Energy vampires are any appliance that draws electricity while plugged in but turned off. This is also known as standby power, idle load electricity or electricity leaking.  In today’s plugged-in world, most households are full of these energy leeches. Too often we assume that if we’ve turned off the switch, these appliances are no longer costing us energy.  Not true. Unless you take active steps to stop these electricity leaks, you’ll be wasting electricity and money.  The National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) warns that, “Nearly one-quarter of home energy use is consumed by vampires” and “Idle load electricity in the United States continually consumes the output of 50 major power plants.”  Clearly, this is a big concern for our finances and for the environment. Are energy vampires taking a bite out of your wallet?

Common energy vampires

Consider the groups of appliances below as you survey your home (excerpts from www.energy.gov courtesy of 20 Something Finance).

Remote-ready appliances

Appliances that are in a standby mode awaiting a remote signal leak electricity when they are off.  In some cases, these appliances use almost as much electricity when they are off as when they are on.  The following lists common culprits and the average amount of electricity used while off:

  • Video game console: 63.74 W
  • TVs: 48.5 W
  • DVR with cable: 43.61 W
  • Satellite TV box: 33.05 W
  • Cable box: 30.6 W
  • DVD or Blu-Ray players 10.58 W
  • Stereos: 5.44 W

For context, when turned ON the average notebook computer uses 73W, so obviously, video game consoles are high on the vampire energy scale.  According to the US Department of Energy, an appliance that draws 1 watt of electricity constantly (on or off), costs $1 annually. Multiply that by the many appliances throughout the average household and those that draw far more than 1W, and you can easily add up to $100-200 per year.  ..A good chunk of that amount might be your DVR, which draws significant power even while no one is watching.. If you haven’t replaced your DVR/cable box in a while, check with your cable provider about upgrading. Older boxes are energy hogs and should be replaced with newer, more energy-efficient models.  Better yet, streaming your favorite shows and movies is more energy efficient than recording shows on a DVR.

Appliances with digital displays

Any appliance that has a digital display that stays lit when turned off is an energy vampire:  coffee pot, microwave with clock, blender, toaster oven, dishwasher and washer/dryer (at the end of a cycle but before you turn off), to name a few.  All of these leak energy even when not running.

Less obvious energy leeches

Even appliances that aren’t remote ready and don’t have digital displays can be sucking away at your electricity:  cell phone chargers, computer LCD monitor, desktop computer (even when off or sleeping), plugged in laptop (not charging), fax machine, computer speakers, inkjet printer, hair dryers, curling irons, straighteners, shavers.  While you may feel discouraged by the notion that so many of your appliances and devices are inflating your electric bill and sucking up electricity, NRDC reminds us that there are steps to take to combat these vampires.

How to combat vampire energy

There are several ways to deal with vampire energy. Here are a few:

  • UNPLUG!!!:  Can’t be stressed enough.  Unplug appliances when not in use to eliminate the idle energy draw.
  • Use power strips:  If the thought of unplugging a multitude of appliances seems insurmountable, plug multiple items that you typically use together into one power strip, so they can all be effectively unplugged at once by turning off the power strip.  Home electronics and home office equipment are useful groupings of appliances to share power strips. This will decrease the chore of physically unplugging individual components.
  • Set timers:  If you think you’ll forget to unplug, or if there are devices you only use at certain times a day (such as a coffee pot, hair dryer and straightener), plug them into a timer.  You won’t have to remember to unplug. Take advantage of your computer’s built-in timer to turn it off without having to remember.
  • Deactivate the quick-start feature:  TVs and game consoles often have a feature that allows these devices to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.  However, this feature is a huge energy leech and not worth the short wait otherwise. Quick-start should be turned off in settings, if possible.
  • Invest in a power meter:  These inexpensive meters can measure just how much electricity your appliances are using even when idle.  This tangible information can really help you and your family make some energy-smart decisions. Plus gathering this data could be an eye-opening economics lesson for your kids who might grumble at your request to unplug their chargers and other devices.  Real energy costs real dollars.

It might be hard to completely eliminate electricity leakage from your home.  It’s not practical to unplug that garage door opener, for instance. But, by surveying your home and following the strategies outlined above, you and your family can bite back and reduce the unnecessary electricity waste of energy vampires. While you’re at it, it’s always energy smart to reach out to your energy supplier for more suggestions on home energy savings.  Happy saving!