How to slay energy vampires

There are demons that can suck the life force from you — and you unknowingly invited them into your home. Vampire electronics may not suck your blood, but they’ll drain you of nickels and dimes for every dollar you spend on energy.

The Cost of Vampire Energy

Vampire energy is the electricity that electronics and appliances drain from the power grid when you aren’t using them. Some electronics that are turned off still suck energy in standby mode, especially those with the following features:

  • Internal clock
  • External clock display
  • Panel display LED
  • Remote control sensor
  • Battery charger
  • Power-conversion pack
  • Portable units with a base (such as a cordless phone)

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, vampire electronics are responsible for 5-10% of residential energy use. In other words, if you slay your energy vampires, and you’ll see a noticeable difference in your energy bills. CNN reported that you might have as many as 50 vamps lurking in your midst:

Alan Meier of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has been studying vampire electronics for years. “Each home now has anywhere from 10 to 50 of these products, so that adds up and represents as much as a month of your electricity bill,” he says. We plugged a DVD player that wasn’t even playing a DVD into a watt meter, and it showed consumption of 11.32 watts with the power on. “I’ve turned it off, and now its drawing six watts,” Meier says…Meier’s home computer is just standing by. But it’s drawing 65 watts.

I’m definitely guilty of letting energy vampires run amok in my own home. In fact, as I was writing this, I decided to take a look around to see what electronics were plugged in and running up the electric bill. I found the following:

  • 2 laptops
  • Printer
  • Back-up drive
  • 2 sets of speakers
  • 5 lamps
  • Clock radio
  • Camera battery charger
  • 2 phone chargers
  • Television
  • DVD player
  • Microwave

I should pull the cord on most of these electronics, like the extra laptop that rarely gets used, the printer, the back-up drive, and the chargers, but they stay plugged in day after day.

Put a Stake Through Vampire Power

So how do you dust these energy vamps? There are two factors to consider: One is energy efficiency, and the other is whether the device is on or off.

  • The first thing to consider is a device’s overall energy efficiency, since in-use energy used can often be more important than standby energy if an appliance sucks a particularly large amount of power. The U.S. EnergyStar program provides energy efficiency ratings for various categories of electronics, so begin your search there when shopping for energy-efficient appliances, light bulbs, water heaters, windows, and more. While it’s not possible for most slayers to replace all of their appliances and electronics, you can start to slowly swap older devices with energy-efficient ones when you need to replace something.
  • Second, take care of the vamps in your home. Unplug chargers and adapters when you aren’t using them. When that’s not practical (because you don’t want to reset your clock 10 times a day or shutdown and unplug your computer every time you use it), consider a power strip like the Wattstopper Plug Load Control or Smart Strip Power Strip, which work two different ways to lower your bills.

The Wattstopper ($90) uses a “personal sensor” to turn off power after a device has been idle for a user-defined time period. The Smart Strip ($35) can sense when devices are on or off and shuts off power supply accordingly. According to the Smart Strip website, independent consultant tests showed that it can “save enough energy to pay for itself in as little as six weeks…up to $20 per month on your electric bill.”

Your wooden stake power strip will pay for itself.
J.D.’s note: Now’s a good time to remind you of the Kill-a-Watt electricity usage monitor. This little gadget detects how much power your appliances use so that you can make smart decisions about electricity. You only need to use the Kill-a-Watt about once every year. So, do what we did: Buy one and loan it to all your friends so that they can find the energy vampires in their homes.
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There are 54 comments to "How to slay energy vampires".

  1. Derek says 28 October 2010 at 04:13

    Haha! Excellent post! It ties in nicely with Halloween, very clever.

    Yes, energy is one of those things that we cannot see, but we can definitely see it show up in the electric bill. This is a great idea for all of us to shave a few bucks off from that bill every month. Every little bit counts!

    Learn from my posting as well – save money and learn to invest.

  2. Emily Anne says 28 October 2010 at 04:14

    I live in the Boston area- the public library here in Cambridge collaborated with high school students to make a pamphlet explaining energy vampires and acquire a bunch of Kill-a-Watt devices that library patrons can use to evaluate their energy use. Such a good idea!

