There are a lot of things you can do with an extra $100, from buying a week’s worth of groceries to treating yourself and a date to a nice dinner. If you’re like the average household in the U.S., though, you’re probably using that $100 to pay for the energy-sucking habits of your appliances. The average American homeowner pays an extra $100 each year to power electronic devices that appear to be turned off, according to the Energy Star program. Save money by driving a stake through the heart of your vampire appliances.
Types of Vampires
Electricity vampires come in all shapes and sizes. An easy way to spot a vampire is to look for an appliance that has to do something even when powered down. For example, you might not be actively brewing coffee, but your coffee maker still has to draw some power to keep its clock going. Devices that are turned on and off via remote control need to use some power when off, too.
A coffee maker is a relatively weak energy vampire, drawing an average of 1 watt in standby mode, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. More powerful electricity vampires include computers, televisions and other entertainment devices. Set-top boxes such as digital cable boxes and DVRs win the prize for being the most powerful electricity vampire. The average set-top digital cable box with DVR uses more than 40 watts in standby mode.
Modems also draw energy when powered down, though DSL modems use less standby power on average than cable modems. A DSL modem uses about 2 watts when powered down while a cable modem uses around 4 watts. If you want to save money connecting to the Internet, DSL bundles are the way to go, as you’ll draw less phantom power and pay less per month.
Pull the plug when you aren’t using these vampire devices. There’s no point in leaving something like the guest room TV or a spare DVD player plugged in. Remove all phone, tablet or mp3 chargers from the outlet when they aren’t actively charging something.
Frequent plugging and unplugging can lead to wear and tear on some devices, however. Solve this by connecting them to a power strip. For example, plug your entertainment system—TV, modem, set-top box and video game console—to a power strip, then when you’re powering down for the night, switch the power strip to off to cut the supply of energy to those devices. Or, plug the power strip into an outlet powered by a light switch. Before you leave the home or head to bed, flip the light switch off.
Not all electronic devices have vampire tendencies. The Energy Star program identifies products that draw less power in standby mode and use less energy when actively running. Energy Star products need to meet certain requirements created by the Environmental Protection Agency. When it comes to price, the product can cost more than a regular item, but will need to use significantly less energy over the course of its lifetime, and you’ll end up saving more money over time.