January 7, 2009

"Vampire power"

Vampire power is a term you may have heard. It describes the electricity that is consumed by most of our electronics, even when they’re turned off! Your coffee maker, garage-door opener, microwave oven, clock radio, chargers for cell phones, and MP3 players siphon energy when plugged in, even if they're not charging a thing.

Today’s “off” button usually means “standby.” A Cornell University study tells us that a TV with remote control likely uses more energy during the 20 hours a day that it’s turned off and in "standby power" mode than it does during the hours you’re watching it. According to Cornell, we’re using the equivalent of seven electrical generating plants just to supply vampires that are turned "off."

The typical home has 20 energy vampires that add about $200 to your annual energy bill. They are easy to recognize by their continuous digital display, like those glowing clocks on microwaves. A Sony PlayStation 3 or Microsoft Xbox 360 left on 24 hours per day, seven days per week, will consume as much electricity each year as two new refrigerators.

So what can YOU do to combat vampires and phantom power? Unplug rarely used appliances and chargers that aren't in use, especially when you’re on vacation. Plug all components of a computer or home entertainment system into a power strip; then turn off the power strip with a single switch. Anything plugged into the strip now is truly turned off.

Buy energy-efficient appliances bearing the Energy Star label. That way, at least your vampires will suck away less energy. Find a list of products at EnergyStar.gov.

If you're not sure how much power is being drained, buy a watt meter. But be prepared for some shocking revelations!