  3. Andrew says 28 October 2010 at 04:47

    1. Wouldn’t the Wattstopper itself be an energy vampire?

    2. My solution to vampire energy is to use old-fashioned power strips. I have two: one for my TV, audio receiver, Wii, and DVD player, and the other for my computer, monitor, and printer. Whenever these aren’t actively in use, I just switch off the power strip. Sure, it looks a bit awkward since I keep the strips where they are accessible, but it makes it so easy and almost instinctive to flip the switch when I’m finished using the equipment.

  4. Nicole says 28 October 2010 at 04:51

    The smartstrip sounds neat. We will have to look into that. Right now we just have a regular strip that we can turn off for our living room stuff.

  5. Elizabeth says 28 October 2010 at 05:43

    Here in Ontario we have “smart meters” where electricity is priced based on time of day. While vampires may not be as much of a drain during non-peak periods, they can be extra costly during peak periods! (The peak period rate is almost double the off period rate — not including delivery fees, taxes, etc.)

    I figure every little bit helps.

  6. Jon says 28 October 2010 at 05:49

    Someone wrote a blog post about this same topic several years ago, and I began turning off everything possible whenever we weren’t using it. It made no appreciable difference in our electricity usage – the biggest portion of our e-bill is running the fan and heat exchanger for our heater/ac. Worse, it was seriously inconvenient to manually power up the cable modem, wireless router, and individual pc or laptop when I had insomnia, and wanted to surf in the middle of the night, or if (wife and I work out of home offices) we needed to do some work after hours, and the timer had turned everything off already.
    I’m not saying it might not work for others, but in our situation it was more trouble than it was worth. Energy costs are also not as high in the Northwest as in other regions of the country, so that might be a factor.

  7. Wayne Mates says 28 October 2010 at 05:51

    I never really thought about this. But just in the kitchen alone, I can see a cordless phone, and LED clocks on the microwave, stove and coffee maker. Plus, there is the desktop PC and the wireless router that are running all the time. The issue is that it’s not practical to shut them down, except maybe the PC.

  8. Everyday Tips says 28 October 2010 at 06:05

    I had no idea about the devices that would automatically shut off power to idle electronics. I need to look into that. Thanks for the info!

  9. Leah says 28 October 2010 at 06:21

    Vampire power is totally a beast. I don’t pay for electric now, so I’m not sure how much my efforts currently help, but I do know I was able to get my electric bill down to $15 for a two bedroom apartment in Michigan one summer by diligently killing vampire power with my roommate. Here’s some things we did:

    1. had the microwave on a power strip. when you want to use it, just turn the strip on. We set the strip right next to our micro, but you can also wall mount it or set it on top. the key part is to make it easy. This is what we did first, and it made a noticeable difference in the bill.

    2. have the TV setup on a power strip. It’s one more button to push before turning the TV on . . . but every little bit helps.

    3. Not use a plugged-in alarm clock. I’ve got an alarm feature on my cell phone, and I’ve been using this feature for years. At some point, I realized that my alarm clock was redundant. So I forgo the bright red light, sleep better, and save on electricity.

    4. Unplug chargers when not in use. Again, the power strip is awesome for this.

    5. Not technically vampire power, but we tried to use daylight whenever possible to reduce our use of electric lights.

    6. also not vampire power, but we used fans and the principles of cross-ventilation instead of using AC. That made a major difference ($70 a month difference) in our power bill for a two bedroom place.

    7. Use an LED nightlight in the bathroom or other dark areas where you might be tempted to turn on the light at night. saves your night vision and means you’re not flipping on that power.

    8. judicious use of lightbulbs. If you happen to have, say, a bathroom with a mirror lined in bulbs, try unscrewing bulbs until you actually notice a difference in lighting. You probably don’t need anywhere near all of the bulbs.

    9. Hang dry clothes. I hang dry everything except my man’s wrinkle-free dress clothes (it’s either tumble dry or iron, and I know what wins out there). At a minimum, you could easily hang-dry t-shirts, socks, and underwear to cut the number of dryer loads in half. I line-dry indoors on a drying rack, and it works really well for me. Also helps add some humidity in the dry northern winters.

    For those who don’t want to futz with a standard power strip, there are these neat ones I saw at Target from the company Practecol. They’ve got power strips that you can keep behind equipment with a little button bit that you can put in a convenient place. That way, you’re still turning a power strip on and off but it is more convenient.

