far more power. According to the Department of Energy, a cable box with DVR included left plugged in but off all year would cost $43.36 in power consumption. And how many people turn off their cable boxes?
What You Can Do
Combine the chargers, cable boxes and DVRs, coffee machines and microwave ovens constantly displaying the time, flat screen televisions ready to instantly turn on at the request of a remote control, video game consoles, tablets and computers and printers, and you're talking about a combined significant amount of cost.
There are steps you can take to reduce the unnecessary power consumption and keep some money in your pocket:
- When your phone is charged, disconnect it and unplug the charger.
- Plug the TV, cable box and other related always-on devices onto a single power strip and then turn off the strip button to stop the use of electricity when you're not watching something. If you're trying to record a show, put the DVR and cable box (if necessary for recording) on a separate power strip and leave them on.
- Turn off computers and printers when not in use or, at least, make sure they go into sleep mode, which will reduce the power consumption.
- Connect some strategic outlets to wall switches to conveniently regulate the power.
- As the Environmental Protection Agency suggests, use a smart power strip that can tell when devices go into standby and then shut off the power to them or turn off when no one is around or on a timer.