Are phantom 'vampires' sucking your electricity?

Special to the Packet and the GazetteSeptember 8, 2013 

We invite vampires from "Dracula" to the "Twilight" stars into our living rooms but most of us are unaware of the more than 20 "vampires" that are sucking energy from our homes every day.

These phantom loads include televisions, stereos, coffee makers, clock radios, garage door openers, computers, printers, game consoles and cellphone chargers. Any electronic that uses energy when it is turned off or on sleep mode is adding about $200 to your annual electric bill according to Cornell University. We are using the equivalent of seven electrical generating plants on these phantom loads.

Many of our home electronics use more energy when they are not in use than when they are turned on. Game consoles such as Xbox or PlayStation use 120 to 150 watts of electricity when in use and they continue to use around 150 watts of electricity when they are turned off.

There is no need to get a wooden stake to kill these vampires. The simplest way to stop the electric drain is to unplug the device. This works well for small devices such as phone chargers but it might be cumbersome for larger items. Here are a few strategies to help with larger electronics:

  • Advanced Power Strips such as BITS Smart Strip Power Strip have a master outlet for surge protection and other outlets that turn off when the master is not using electricity. This works well to provide continuous surge protection for computers while saving energy from the phantom load of printers and speakers.

  • The Isole IDP-3050 Plug Load Control has a motion sensor that detects when the equipment is in use and it will turn off when you are away from your desk.

  • Choose ENERGY STAR products that meet energy efficiency specifications set by the Environmental Protection Agency. A list of products can be found at There is a wide range of products which include major appliances to cordless phones and light bulbs.

  • In new construction, a vampire switch can be installed to turn off the electronic devices when they are not in use.

  • Employ a home energy monitoring system that allows you to track which appliances and circuits are using the most energy. In one project it was discovered that the instant boiling water faucet used an enormous amount of energy and the homeowner unplugged it for big savings. The eMonitor Energy Monitor is one of the most comprehensive monitors on the market. It tracks each circuit, has excellent analytics and costs about $500. Another great option for half the cost is Wattvision Power Monitor which is the simplest to install and use.
  • Jane Frederick is an architect and co-owner of Frederick + Frederick Architects in Beaufort.

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