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January 18, 2008
Save Energy, Eliminate Phantom Loads
by Megan Phelps
Did you know that your TV is consuming energy even when you're not
using it? In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75
percent ( http://www.energy.gov/applianceselectronics.htm ) of the
electricity that powers home electronics is consumed while these
devices are turned off! If that sounds like a high figure, consider
that most home electronics -- including stereos, computers,
televisions and DVD players -- are using standby power (
http://standby.lbl.gov/Reducing/Technology.html ) anytime they're
switched off, and that adds up quickly when these devices are plugged
in 24 hours a day.
Electricity consumed when the power is turned off is called a phantom
load, ghost load or vampire load, and they're common not only in home
electronics, but in many home appliances as well, such as stoves,
washers and dryers.
That electricity shows up on your bill just the same as if you were
using it for something more rewarding, and it makes the same
contribution to air pollution, global warming and other environmental
problems. The good news is that if you're looking for ways to save
energy, reducing phantom loads is an easy, painless way to start.
Here are a couple of strategies to try.
Turn it off, then unplug it. For any electrical device you would like
to turn completely off, this is the foolproof way to do it. Take that
Consolidate your cords with power strips. It can be a hassle to unplug
multiple cords, so many energy experts recommend plugging all those
cords into power strips to make it easy to turn off all the devices
at once. A newer type of power strip called the smart strip (
http://www.smarthomeusa.com/Shop/Hardware-Cable/Item/LCG1/ ) can make
this even easier. Use one with your computer or TV, and it turns off
all the peripheral devices automatically. (Here's a short video
explaining how it works (
Measure and target phantom loads. In many cases you can guess which
appliances are most likely to have phantom loads -- start with
anything with a remote control or a digital display. Look around and
you may be surprised at how many you have. But there's a simple way
to find out exactly how much power each gadget uses. An inexpensive
home meter such as the Kill-a-Watt (
) can help you measure the electrical use of all your appliances and
electronics. It's an easy way to find which devices are burning a lot
of power whether they're turned on or off.
Find energy-efficient products. Another way to avoid phantom loads is
to look for energy-efficient products whenever you're shopping. A
good place to start is by looking for an Energy Star (
http://tinyurl.com/24pgg ) label. You also can check out the
Department of Energy's recommendations (
for buying products that use minimal standby power, and use this
database ( http://oahu.lbl.gov/cgi-bin/search_data.pl ) to check how
much standby power certain products use.
Looking for more strategies for saving energy? Here are a few more
energy saving tips (
Share your own energy-saving strategies in the comments section below.
Share a Comment:
THE HOME ENERGY DIET
Learn how to get the most bang for your energy buck. The Home Energy
Diet, a MOTHER EARTH NEWS Book for Wiser Living, was designed to help
readers take control of their personal energy usage and costs so they
can save money, live more comfortably and help reduce environmental
impacts. With rising energy costs, homeowners are beginning to examine
the energy efficiency of their own homes, asking questions about where
energy comes from and how much it costs, how to choose new appliances
and what options exist for renewable energy.
http://tinyurl.com/2r4uc8 ( http://tinyurl.com/2r4uc8 )
Recent Posts from the Alternative Energy Blog:
January 18 | What's Watt: How Much Electricity Are You Using? - This
week, I've been using a Kill-a-Watt at home. It's a small meter that
costs about $25, and you can use it to measure the electricity
consumption of your appliances and home electronics.
January 11 | Want to learn more about the benefits of compact
fluorescents (CFLs)? Here's a fast explanation of how the new
efficient light bulbs can be better.
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With winter on the way, it's a great time to evaluate the amount of
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