There’s a vampire on the loose, though not the kind you see in the movies. This one’s menacing in a different way. Whether at the office or at home, this vampire is harmful to the environment and your wallet. Instead of blood, this vampire feeds on electrical energy.
The culprit is “vampire power”. It’s also known by bunch of other names and terminologies such “standby power”, “phantom load”, “leaking energy”, “idle current, and “ghost load”. This refers to all the gadgets and appliances that waste precious energy just by being plugged in even when they’re switched off. You’ve probably touched your laptop charger having left it plugged and noticed that it’s warm. That’s a sure fire sign that it’s been using electricity – even if it’s not plugged to your laptop. Imagine this on a larger scale, where millions of people aren’t even aware that so much energy is wasted for no benefit at all. It’s annoying to think that over time, appliances like your toaster or microwave consume a lot more energy idly than when they are at use. The idea that gadgets and appliances consume energy even when turned off might sound absurd, but there’s science behind this that we best understand if we are to act on solutions against it.
Electronics are on “standby” rather than “off”
Every cord that remains plugged into a working outlet is essentially pulling electricity out and aren’t really turned “off”. Your electronic kettle, toaster, and microwave for example, all respond with a flip of a switch or a touch of a button. A VCR may be set to record a program on a particular time. Your TV is on “standby” and will respond immediately when you power on via remote. If “non-smart” devices are capable of consuming energy when not in use, imagine the case with modern technology that has connectivity and continuously work to perform updates, connect to remote servers, and record data while on sleep mode or standby.
Less obvious vampire power
Virtually all devices and appliances are potential vampire power mongers. Below are just some of the less obvious ones.
- Faxes and printers
- Cable boxes
- Broadband modems
- Digital clocks
- Gaming consoles
- Charges for mobile phones and laptops
Stop them on their tracks
Energy Star labels identify products that meet electric efficiency qualifications that the EPA sets. Not only are these products more efficient than their counterparts, but they must also meet quality and performance standards. While you may pay more up-front, the savings in electricity costs over the life of the product often make up the difference.
- Invest in energy star-certified or energy efficient appliances
Energy efficient appliances may be more expensive, but they more than make up for it with considerable less operational costs. Energy star labels identify products that meet energy efficiency qualifications, and these are the ones that you should look for. If you haven’t replaced outdated heavy-duty appliance like refrigerators, washing machines, and air conditioners, better make plans for it soon.
- Plug in to power strips for less effort
Unplugging every appliance after use may be tiring, especially if they’re on hard-to-reach areas. Consider plugging them in a power strip instead to consolidate cords and cut off power to them with the flip of a light switch.
- Mindful charging
We’re regularly on our mobile phones, hence the need for constant charging. But times have changed and almost every mobile device now are equipped with fast charging technology. It’s high time that we be mindful of our charging habits and unplug when it our phones are recharged to a satisfying amount already. Leaving it plugged overnight is strictly a no-no.
- Unplug lesser used items
It’s best to identify the appliances that you don’t have constant need of and keep them unplugged. While leaving your refrigerator plugged is a non-negotiable, devices like a milk frother, food processor, microwave, oven, and coffee maker could be just plugged when we’re going to use them.
- Use an energy monitoring system
Knowing what these standby power culprits are is crucial in minimizing their harmful effects, and identifying them is so much easier with an energy monitoring system. It’s machinery designed to measure your energy use and what contributes to it.
In the long run, vampire power is going to cost us big and is annoyingly unproductive. It’s best to be mindful that devices aren’t really turned off, but instead are on standby when plugged in. People are advised to unplug as much as they can so our electric bills are at a minimum and only reflect the essentials.