The trick or treaters may be gone and the decorations may be looking a little weepy, but there is still a vampire stalking you at your house. All the items you have plugged in, whether they are power on or not, are sucking money out of your pocket. Standby power, vampire draw or phantom load are all names for the same process, energy being plucked from your home without you seeing it.

Standby energy accounts for almost 10% of our electrical cost. That means that if your electrical bill is $1800 a year, than up to $180 a year of that is vampire draw that could be controlled by simply unplugging the item.

How do you know what draws power?
Any product with an external power supply, remote control, continuous display (such as an LED), or battery charger will draw power continuously. Sometimes though, you will need a meter to test out the item to see if the item in draining energy.

How much energy do my products take?
The average game console - $23 a year
Computers in sleep mode - $16 - $21 a year
Coffee maker - $2 a year
Cable box - $38 a year
VCR/DVD player left on, not playing - $8 - $15 a year

How are Watts/ kWH figured out?
Let's take for instance you have a clock radio that runs on 2 watts
2 watts x 24 hours = 48 watts x 30.44 days = 1461 watts a month
1461 watt hours = 1.46 kWH
1.46kWH x .125 cents a kWH (my cost) = 18 cents a month to run
Will 18 cents put you in the poor house? No, probably not. However, it is the cumulative total of the items you have plugged in. And some items use more power. Such as a CRT computer monitor that is always on, uses 12 watts of power in sleep mode and that is $1.08 a month.

How do you reduce standby power?
* If the item isn't used daily, unplug it.
* Use a switchable power strip for cluster of electronics - There are some powerstrips that will turn the item off for you after a period of inactivity as well.
* Look for low watt items. Checking the energy star guide helps as well.
* Buy a low-cost watt meter to measure the items you already have, check them when in standby and when on and running. The ones you want to check first are - game consoles, tv sets in rooms other than the main room, portable fans and heaters, some dryers, window air conditioners.
* Keep cell phone chargers out of the wall when you're not charging the phone. Those black power bricks often draw a little current-even when your phone's not connected.
* Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). A 13-watt CLF is just as bright as a 30-watt incandescent light. That alone is a 17 watt difference for lights that are used often.

Some other items and wattage on standby
Cellphone chargers - .5 -1.5 watts
Routers - 6 -10 watts
Internet modem - 5 - 8 watts
Printers - 8 - 14 watts
LCD monitor - 1- 2 watts
Security systems - 2 - 4 watts

Unfortunately, as we buy more electronic items our consumption of electricity goes up and not always down as one would presume with energy star ratings and even knowing about vampire drains. Being diligent now will get us in a better habit for the future world of electronic "necessities".


  1. Rain Water // Thursday, November 04, 2010 11:53:00 PM  

    Great post - I went through every room in my house with a power meter to check each item - it's quite surprising what does and doesn't use standby power; eg. my bread machine sucked 10W to sit there, yet my mobile phone charger was 0W when there was no phone plugged in. My TV took 1W (I'd say acceptable) - but my computer took 25W!!! It's amazing to think how much you can save by just unplugging a few things.

  2. LIsa // Saturday, November 06, 2010 5:53:00 PM  

    I love the analogy with Halloween and vampires. I have started to unplug everything when it is not in use regardless of whether it says it is energy efficient etc. So, often we miss these little tips that can save money so easily.

  3. Hammy // Saturday, November 13, 2010 5:23:00 AM  

    I've heard that many appliances draw 40% of their full running power when on standby. Yep, gotta make the effort to turn them off. Especially when you go away on holiday.