  10. tb says 28 October 2010 at 06:32

    i have very few items plugged into the wall directly. i started doing it because i lost like 3 tvs, 2 computers and 2 vcr/dvd players to lightening coming through the cable.
    i continue because i have become a little obsessed. i carry the big flashlight that came in my drill set around the house in the evening and bring my solar lights in as my nightlight. i don’t even have a lamp in my room anymore. i can go almost 3 days without having to recharge it. i charge my cell by hooking it to the computer or in my vehicle.

  11. Tom S. says 28 October 2010 at 06:53

    You need a sense of proportion and a reality check when considering “vampire power”.

    Ferinstance, a USB type charger that delivers 5 volts at .5 amps might consume 3 watts at full output if it is an efficient design. Even if you are charging at full power 24/7 it would only cost you perhaps 30 cents a month. When not charging it consumes virtually no power. It’s going to cost you a lot more (in terms of dollars or dreaded CO2) to replace worn-out outlets and power strips than you’d ever save.

    When it comes to larger appliances such as microwaves, you need to consider the effect of inrush current. When you first plug a unit in, there may be a brief high current surge as large capacitors in the power supply are charged. The system is designed for this, but it is not designed to tolerate it every single time you go to use it. You risk shortening the life of the device through this repetivive stress.

    My solution would be to encourage manufactures to publish the standby current for their products. They’s be motivated to design for low standby current and you’d be able to make an intelligent choice.

  12. Kevin M says 28 October 2010 at 06:54

    I’ve heard some libraries have Kill-A-Watt devices ready to loan out. I’ve not seen it personally however. We use a SmartStrip for our living room – TV, DVD player and stereo are all plugged in and all shut off when the TV is off. I’ve been meaning to get another for our computer equipment.

  13. DanT says 28 October 2010 at 07:14

    I agree with Tom S. (#8) about the potential for shortened life of some products.

    I bought into the whole vampire power fear, and purchased the Kill-A-Watt a couple years ago, and then I did the math based on its readings. I remember my laser printer taking 5 watts in standby/sleep mode. That means that every 200 hours it’s on standby it uses 1 kilowatt-hour. We pay roughly 10 cents/kw-h, so that’s about 36 cents/month to not have to run into the other room to turn on the printer. To me, that’s worth it.

    All of my chargers (cell phones, shaver, nav system, etc.) were each taking less than 1 watt. That means they were each less than 10c/month, sometimes as little as 0.1 watts, or less than 1 cent per month. Again, for me, it’s worth the convenience of not having to plug/unplug them all the time.

    I do have my DVD and CD players plugged into the switched outlets on my amplifier, so they only get power if it’s on. That was an obvious choice with no negative trade-offs, so of course I took advantage of it.

    Having said all that, I don’t leave chargers plugged in for things that don’t get regular use. So my cordless drill, for example, always needs charged when I want to use it. But that’s infrequent enough that it doesn’t make sense for me to leave a battery charging 24/7.

    But I’m not about to go plugging a microwave into a power strip, especially since 99% of its power usage occurs when it’s actually cooking something. IMO, the earlier death and lack of convenience far outweigh the minimal energy savings.

  14. C.R. says 28 October 2010 at 07:15

    Kevin M beat me to it. My local library has Kill-A-Watts for loan, although I haven’t used it yet. Even if your local library does not, maybe you can request it.

  15. El Nerdo says 28 October 2010 at 07:34

    Hi J.D.

    Spelling Nazi reporting for duty here.

    It’s run amok, not “a muck”. Amok is a Malaysian word is the equivalent to our “go postal”, but in English we have adopted as going nuts but without the mandatory killing rampage. In the case of energy vampires it’s perfectly appropriate usage and close to the original meaning. Nothing to do with fertile swampland soil though.

    Sorry. A minor case of OCD, an itch I must scratch, etc. Thanks.

    • April Dykman says 28 October 2010 at 08:00

      Thanks for the catch, Nerdo Loco!

