As Halloween draws near, beware of vampires – not the mythical blood suckers, but the unrelenting energy suckers draining power from your house right now. These costly creatures can add as much as 20 percent to a family’s utility bill, and that’s a pretty scary thought during these tough economic times.
Energy vampires are the appliances and electronics that continue to use our valuable electricity in standby mode even when turned off. Chargers without anything attached to them represent just some of the culprits. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that five to 10 percent of electricity used in this country goes to standby power, adding up to as much as $10 billion per year in extra energy costs. DOE predicts that percentage could rise to 20 percent by next year.
There’s no trick in dealing with home energy vampires, but lots of treats: better energy efficiency in your home, lower electricity bills, and enhanced electric reliability now and in the future.
Some simple ways to slay these home energy vampires don’t even require a wooden stake:
- Know the vampires. Any appliance that displays a clock while otherwise not in use, such as a microwave or cable box, continues to consume electricity while in standby mode. Also, look for chargers that are not charging anything, for example, those for cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players, and electric toothbrushes. If you’re not sure whether a device is an energy vampire, if it has a glowing indicator or standby light, it’s sucking your electricity.
- Unplug the vampires. When you’re done using a device, unplug it. Got a toaster or microwave? All of those kitchen appliances on your countertop can be unplugged when not in use. They may not be big energy vampires, but all those little suckers can add up. Also, devices with clocks use more energy than those that don’t.
- Consolidate and plug in. Plugging several electronic devices into one surge-protecting power strip is an easy way to shut things off. Computer systems, printers, scanners, and home entertainment systems can have all plugs combined into one power strip, which can then be easily shut off when not in use. And the strips can protect against power surges even when switched off – an especially nice feature with Central Texas electrical storms.
- Be an Energy Star. DOE and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency jointly administer the ENERGY STAR program, which identifies appliances meeting strict energy efficiency guidelines. DOE estimates that if one in 10 American homes used only ENERGY STAR appliances, the U.S. would reduce carbon emissions by the same amount as planting 1.7 million acres of trees.
Now these are tips we can all go batty over.