The average US household spends $2,000 per year on electricity. And much of it is going to household vampires: appliances, chargers and devices that suck up energy even when they aren’t being used. The Energy Information Institute estimates that 10% of your electric bill pays for power you aren’t using, but that percentage could be higher if you often leave PCs, laptops and other equipment in standby mode. Contrary to what you might expect, many newer devices are designed to boot up quickly when you turn them on—televisions, for example—and are bigger vampires than older devices that turned off fully but took time to warm up. In fact, home offices and entertainment centers can be the biggest power drains in your house. If you’re an average consumer, the extra money being sucked through your outlets can amount to $200 each year.
Hunting the Vampires
The Kill A Watt EZ is a handheld device that costs around $30. Grab your electric bill and look at the rate you’re paying per Kwh (kilowatt hour) for generation and delivery. Program it in, then plug any device into the Kill A Watt to find out how much energy it uses in on, off and standby mode, and what that amounts to each month (Hint: If you cut your energy substantially, Earth Aid might reward you!). The cost will range from a few pennies for chargers you forgot to unplug to $10 or more for a digital cable box or computer you never turn off. Interested in gadgets other than the Kill A Watt? Check out these alternatives.
Devices to Beware
If they’re warm or have a light on even when your Ipod/phone/laptop is charged or not attached, they’re using energy.
Those big brick-like boxes on your PC and other electronics can use energy if when the item is turned off. Again, if they’re warm they’re drawing power.
Devices With Clocks And Remotes
TVs, cable boxes, DVD players, stereos and even microwaves and coffee makers draw power when you aren’t using them. In some cases, these things might use half to nearly the same amount of power when off and on.
Computers and printers can use nearly as much energy when they are “asleep” as they do when you’re using them, And then there are devices like cable modems, routers, and landline telephones that are always on.
Slaying the Vampires
To get rid of the vampires and trim your bill, follow these steps.
1. Disconnect the chargers on your portable devices when you aren’t using them.
2. Turn off TVs, printers and computers at night. If you don’t like waiting for the PC to power up in the morning, just make a habit of turning it on before heading to kitchen for coffee.
3. Buy a few power strips ($12 apiece) for the clusters of cords you have near the TV, stereo and home computer. Gather all those cords in one place so you can flip the switch before heading out town or, if you want to be really thrifty, at night before going to bed.
4. Use timers plugged into power strips to keep big energy eaters off most of time, but ready when you want to use them, For example, time it so your entertainment center is powered up when you come home at night or your home office is ready to go in the morning.
5. A whole-house switch is a big investment, but could be worthwhile if you have enough vampires and especially if you travel a lot. It looks like a light switch and is connected to whatever appliances or lights in the house that you choose (for example, you wouldn’t connect your refrigerator). When you go out of town, turn your house off and send the vampires packing. Or use it more selectively to turn the house off at night. The downside: A starter kit and installation is more than $1,000, so you would have to calculate how quickly it would pay for itself in energy savings and then make your decision.
If you're feeling inspired, check out our post on how to reduce your water bill. CLICK HERE.
Tell us in the comments: Are you diligent about unplugging your devices, or do you consider the energy loss to be a necessary evil?