  16. tinyhands says 28 October 2010 at 08:08

    My solution was a heavy-duty, multi-day programmable timer. Yes, it uses a tiny bit of electricity, but it shuts off the even bigger drain of my home theater equipment (TV, receiver, NMT, subwoofer), cable modem, and router while I’m asleep and at work. It turns the power back on about 30 minutes before I typically get home. Since it has multi-day programs, I can have it not shut off the juice on the weekends, when I’m home. And there’s always the override button to leave everything on when I’m playing hooky. It was so easy to set up, I need to get two more for my other TV and computer. $17 at my local hardware store/home center.

    FIRST add up all the wattage required by your equipment while on (it’s in the manuals) and verify that you won’t burn out the timer. The heavy-duty timer I bought has a limit of 1000W, which is close to the limit of a single 15A electrical circuit, so if your existing equipment isn’t blowing the fuse/circuit breaker, you can probably use this timer safely.

  17. Brent says 28 October 2010 at 08:09

    Vampire energy as a whole may be 5% of all usage, but that doesn’t seem to be the lowest hanging of the fruit for power efficiency. By the time you get a killa-watt and identify your leakages you could have checked your tire inflation, cleaned your furnace filters or wrap your hot water pipes.

  18. Tyler Karaszewski says 28 October 2010 at 08:10

    Lots of things, like lamps, don’t draw power when they’re off. for any piece of electric equipment to draw power, there must be a complete circuit running through it. A lamp is basically just two wires attached to a lightbulb with a switch spliced into one of the wires. When the switch is “on” electricity can flow in one wire, through the switch, through the bulb, and out the other wire. When it’s switched “off”, then the wire isn’t even connected. No electricity can flow through it. It is exactly the same as being unplugged.

    This isn’t true for things like the microwave because it has a clock in it, and electricity constantly flows through the circuit for the clock even though the actual heating element is off all the time.

    You can call the microwave clock a vampire if you want, but it’s important to note that *not all electrical devices have this property*. If lights had it, that would mean that even with your built-in house lights turned off, they’d be using some electricity. That’s not true.

    I’d guess most battery chargers are the same way — if there’s no battery in them, there’s no current drawn. I was going to test this but it seems the batteries in my multimeter are ironically dead. Sure, battery chargers draw some electricity when there’s actually a battery in them and they’re charging, but if they didn’t,then your batteries would never charge.

    Many things, especially things without clocks or timers in them, are really *off* when you switch them off, even if you don’t unplug them. Many other things are entirely not worth the effort, including nearly everything with a clock since if you unplug it you have to reset the clock every time you plug it in. You’re not really going to unplug your alarm clock when you’re not using it, are you?

  19. tinyhands says 28 October 2010 at 08:18

    Put your hand on the “brick” of any device like a laptop or battery/cellphone charger. If it’s warmer than ambient, even when the device is off or not charging, it means that electricity is being converted to heat.

  20. Derek says 28 October 2010 at 08:19

    And remember, energy vampires are not vampires in winter: they’re converting that power into heat, which you need.

    I’m just saying! 😉

  21. Atticus175 says 28 October 2010 at 09:16

    This article recommends relying on Energy Star to determine whether devices are energy efficient, but that’s terrible advice. Energy Star certification is worthless, as a Government Accountability Office investigation recently revealed.

  22. Atticus175 says 28 October 2010 at 09:25

    I should have noted that the Energy Star program claims to be in the process of fixing the problem, and said back in April that it would have it resolved by the end of the year.

    But for the meantime, consumers would be wise to look for more than an Energy Star stamp before assuming they’re getting an energy-efficient product.

  23. retirebyforty says 28 October 2010 at 09:41

    I have the TV and stereo hooked up to the power strip and I used to religiously switch it off over night, but I got lax this past year. 🙁
    It’s tough to keep up if you’re lazy. I’ll start again.

  24. chacha1 says 28 October 2010 at 10:05

    Smart Strip sounds like a good idea for us but I somehow doubt we will bother. Our power bill averages less than $40/mo and I can easily see it taking $10/wk worth of time to turn appliances off/on, reset clocks, wait for printer/fax to warm up, wait for computer to come online … .

    Our big power savings is not using the A/C unless it’s over 85 degrees outside, which is rare, and/or over 80 degrees inside, which is very rare indeed.

    All that said, I am honestly looking forward to the day when we can live without clocks and lamps because we can live during the day, instead of packing all our real life into the hours between 6 and 10 p.m.

