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Phantom Loads

Watt Phantoms are Lurking in the Shadows of Your Home

Save the treats for the little spirits and trick the phantoms that already skulk inside your home with these tips. Those phantoms are called “Phantom Loads”. Phantom loads are appliances that steal your power even when they are turned off. The average American grid-tied home has 25 consumer electronic devices. Whether you are in an off-grid or a grid-tied home these appliances and devices need to be disconnected from power completely in order to prevent this invisible menace. For example, appliances such as; a remote control TV, VCR, DVD, stereo, microwave oven and office equipment (computers, fax, etc.) use small amounts of power 24 hours a day, even when switched off. This can add up to a big bite of energy, as much as 10% more power usage. All of your appliances and devices taken together in an off-grid home, for example, will keep an inverter turned on and a lot of power wasted if not remedied.

 

Simply pulling the plug is the silver bullet but silver bullets are hard to come by. The cure for any home regardless of it being battery based or utility based is to have lots of wall switches. This enables the homeowner to shut off power to the outlets. This is easier than actually pulling the plugs every time. The stereo and TV and much of your office equipment should use switched outlets to disconnect at night, or whenever not used. In homes where wall switches may not be a choice, the extension cord/outlet strip with built in on/off switch is an easy way to trick the phantoms and save valuable battery juice or money on the next power bill.

 

Amy Royden-Bloom and Amy Kidd with energy.gov remind us, in their 2013 article, that these devilish devices, “…also include products that require standby power to run clocks such as coffee makers or cable boxes. These {vampires} are wicked and wasteful, costing U.S. households an average of $100 per year.” In fact, some states may have consumer energy efficiency programs to help you eliminate these phantoms and vampires. For example, Tennessee’s Office of Energy Programs (OEP) has its EDGE project distributing Kill-A-Watt® meters to program participants to measure at least five appliances or devices at home or work when “in use” and in “standby” modes. “I was wasting around $60 per year just on two [guitar amplifiers] when they weren’t even powered on,” said Clay Crownover of Knoxville, Tennessee, “I think from now on I'm going to start unplugging stuff. “It's free and it saves us money in the long run.”

 

As John Schueler explains in article from energy.gov last year, cell phones are one of the most common phantoms today. “As cellphones have become a staple of modern life, so have the devices that power them. To ensure that they’re able to be in constant contact, many Americans carry chargers in their bags, have them in their cars and even their office. So it shouldn’t come as much surprise to find that many cell phone users have one or more chargers constantly plugged in at their home. What most people don’t realize is that these chargers are continually drawing power, even when no device is connected to them. In fact, the average charger is consuming .26 watts of energy when not in use and 2.24 watts even when a fully charged device is connected to it”.

 

John also says to consider the cable box if you have one. “As HDTVs and digital cable have increased their market share, these devices have also skyrocketed in use -- and they’re certainly having an impact on your energy bill. Even when they’re powered off, these devices consume an average of 17.83 watts.  That means that even if you simply left your cable box plugged in for a year and never turned it off, it would add on average $17.83 to your electrical bill. Make that a cable box with DVR capabilities, which are an increasingly popular option and your total more than doubles to $43.46”.

 

• Unplug appliances and devices you don’t use often.
• Use power strips.
• Create a central charging station for all those hand-held devices
• Install wall switches that turn power outlets on and off.
• Set computer and video game consoles to sleep mode (saving a game and powering down instead of leaving it paused for a prolonged period can actually save more than $100 a year in many cases)
• Make smart upgrades. When it comes time to send your old devices and appliances to the recycling graveyard, replace them with Energy Star devices and appliances. Energy Star is the rating that will lower standby consumption and use less energy in all appliance or device functions.

 

None of these strategies will eliminate your electric bill entirely-unless you go off-grid, but together these tricks will help you slam the door on all energy phantoms, vampires, and ghouls. This will leave you saving money for more treats much appreciated by those little spirits of the future.


Request our Planning Guide and Catalog for more tips and treats or give us a call anytime! You can also find more info at the Department of Energy and incentives for energy efficiency here.