You already know that you can save energy and cut down on smog and greenhouse gases by switching to compact fluorescent lighting, buying energy-efficient appliances, reducing heat and air conditioning, putting your pool on a timer, buying clean energy and planting trees. The next step is to go after the invisible energy vampires in your home!
A surprising number of small household appliances use energy all the time, even when switched off. This is called a “phantom load”. If an appliance is warm, it’s wasting energy. These loads can add up to 10-20% of your energy bill. In the U.S. alone, phantom loads waste over $1 billion of power annually.
Most people don’t realize that when most electronics are turned off, they stay in standby mode, consuming power. Older TVs and VCRs can draw more power when turned off than some new ones use when turned on! When you add up the satellite receiver, DVD player and other items in your entertainment centre, you may be paying for 100 Watts, 24 hours a day, even if you only watch one TV program!
You can connect multiple devices to a power bar or surge protector, then turn one switch off when not in use. If you need to leave the VCR or satellite receiver on to record programs, put the other devices on a second power bar that you can turn off. The extra
investment in power bars will pay off quickly. New homes should be designed with a single switch to turn off the entire entertainment centre easily.
An older fridge or TV in the basement can be a real energy hog 24 hours a day. Pull the plug on anything you can live without! If you go on vacation, unplugging appliances will save energy and protect you from power surge damage. To save more money, think about everything that you could turn off at the breaker or unplug while away. Turning off your well pump can prevent floods if a pipe bursts, and there’s no sense keeping your water heater tank hot for a week. Unplugging appliances such as dryers can reduce your fire risk too.
Computers can be big energy vampires. Older models can draw over 100 watts when left on, and systems can have a significant phantom load when turned off due to the speakers, printers, modems, routers, wireless devices and hubs that may still be humming. A computer system can draw as much power as a modern refrigerator, and computer game systems can use considerable energy too. Both at home and at work, put your computer components on a surge protector power bar, and turn it off when not needed. This saves energy and money, and reduces the chance of damage due to power surges. By disconnecting yourself from the Internet, you also reduce the risk of viruses or remote hacking.
Another obvious energy vampire is anything with a clock. In our kitchen alone, there are clocks on the coffee maker, stove, radio, microwave and breadmaker. Transformers are more subtle vampires. These little black boxes have multiplied in the last few years as we plug in battery chargers for our cell phones, power tools, iPods, cordless phones and laptop computers. Most of these devices don’t need to be on 24 hours a day. I did a search in our house, and ended up unplugging the rarely-used basement cordless phone, four different battery chargers, the coffee maker and a radio, along with three other AC adapters.
You may also borrow a power meter kit and documentation from any Caledon library.
Dr. Richard Ehrlich