  25. cc says 28 October 2010 at 10:10

    we just go the boho-frugal route of living in a cheap apartment with pathetically sparse electricity. you can’t use what you don’t have!

  26. Karen in minnesota says 28 October 2010 at 10:21

    I’m skeptical that doing all this really saves much energy or power.

    My electric bill is 99.9% due to electric firing up of my gas furnace needed to heat my home during the subzero midwestern winters–I find it extremely hard to believe that unplugging everything in my house would make any difference.

    I like and use the clock on my programmable coffee maker and also my digital alarm clock–it’s part of the function of these items.

    And who would leave a CD player turned on when not using it? If you turn it off but leave it plugged in, it’s drawing a negligible amount of power.

    I leave my laptop plugged in overnight–but that’s because I’m charging it, duh.

    Also as mentioned by another poster, lamps when turned off don’t draw any power–zero. It’s not a case of OMG it’s electric and it’s plugged in–it must be drawing phantom power! That’s just hysteria, sorry.

    If you want to save power and money, you need to throw away all your electronic devices and lamps and coffeemakers and your microwave and also your TV and your computer. And your furnace and hot water heater. There, NOW you’ve saved a worthwhile amount of power!

  27. Jane says 28 October 2010 at 11:17

    I was all worried about vampire power a few years ago, and we bought some smartstrips for our electronic equipment. But I think the numbers thrown around about how much energy these tactics will save are totally exaggerated. In general, I distrust percentages that I hear all the time. People are really gullible. Once I read that cleaning the coils on the back of your fridge would save you like $20 a year on your electricity. Really? People believe that?

    Having said this, I do unplug things that are obviously warm to the touch that I don’t always need. This includes my battery charger and other things I only use on occasion. We still have a smart strip on our TV that turns off everything but the DVR. But I am not going to plug and unplug my microwave, or even my computer.

  28. John says 28 October 2010 at 11:21

    The vampire load myth.
    Unfortunately misinformation spreads like the plague.
    I’ve seen it on tv, had to deal with people who’ve heard it from Oprah, stood baffled at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
    Seem’s everyone has jumped on this misinformed propaghanda bandwagon.
    I’m sure you’ve heard it too, you’re electronics and appliances are wasting energry, stealing your dollars, and
    making your lawn turn yellow. Ok so there’s some truth to that fact that some devices in the off state draw some
    current, but I’m still calling foul on this, and for many reasons. First off these devices in the off state are
    drawing extremely low current, very little electricity is actually being wasted. It seems that no one who propagates
    this very bad information even thinks about the actual, factual, or scientific basis on which it is founded let alone
    run the numbers. You could save more energy turning off your heating or air conditioning for an hour than unpluging
    all your devices for a month. Take for instance you plasma or lcd flat panel big screen you’ve got adorning your living
    room and showering it with untold amounts of happy awesomeness… I degress… you will likely use more power watching it
    for 30 minutes than it will consume in the power-down state all month. Ok you say its wasted energy, but not really,
    its energry spent on convenience, the convenience of being able to push a button on a remote control and have the picture
    turn on. You know we all love to use remote controls. But why should I spend energy on convenience if its not necessary,
    well its not normally necessary to cool you home or turn on lights, or run a dishwasher, or clothes washer or dryer. We
    all comsume power from the grid for convenience, and guess what the price you pay to have your tv obey your thumb’s commands
    is very little indeed. I could beat this dead horse to death but lets move on.
    Often they include devices that just don’t consume anything. I remember my room mate’s girlfriend kept unplugging our toaster
    and microwave because Oprah told her to. Ok so the microwave has a clock on it and consumes some miniscule amount of energy
    but guess what you can see what time it is, and you don’t have to plug the darn thing in anytime you wish to use it. But the
    taoster? Really? Maybe i’m behind the times, but my toaster doesn’t have any LEDs or a clock or and LCD or a microprocessor,
    which means my toaster is basically an on/off switch. Why Oprah told her flock lemmings audience to unplug their toaster
    to make their grass greener and fatten their wallet is beyond me. So they often include things that don’t even do what they claim.
    What else?
    How about utilizing irrelevant statistics.
    “Two-thirds of the typical energy used by an office computer is wasted because its one when no one is there to use it (source:Veridim).”
    Wow! How ridiculously irrelevent to the article entitled, “The theat of “vampire loads”.” The statisitic I think may be quite true
    but it also requires that the computer be on! Which would classify it more as carless emplyee rather than their defninion of what
    a vampire load is: “It’s an electrical load of purely wasted energy generated when your electronic equipment is supposedly turned “off”.”
    So as you can see the computer in the statistic is a computer left on and not in the suposedly turned “off” state. But another look at
    the plausible statistic. 24hrs in a day and 8hrs of working, yeas that means that the computer is on using electricity for 16hrs without
    anyone there to use it. But that’s assuming that the computer uses the same amount of energy sitting idle as it does when you’re using it.
    Well its likely pretty close unless you’re computer goes into sleep which many do, or if you run your processor all hard core. Though technically
    more hard drive read writes and more cpu utlization form working will consume more electricity than at idle. Aother factor might be the cost
    in energy to cool your computer but I’d say its not really worth arguing about.
    So the fact remains, this kind of fluff is passed off as an easy way for you to make a difference and be more “Green”.
    Well its really just nonsense to make you feel better about yourself and your consumption, rather than telling you the hard news that you don’t
    want or care to hear. That most of your energy consumtption comes from heating and cooling your house and food, cleaning yourself, your clothes, and your dishes,
    and from entertainment. The real hard news is that if you want to make a difference unpluging you tv isn’t really saving much of anything if you
    still watch it for the same amount of time. A simple change to your thermostat keeping the house a bit cooler during winter and a bit warmer in the
    summer will have a much larger impact. Utlizing timed convection, such as using a whole house fan to change the air in your house when
    the temperature outside is preferable, will do much good. Really its common sense, all the electricity you use ends up as light or heat and light
    ends up in heat. So for instance your laptop getting hot? Its using electriciy, you’re toaster is off and its not the lightets warm, it’s not using
    electricity. My plasma is like a heater when its on, but when its off and has cooled down it doesn’t stay warmer than the room temperature.
    So don’t believe the hype, the misinformation that spreads quicker than wildfire.

