There's an easy way to save money on your electricity bills that doesn't require any new appliances, smart technology or other expensive upgrades. This revolutionary idea is beautiful in its simplicity: Just unplug your devices when you aren't using them. It turns out that “always on” or standby technology is filling up the electricity meters and draining the pocketbooks of consumers across the nation. Read on to find out more and inspire yourself to pull the plug.

A Shocking Waste of Energy

Ready for a shocker? Idle devices are costing Americans a cumulative $19 billion per year, or $165 per household, according to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The paper, titled “Home Idle Load: Devices Wasting Huge Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use,” translates the numbers into something compelling: Each household wastes enough electricity to brew 234 cups of coffee per day. That's a lot of caffeine!

To be more explicit, the excess electricity use is equivalent to the output of 50 large power plants. In addition to spending money unnecessarily, we're creating an enormous amount of pollution just to power electronics that aren't in use. These bits of electricity are called energy vampires or phantom loads, notorious for their scary effect on your wallet and the environment alike.

Devices Gone Digital

Most devices drain small amounts of electricity no matter what, and the proliferation of standby technology that makes it easy to turn things on quickly or via remote control amplifies the waste considerably.

“One reason for such high idle energy levels is that many previously purely mechanical devices have gone digital,” Pierre Delforge, the report’s author and NRDC’s director of high-tech sector energy efficiency, told “Appliances like washers, dryers, and fridges now have displays, electronic controls, and increasingly even Internet connectivity, for example.”

Obviously, you can't unplug your refrigerator or freezer, and some equipment like electric stoves and central air units might be inconvenient or impossible to disconnect on a regular basis. But there's still plenty of savings to be found in your televisions, computers, game consoles, phone chargers and other electronic devices found in the modern household.

What Can I Do?

It’s not realistic to expect every homeowner in America to go around plugging in and unplugging dozens of devices every day. But there are some tips that can help you out:

  • Look for any energy saving settings on your devices so they drain less electricity in standby mode.
  • When you purchase new appliances or devices, look for models optimized for efficiency.
  • Use timers so devices like televisions and computers automatically have their power cut at night while you sleep or while you're at work.
  • Plug multiple devices into a power strip so you can easily stop the electricity to all of them at once.

With just a little bit of extra diligence, you can do your part to reduce our energy consumption in the United States, and save money while you're at it.

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