Turning things off doesn’t always turn things off.
Sure, most people nowadays try their best to be responsible – turning lights off when we leave a room, doing the same with the televisions. However, if you think that your appliances shut completely “off,” when the switch is turned off, you’d be wrong.
Think about it. Your T.V. is off, but the DVR and cable box are still going strong. The cordless phone isn’t in “use,” but it’s certainly will still be powered. Same thing goes with your computer, your printer, your coffee pot and myriad other appliances scattered throughout the house.
These are examples of the energy-wasting phenomenon called “phantom power,” or vampire energy. Simply put, this is the power that is used when electronic devices draw energy from the grid into your home just by being plugged in, when you aren’t looking and you aren’t using them.
The most likely culprits are appliances that can be operated with a remote control, or have power clocks or timers with miscellaneous LED status lights. The vampire power is consumed by power supplies (the black cubes—sometimes called “wall warts”—converting AC into DC) which have two teeth (the plugs) and “suck” electricity all day and night.
Phantom energy can account for about 10 percent of a residential home’s electricity use. It might not sound like much, until you consider that eliminating that 10 percent is like getting over a month of free electricity every year!
Standby power in commercial buildings is smaller but still significant. Altogether, standby power on a global scale is thought to be roughly responsible for one percent of global CO2 emissions.
Quick steps to combat phantom power can be as simple as unplugging your devices when they aren’t in use. But it can definitely be annoying to crawl behind the TV every time you finish watching it.
An easier way would be to use a power strip with a switch to control clusters of products. The most likely targets are computer clusters (PC, display, printer, scanner, speakers, wireless transmitter, etc.), video clusters (TV, DVD player, powered speakers, game consoles, etc.), and audio clusters (receiver, amplifier, CD players, etc.). Be sure to keep the set-top box and modem on a separate circuit to avoid any loss of connection.
When buying new electronics, check for low “stand-by” energy use; most Energy Star rated appliances have the lowest standby levels.
Many new technologies can improve the efficiency of power supplies, manage power use more carefully, and limit power use of displays. Experts believe that it is technically feasible to reduce standby power by 75 percent overall. Most savings will be less than a watt, but other cases could be as large as 10 watts.
By keeping phantom power levels low, home owners can really make a dent in their utility bills and improve energy conservation levels.