You shouldn’t be afraid of your electricity bill — but if you’re finding little tooth marks in your monthly bill, you’ve got a problem. Something unpleasant is taking a bite out of your electricity savings.
They’re the appliances and devices that never completely turn off. They’re not sleeping but they’re not exactly…dead, either. While many appliances are more energy efficient than a decade ago, homes have more devices using power systems that never completely turn off.
Introducing Energy Vampires
In practical terms, these are the power bricks for game consoles, battery chargers, or other kinds of wall warts. In electrical engineering terms, these inexpensive AC adapters use transformers (induction coils) to convert wall current into low voltage DC. Even if you turn off the device or gadget, they still stay on.
Examples include kitchen appliances with timers or clocks, such as microwave ovens, blenders, coffee makers, and toaster ovens. If each is left plugged in all the time, it can waste up to $5 per year.
When it comes to home offices, the bite goes deeper. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has reported that household network devices added about $10 per year when they consume above 90 kilowatt hours (kWh). Home office equipment includes routers, modems, switches, and network drives. Many home offices still rely on fax machines (talk about un-dead technology), which spend hours powered up waiting for increasingly rare transmissions.
Computers gobble up electricity when left on. Years ago, people couldn’t endure a computer’s boot time and just left their machines on and plugged in all the time. Well, people don’t have any excuses now. Sure, sleep mode in newer machines uses even less power than those from ten years ago, start-up times are also much faster. Boot time now takes on average of about 1.5 minutes using a standard hard drive. Solid state drives (SSD) boot in seconds.
For the mad power-user bent on global domination, migrate to a SSD drive and then set your machine to hibernate at shut down. This saves your computer’s state so at boot time, you pick up right where you left it — all without feeding an energy vampire.
Use these two general rules to save energy and defeat those vampires:
- Turn off your monitor if you’re going to be away from your computer for 20 minutes.
- Turn off your computer if you’re going to be away for more than 2 hours.
Detecting the Energy Zombies
These are appliances that are not ON, but they’re not OFF. They linger in “standby mode”, waiting for you to push a button to bring them to life. What’s “standby mode”? Any remote-controlled device must use a tiny bit of electricity to power its receiver circuit so it can pick up a signal to turn on. This horde of energy zombie includes televisions, cable boxes, home theater systems, game consoles, Blu-ray players, wireless printers and scanners, and others.
Sure, each one just takes a tiny bit of your energy brains. What’s half a watt here, a quarter watt there? But that usage slowly adds up. You probably have three one-watt devices in the kitchen, another watt or two in the living room, and 2.5 watts in the bedrooms. See? There are more of these little suckers than you realize, and together, they drain lots of electricity because they’re ON ALL THE TIME. They never turn off unless you pry their metal fang-like prongs from the wall sockets!
Data from 2009 shows the average U.S. household used at least 752.6 kWh (10%) to feed its vampire and zombie loads. Vampire and zombie loads add from 10% to over 20% more energy to the average home’s electricity consumption. You could be unwittingly spending $100 to $200 a year to feed these “undead” phantom loads!
Pull the Plug — Done charging your phone? Not using the printer? Don’t need to use it for keeping time? Unplug it when you’re done.
Set Up a Timer — Gone for the day or going to sleep for the evening? Connect televisions, cable boxes, and game controllers to inexpensive timers that switch off when you’re not going to be using them.
Use Power Strips — Plug an appliance, computer, or other electronics into a power strip, and you can turn them on or off at will. Smart Power Strips monitor power usage and conveniently turn off when levels fall to stand by levels.
Use Smart Outlets — Hardwired into existing outlet boxes, you turn them on or off with your smartphone or table. Plug them into a power strip and you can remotely power on/off multiple appliances at the same time.
By using just a few simple controls, you can save energy and money and stop these little monsters from putting the bite on your electricity bill!