  29. pun man says 28 October 2010 at 11:28

    If you run amok, you create a lot of muck.


  30. El Nerdo says 28 October 2010 at 12:10

    @Karen in Minn– no need to leave your computer plugged overnight for charging. Usually a couple of hours will suffice. Leaving phones plugged overnight has busted us a couple of cellphone batteries (“overcharged” said the repair dude), not sure the effect is equally destructive on laptops but better safe than sorry.

    @ #28 John – Having lived in a solar-powered home, I can attest personally to the veracity of the “power vampire” effect. Leaving “remote-ready” TVs and satellite boxes on for the night sure eats batteries– you can see it in the meter. Also (a minor digression), any kind of heating with electricity is very power-intensive: coffee makers, toaster ovens, microwaves, etc, eat a lot of power. I prefer to heat up stuff with gas, I think it ends up being lots cheaper per BTU. I used to live in a house with an electric stove and the electric bill was $$$.

    Also, hanging clothes to dry as Leah said, not only saves power but makes your clothes smell great, and the sun is a powerful disinfectant to boot. I recently rigged some clothes lines in my backyard (we get something like 360 days of sunlight in Albuquerque) and realized that on a cold sunny day the clothes dry *faster* on a line than in a dryer (results may vary according to climate, obviously).

  31. EnergyNrrrd says 28 October 2010 at 13:02

    Two cents from a card carrying residential energy analyst…

    It is true that vampire or parasitic load is usually not the “low hanging fruit”. Here are two reasons to still care about it. One, money is money. Why throw it away if you don’t have to. Two, look at the larger energy picture. Energy security is no joke. Neither is the larger social cost of “dirty” power. Think about it.

    If you want to fight the vampire here’s a tip. Focus on your TV entertainment center and the sprawling computer, printer, amplified speaker, tangle cabled beast that so many of us own. Using a switched power strip is the best and cheapest solution. Smart power strips can be an effective solution and are a set it and forget it deal. This is great because it requires no behavioral change. With my very modest TV, DVD, stereo setup the smart power strip will pay for itself in about 1.5 years with zero work on my part. Your mileage may be better since I’m on fairly cheap hydro power and I do not have a monster TV. Again, this is no drastic energy saving measure, but it pays for itself and requires no work so why not? I could talk to you all about the real low hanging fruit for hours but it would be off topic and I’m on my lunch break.

