You’ve probably heard that it’s important to unplug your cell phone charger when your phone isn’t connected, because the charger will continue to drain power. While this is true, cell phone chargers generally draw a tiny amount of power on their own -- you probably won’t notice a drop in your power bill if you start leaving yours unplugged.
However, other electronics -- especially modern, advanced electronics with “standby mode” settings -- can really drive up your monthly power bill even when you aren’t using them. According to the Department of Energy, energy vampires can account for up to ten percent of the average home’s energy consumption.
High-Tech Energy Waste
Cell phone chargers became a handy example of energy vampires because they literally do nothing when they’re not charging -- there’s no downside to unplugging them the rest of the time. As another example, your microwave probably uses slightly more standby energy than your phone charger because it has to power a digital clock. But you probably leave that appliance plugged in so that you can use it to check the time!
Devices like these don’t add up to much energy waste. But your computer, video game console and flat screen TV may be another story.
As these electronics became more sophisticated, manufacturers started paying more attention to the amount of time it takes for them to start up. From this came “standby mode”, which may not be “on”, but which certainly isn’t “off”. In standby mode, these devices draw power to keep many processes and components working so that they can “wake up” in a matter of seconds when you’re ready to use them.
Power management settings like these can often be customized, but the default setting might not be the most energy-friendly. If you’re not sure whether your devices in these categories are using unnecessary power in standby mode, consult the original manuals for each device, or just go exploring for power options in the settings menu.
Slaying the Vampires
Even though high-tech electronics can pose problems with wasting energy, there’s always a fail-safe, low-tech solution: pull the plug. Completely disconnecting devices from the grid is the most surefire way to stop them from driving up your bill. If this is inconvenient, you can make use of power strips -- hitting the main power switch on a power strip fully disconnects the power, even if the strip itself remains plugged in.
You can also keep energy vampirism in mind when shopping for new devices. The federal Energy Star website is a handy starting point when shopping for energy-efficient appliances and electronics. And if you’re specifically looking for devices that use minimal power when in standby mode, the Department of Energy has a site for that, too.
For all your other household energy efficiency concerns, call upon your experienced local electricians. They can conduct a thorough energy audit to help you make informed energy efficiency choices.