Not In Use, But Draining Energy: Avoid the Power Draw of Vampire Products

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Energy Efficiency
Reducing standby power draw is one piece in the overall puzzle of maintaining an energy-efficient home.

Phantom power draw — also referred to as standby power, ghost power, vampire power and idle load — is the energy that appliances and electronics consume when they are turned off and not in use, but still plugged in. Individual products don't create a lot of waste, but with 40 devices plugged in at any given time in the average American household, vampire power draw can account for as much as 10 percent of a home's electricity usage.

Standby Power is Necessary for Some Devices

The devices most likely to bleed power even when they're not in use are:

  • Any product that uses a remote control.
  • Any product with an external power source.
  • Any product that charges batteries.
  • Any product with continuous display or LED.

These products are susceptible to standby power draw because, even when they aren't performing their primary function, they're consuming some electricity. Televisions, garage doors, DVD players, microwaves, coffee makers and cable boxes are among the devices most likely to bleed electricity when they're plugged in.

These products consume power constantly to maintain displays, convert alternating current into direct current (such as through a square power box), to maintain signal reception, to monitor a thermostat, to power an internal clock or to power the sensors and circuits that receive signals via remote control and soft keypads.

Reduce Standby and Counter Vampire Power Draw

The obvious solution is to unplug rarely used items, such as a TV in a guest room. But beyond that, unified power strips are the best way to reduce power to zero. Power strips with switches can target unified clusters of electronics, such as a computer, printer, scanner and speakers in an office. 

Also, buy low-standby products. Identifying them can be harder than it sounds because most products don't list their standby usage, and sales associates are unlikely to know offhand. A good rule of thumb is that products with the ENERGY STAR logo are likely to have low phantom power draw.

There is no quick fix to energy efficiency. Small steps have a cumulative effect and, over time, lead to an overall awareness of usage and waste. Reducing standby power draw is one piece in the overall puzzle of maintaining an energy-efficient home. 

This article and its content are sponsored by Mitsubishi Electric US Inc., Cooling & Heating Division. 

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