    PS: while you are digging around the house looking for parasitic plug load, do yourself a favor and unplug the extra unused harvest gold freezer out in the garage! 😉 You really wouldn’t believe how often I see this.

  32. Reaver says 28 October 2010 at 13:13

    For all you nay-sayers out there… we started working on this last year. After 2 months our electric bill was down $20/month with all the changes we implemented. (it took time to get in the habit) I have an old computer power strip with individual switches for our entertainment center. Essentially we switch it all OFF when not in use. Or leave the TV+DVD on standby during the day. There are video game systems (3), speakers, VHS, Remote Harddrive on it, we switch as needed.

    We did this with our phone chargers, computers, microwave and a few other devices. I can only imagine the savings for a family who actually has alot of electronic gadgets.

  33. jim says 28 October 2010 at 14:11

    TomS #11 and DanT #13,

    There is truth to the vampire load idea but it varies and some things are very negligible. You really have to measure your devices yourself to know whats wasting meaningful amount of power.

    I measured my own appliances and devices with a kill-a-watt meter. Only way to know for sure what your stuff is using is to measure it. Generally for me the newer electronics were better and used less energy when off. My old 19″ tube TV was the worst and used 8W while off. My CRT computer monitor used 3W off and the newer bigger LCD monitor used a fraction of a Watt. The Wii used about 1W off. But the fact is you never know exactly which devices are drawing a more considerable amount in the 5-25W range while off versus a smaller amount of 0.1-2W unless you measure them yourself.

    All the peripherals plugged into my computer used 21W total while OFF in standby. That was enough for me to warrant buying a smart strip. We’re still only talking $1-2/month electricity but it adds up.

    All the peripherals plugged into my big screen TV pulled around 4.5W. Thats not quite big enough for me to worry about. Sure its a waste but spending money on a smart strip would be a bigger waste and theres considerable inconvenience with unplugging those things every day.

  34. SuperT says 28 October 2010 at 14:36

    In 1945 scientists probably imagined a future that had extremely accurate digital clocks in every room of your house and coffee makers that would turn themselves on in the morning and televisions in your living room that you could turn on from your kitchen. And what will it cost to continually power these amazing conveniences? Just pennies a day. At first only the elitist wealthy will have access to these amazing conveniences, but eventually everybody will have them. … After which will develop an elitist class that continually brags about not using these conveniences.

  35. Kate says 28 October 2010 at 14:54

    A woman I met just finished building her house. They installed a “kill switch” for the downstairs. It’s a wall switch by the stairs that kills all the power to the downstairs. Her electrician recommended it for saving money. I’m not sure how much extra he charged her to wire the house that way, but she was able to cut her electric bill by more than 50%. (She also has a no electronics upstairs rule.) Kind of works like a giant powerstrip!

  36. Mrs. Money says 28 October 2010 at 14:56

    My husband was leery of vampire energy but I know it’s a fact! I’m always making sure to unplug his cell phone charger because I can’t stand it staying plugged in!

  37. Glenn says 28 October 2010 at 15:32

    I have done a lot of testing in my house for vampire power draw and here is one thing I discovered about laser printers:

    My laser printer consumes 4 watts when idle, but when it first turns on, it requires 1800 watts for 15 seconds to warm up. It does every time the power switch is manually flipped. So it actually saves money to just leave it on, rather than turn it on with the monitors and speakers, etc… when I use the computer.

    Make sure and take initial power up current into account when deciding whether or not to turn off appliances.

  38. AMANDA says 28 October 2010 at 15:57

    Great reminders! A friend mentioned it and I put a power strip by our computer (which was always on) and by our TV/VCR, etc. We were using about 9 kwh the month before these changes. Went down to 4 the next month!

    I do keep our internet connections plugged into the wall for convenience.

    I will start unplugging our microwave. We always did the other appliances in case of fire hazard…

    Thanks for the info on lamps. It was REALLY annoying to unplug my lamp all the time and I thought I had to!

