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Beware of Energy Vampires (And No, We Don’t Mean Your Toxic Co-Worker)

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, energy vampires (otherwise known as vampire draws or phantom loads) are appliances and other plugged-in devices that use electricity when they are plugged in but not in use. The U.S. Department of Energy also defines them as products that need standby power to run—things like clocks, cable boxes, and coffeemakers.

The result? The department estimates that these energy suckers could tack on as much as 10 percent to your monthly electricity bill.

So how do you slay the energy vampires in your home and life? Here are 5 easy ways:

  1. If you can, unplug.  Sure, this might not be a workable strategy for things like clocks, which need 24-7 power, but for devices that you don’t switch on often, it could be a big energy saver. That television in your basement rec room, your laptop computer sitting on your upstairs desk, and your cell phone charger on the kitchen counter should all make your shortlist to unplug when not actively using. Consider this: Cell phone chargers left plugged in after disconnecting your home use .26 watts of energy and 2.24 watts when your phone is 100 percent charged but still connected.

  2. Remember that power strips = better control. When you plug-in devices that don’t need 24-7 energy into a power strip, it makes it that much easier to turn them off when not in use.

  3. Just say no to idle time. Instead of setting your computer to sleep mode, or pausing a video game console for long periods, shut ‘em down instead.

  4. Time for a new appliance? Then think ENERGY STAR. When it’s time to retire your old washing machines, dishwashers, or other appliances, consider replacing them with ENERGY STAR devices, which use less energy generally.

  5. Know them for what they are and stay vigilant. There’s probably an energy vampire in nearly every room of your house. While coffeemakers are one of the more well-known passive energy users, many don’t realize that their microwave is also an offender. Believe it or not, your microwave will likely use more electricity on vampire draw than on warming your food and drinks in its lifetime. While the cable box is guilty of being an energy vampire, don’t forget about culprits like video game consoles and DVD players. When it comes to the bedroom, be aware of devices like space heaters or window AC units, in addition to the usual suspects: your cell phone and laptop chargers. Then there’s your bathroom, where you find the hairdryers, straighteners, and electric razors.

Happy energy vampire slaying!

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