Vampire energy is costing you and trashing the planet
Our stand-by appliances consume energy even when they are turned off
This issue of The Green Dispatch is another “News You Can Use”, meant to help you to lower your carbon footprint or to otherwise lead a more environmentally sound lifestyle.
We all have appliances that stay plugged in and are on stand-by, even when we aren’t using them. Your television might remain off for days, with you turning it on only occasionally to binge watch The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad on a Saturday. But even though that TV just sits there, it’s using electricity just waiting for you to turn it on.
Generally, the basic electrical devices—lights, lamps, toasters, etc.—don’t use electricity when they are off. But most of the rest of the things we plug in at home use some electricity when they aren’t being used. If the device has a display panel or clock, it is certainly one of these energy sucking devices. This current that flows without any use is called phantom energy or sometimes vampire energy.
In most cases this phantom energy is simply there for our convenience. The device is on stand-by so we don’t have to wait when we turn it on. It takes about 20 seconds for my computer to come up to speed when I turn it on in the morning. If I had the computer on “sleep” or stand-by mode, it would spark right on, no waiting, first thing.
Some of the vampire energy appliances are home computers, stereos, televisions, fax machines, printers, microwave ovens, garage door openers, and video games. The list doesn’t end there. Standing in their plugged in stands, electric toothbrushes can be phantom energy users. Leaving your phone plugged in after its fully charged uses up vampire energy.
The power consumed by the modem, the computer, coffeemaker, or television can add up, sometimes constituting 20 percent of an individual home’s electric bill. That can seem surprising, but many of the devices use almost as much electricity when they are off as when they are turned on.
The way we’ve constructed our commercial buildings, from shopping malls to office towers, they present a bigger problem, when it comes to vampire energy waste, but residential waste also plays a part in our problem.
The National Resource Defense Council estimates that about 23 percent of electricity use in the United States is what they call “idle load electricity,” power that is just being wasted. For some buildings, 40 percent of their energy use is taken up by vampire energy. As fossil fuels are used to create all that wasted electricity, almost 80 million tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the emissions of about 15 million gas-powered cars, winds up in ht atmosphere because of vampire energy.
Residential vampire energy is less of a problem, probably representing about one percent of global carbon emissions. Getting rid of it in your home is nonetheless low hanging carbon footprint fruit, easier to do than taking public transportation or giving up air conditioning.
What you can do
Some appliances are difficult to turn off. The ice and water convenience port on your refrigerator stays on all the time, 24/7. There is no way to turn it off without turning your refrigerator off and spoiling your food. And there are certain conveniences that we all like. Garage door openers are only used for a couple minutes a day. The rest of the time they sit there and suck up vampire energy, yet I can understand that a lot of folks appreciate this convenience.
In these cases, the best strategy is to buy products that are Energy Star certified. Energy Star is a program of the EPA and federal Energy Department that labels energy-saving products. Other items have energy saving modes. They are still on a standby mode, but the energy they use is far less.
Power strips can be an easy way to ensure that appliances get disconnected from their power source, especially if you have a number of power sucking devices. You can plug them all into one power strip and disconnect them all with one switch.
Some things may only be used two or three times a month. They can be unplugged for the days or sometimes weeks that they remain unused. In our home, our printer is used perhaps two or three times a month. I just plug it in when I need something printed out, then unplug it. We only use the electric coffeemaker two or three times a month, opting for tea, french press, or stopping at the local cafe most of the time. We unplug the device when we aren’t using it. That means that we can’t program the thing to have coffee ready when we wake up in the morning, but I don’t think that’s a sacrifice. This might be a small thing, but be sure to unplug your phone, iPad, or other charged devices once they are charged up.
Do you have a way that you get rid of vampire energy? Please share your energy saving strategies.
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