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Posted September 8, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Tame the "vampire" in your house

Did you know that many of your household appliances use some power even when they are off? Nicknamed "vampire" power or "phantom" load, this power drain can account for 10% to 15% of your monthly electric bill. If you normally have a $200 monthly bill, you can save $20 to $30 each month by taking some simple steps to tame that "vampire."

First, look around your home for appliances that probably use standby power. Anything with a remote control, digital display, or "instant on" feature most likely uses standby power. Products with an external power supply (such as a cell phone charger) or a rechargeable battery (such as a cordless phone) also use standby power.

The key to reducing the drain on your electric bill is not only to turn these appliances off, but also to unplug them when they are not in use. Our television drains $35 per year from our family budget when it is turned off and still plugged into the wall. That may not sound like much, but the average family has at least 20 devices that use standby power. What could your family do with an extra $500 to $800 dollars next year?

To more conveniently cut power to appliances, use a good quality surge protector. Your television, DVD player, audio system, and game system might all be plugged into one power strip. When you are finished watching, simply flip the power switch on the strip to break the circuit and cut power to all the appliances. You may want to keep set-top boxes and digital video recorders plugged in separately to avoid a lengthy "reset" or "warm up" time. However, these appliances are also energy hogs. So, consider using a timer to automatically turn them on 30 minutes before you normally turn on the television, giving them enough time to reset.

The only way to be certain about the amount of standby power an appliance draws is to measure the drain with an electricity usage monitor. Monitors can be purchased for $30 to $60 in electronics stores. One is also available for check-out at the Shenandoah County Library.

You can decrease your future "vampire" load by making energy efficient choices when purchasing new products. Most products that display an energy star label use low standby power. The Federal Energy Management Program has a database of low standby power equipment at its web site: http://oahu.lbl.gov.

To learn more about energy efficiency, request our workshop, "Save Energy--Save Money," for your local group or organization.


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