Put down the garlic and wooden stakes. Count Dracula isn’t lurking around your home ‘vanting to suck your blood.’ What we’re referring to is much, much scarier: vampire power! While the phrase may not curdle your blood just yet, according to Cornell University’s Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, vampire appliances cost an average of $200 a year in every household.
That’s essentially $200 you lit on fire because of everyday electronics silently leeching power to keep them in standby mode. According to the EPA, America could power 11 million homes with this wasted energy alone.1 Thus, we want to share a few facts about vampire electricity so you can better understand which appliances in your home use power (even when they’re off) and how you could save up to 10% on your electric bill each month!
What is an Energy Vampire?
Also called standby power and phantom load, vampire electricity refers to the energy used by appliances and electronics in your home when they’re turned off or in standby mode. The most common example is your TV, as it absolutely leeches power even after you press the “Off” button on your remote.
However, we realize unplugging it from the wall every time you turn it off isn’t a realistic option. We’ll discuss this concept and possible solutions below.
Common Vampire Electronics & Appliances Found in Your Home
We’ve assembled a list of electronic devices that use vampire electricity. Now, all vampire electronics aren’t bad, per se. You need your telephone to be on at all times in case you get an important call. It would also be unreasonable to unplug your alarm clock every morning and then have to reset it every night.
However, a cell phone charger? Yep, it still draws electricity even after you disconnect your phone. How crazy is that? Other common energy vampires in your home include:
- Thermostat: You can’t really turn this appliance “off.” Which is why you must optimize your current thermostat for maximum energy efficiency. For more information on that, read our blog on the best thermostat temperatures.
- Coffee maker: Simple coffee makers that don’t have a clock or an automated brewing system don’t use vampire power. However, if your coffee maker has an LED display or is programmable, it uses vampire power. But the great thing is you can simply unplug this — or use a manual brewing method like a french press.
- Microwave: If your microwave is wall-mounted, you can’t really do much about this one. However, if it’s on the counter, then you can unplug it when it’s not in use.
- Refrigerator: You absolutely cannot unplug this appliance. The way to slay this vampire is to get an ENERGY STAR refrigerator.
- Television: Slay this vampire with ease by plugging it into a power strip and flipping the switch when not in use.
- Laptop: It’s not enough just to unplug your laptop from the charger. You also have to unplug the charger from the wall, as that uses power even when the computer isn’t plugged in.
- Gaming consoles: Like the TV, slay this system with a power strip.
- Printers: Plug your printer into a power strip or unplug when not in use.
- Water heater: It’s not reasonable to unplug your water heater or plug it into a power strip. Instead, we’ve got three tips so you can lower the energy use of this vampire appliance in your home on our blog post.
- Security systems: Like your water heater or refrigerator, you really should never turn this off. This is one appliance you really just can’t beat. Sorry, folks.
How to Slay these Energy Suckers
We’ve described a few solutions for these vampire electronics, but here’s a complete list of the ways you can lower the phantom load of these appliances:
Lay Down the Electronics
We don’t want to be “that person,” but it’s true! Your use of electronics in your home directly correlates to how much your energy bill will cost. Instead of watching a movie or playing a game on your PlayStation, think of activities that can curb your use. These are pretty obvious, but hopefully, they can spark a few creative ideas that’ll lower your usage (even if it’s for only 30 minutes):
- Read a book: It’s like a movie but using your imagination!
- Draw or paint: Channel your inner Bob Ross and paint a landscape (or three).
- Play a board game: Battleship and Monopoly are a great way to pass time with friends and family without watching TV.
- Clean your home: We could all use a little tidying up here and there. If you catch yourself endlessly scrolling through the channels on your TV, just lay down the remote and clean for a few minutes. It’ll save electricity and keep your house spick-and-span.
Unplug Electronics You Don’t Use Often
That food processor in the corner of your kitchen? It can be unplugged. That TV in the spare bedroom you have? Pull the cord out of the wall! As mentioned above, this isn’t feasible for items you use every day like your alarm clock or your living room television, but we highly recommend unplugging rarely used appliances.
Use an Advanced Power Strip When Electronics Cannot Be Unplugged
You might have noticed we mentioned power strips a few times earlier. They physically disconnect your TV, your toaster, and anything else you plug into them from the electrical source. Thus, any electronic device that goes into standby mode or uses power when turned off — including your phone charger, TV, computer, gaming consoles, and printers — needs to be connected to a power strip rather than directly into the socket.
That being said, you don’t need to buy a power strip for every device. Look for ways to consolidate plugs in common locations. There are six common types of power strips available:
Basic Power Strip
This is the classic format with the red button. It’s the easiest one, as it’s very user-friendly and extremely affordable. You flip the switch when you’re using what you’ve plugged in, and you flip it again to turn them off. We recommend using this for most of your power strip needs. However, there are more tech-savvy options available for those who are interested.
Timer Power Strip
Similar to the programmable coffee maker we discussed earlier, you can program a schedule for when it turns your electronics off or on. However, if you use a device outside of your normal schedule, it will be turned off. So, if you choose to use this power strip, it’s important to stick to your schedule or choose another option.
Activity Monitor Power Strip
This super-neat power strip uses an infrared motion sensor to detect if you’re using a remote control. It’s perfect for people who regularly fall asleep on the couch while watching TV or forget to turn off the stereo before leaving a room.
Remote Switch Power Strip
Similar to your basic power strip, but instead of flipping the red switch on the strip itself, you use a remote to turn it off.
Master-Controlled Power Strip
You don’t need a remote or a switch at all for this option. It allows one device, such as your TV or your computer, to be the “master” of all the other appliances plugged into the power strip. If you turn off your TV, the rest of the appliances plugged into the strip will also be turned off.
It’s an ideal solution if you’re ready to go to bed after a long night. Your TV will serve as the master, and if your lamps are plugged into the strip, they’ll follow suit and turn off, too.
Masterless Power Strip
Similar to the master-controlled strip, but this one has no master. It turns off appliances based on load usage. Thus, if your TV, computer and lamp are plugged into the same strip and you turn off two of them, the third will also turn off, and the power strip will cut off power.
Replace Old Appliances with More Energy-Efficient ENERGY STAR Ones
We’re not recommending that you go out and buy an all-new fridge, washer, dryer, and dishwasher. However, we are saying that when one of these appliances reaches the end of its life, you should replace it with an appliance featuring the blue ENERGY STAR logo. These appliances are proven to save energy, which can save you — literally — hundreds in electric costs.
You’ve Implemented These Tips. Now What?
We have good news for you. At Chariot, we’re experts on power and how you use it in your home. If you’re interested in learning more about how to lower your electricity bill and becoming more energy-efficient, visit our Chariot University page to get all of the tips, tricks and knowledge we have to offer.