Vampire energy — or phantom load — is the energy that is used by appliances that have a standby function (like microwaves and TV’s) or are designed to draw no-load power (consuming power without offering any features — like a toaster).
These energy vampires are sucking the life out of your electric bill too.
Fortunately, any consumer can be turned into the finest Buffy-esque vampire energy slayer with the most minimal of training and weapons.
How much does vampire energy really affect your electric bill?
In 2010, the One Watt Initiative went into effect to restrict standby power of any new equipment to not more than one watt, but many of us have plenty of always plugged-in appliances and gadgets that pre-date the year 2010.
A 2008 U.S. Department of Energy study, Before the One Watt Initiative, found that standby power accounted for around 10% of total residential energy consumption.
In Britain in 2006, standby power accounted for 8% of all British domestic power consumption.
And the list goes on with very similar findings around the developed world. So yeah, vampire energy does still play a big part in wasted energy and wasted money on your electric bill.
Seriously? How can vampire energy suck that hard?
As I sit here in my office, the following electronics (all of which draw phantom load) are within arms’ reach and are always plugged in:
- External monitor
- External hard drive
- External speakers
- All-in-one printer
- Wireless Router
- Paper shredder
- NAS dongle
And again, that’s just at my desk. Granted, I use a Belkin Conserve Smart Power Strip to help keep vampire energy in my office at bay, but think about how many things in your entire home or apartment stay plugged in all day, every day.
How do you slay energy vampires?
Smart strips: I mentioned the Belkin smart power strip that I use in my office, but there are countless other smart power strips on the market that work equally as well. Smart strips work by allowing you to plug 2 (usually) devices into “always on” or “control” outlets, and the rest of the outlets are turned off after a pre-defined time period or a switch or, sometimes, the state of the device plugged into the “control” outlet.
Individual outlet power switches: Again, there are several of these on the market, but Belkin makes one of the best I’ve seen. They call it the Conserve Power Switch (pictured above). And yeah, this is the 3rd time I’ve mentioned Belkin, but no, I have no connection to Belkin — they just make some epic energy conserving devices. You plug this device into the outlet, plug the appliance into the device and a switch on the side allows you to completely shut off any phantom load attempted to be drawn by the appliance or charger.
Wall outlets with USB ports built in: Anything with a transformer built into the plug (like the big box/cube that the prongs extend out of on your iPod, iPhone, or other cell phone charger) is an energy vampire. Eradicating the need for those transformer-based chargers by installing a standard 2-plug outlet with built-in USB ports (so you can plug your USB cables directly into it) will cut down on the phantom load generated by charging your mobile devices.
Your hand: Sure you could use a power switch like the one mentioned above (or even an outlet that ejects the plug when the appliance goes into standby mode), but then again you can always just unplug any device that doesn’t need to be plugged in all day every day.
How do you fight the would-be energy vampires that lurk about in every corner of your home, waiting to bleed you dry as you sleep? (Too dramatic? I think not.)