  39. Jay says 28 October 2010 at 17:29

    The best trick I was able to come up with was putting everything in the entertainment center (55′ TV, Xbox, DVD, Roku) on a power strip, and then plugging the power strip into the lamp outlet. For those of you not familiar with the term, it is the outlet attached to a switch that you turn on light any other overhead lamp. Mostly designed for a standing lamp in a room it made a great power saver for the biggest energy hog in my house. One side note you do sometimes have to reset the Xbox login if you kill the power while it is still on, small price to pay for change in my pocket.

  40. David/moneycrashers says 28 October 2010 at 19:33

    I had dismissed this entire concept for the longest time–thinking it was all nonsense.

    That was until I tried it around my house and actually saw about an 18% drop in my bill.

    It works–and you can make an impact by just unplugging the stuff you really don’t use.

    I’m not saying plug in and unplug the computer that you use multiple times per day, but the other stuff that you can unplug without it even becoming inconvenient.

  41. Rosa says 28 October 2010 at 21:16

    It’s a bigger percentage (not a bigger total amount of power) if you don’t heat/cool with electric, too – we saw a huge jump in our electric bill when we switched from an old gravity-feed boiler furnace to a newer boiler that has a fan and pump. But it was well offset by our savings on gas (about 1/2 as much for a warmer house).

    We did offset about 15% of our total electric bill by finding all the “energy vampires” – but that’s because we have mostly gas heat, a gas stove (now upgraded to a gas-using-electric stove), and no air conditioner.

    The real low-hanging fruit is the electric dryer if you have one – I notice a *huge* jump in my electric bill between summer (line drying) and winter (mostly electric drying).

  42. Nick says 28 October 2010 at 22:11

    i saw a tv spot on this about a year ago, honestly not many people have the time to make sure every little thing is unplugged all the time…

  43. Edgar from Norway says 28 October 2010 at 22:54


    I’ve read grs for a long time but have not posted until now. Vampire power is a pet peeve for me as this is as much discussed in Norway as in the US.

    Vampire power has no effect on your bill if:
    1. It’s colder outside than in the room with the vampire, and
    2. You heat your home with electricity

    Now, I don’t know how normal #2 is across the pond, but #1 is valid for most of Norway, most of the year. I guess it is for parts of the us too.

    The reason I like to complain about this is that both 1 and 2 is valid for almost every Norwegian almost all year around. And 1W sucked away by evil vampires in a room translates to 1W less in the heater. Net loss is zero. If you heat in another fashion the price per watt has to be compared, and there might be a slight reduction in $ spent on heating.

    If you live by the Mediterranean and have an ac, then every vampire W has to be removed by the ac consuming even more power. So every w of vampire power cost you W>w on your bill. For these people it may be worth it to slay the vampires. But as mentioned above, appliances has a standby mode both to reduce wear and increase usability. You have to compare price with reduced lifetime and convenience.

    If you live a hot place you could check you appliances and see how much power they drain. I’ve heard that old flat screen tv’s (espc plasma) drain a lot in standby. Old plasmas drain a lot when in use too, if you have one of those you might save a bit each month by buying a new set. Sounds interesting, right?

    A little fun fact at the end: Did you know that there are more people in America that are direct descendants of norwegians than there are norwegians in Norway. I hope to visit you someday:)

  44. Uli says 28 October 2010 at 23:01

    While it’s not always possible to throw away older appliances and buy newer ones with a better efficiency, from time to time I take a look at the energy efficiency levels of the power supplies connected to the appliances. To only exchange the power supply with a newer, more modern one, is not only cheaper than buying a complete appliance, but can save a whole lot when it comes to the electricity bills. Even those that have been around for only like two years are a lot less efficient than those on the market today. Just as April pointed out, take a look at the Energy Star Level, or, for those Europeans among us, at the CEC Effiency Level marked with roman numbers from I to V (V being the highest efficient). A power supply marked with CEC Level V cannot use more power in stand-by than 0.3 W, as opposed to a IV with 0.5 W.

  45. SF_UK says 29 October 2010 at 04:55

    I have two solutions:
    1) get into the habit of turning off (not onto standby!) anything that’s not being used. This includes things like the washing machine and microwave, as well as the TV. It also includes removing chargers that aren’t doing charging. I keep them next to a power strip under a side table, so it’s still easy to charge.
    2) for the computer, I have a gadget that you plug the computer into one socket of, and a power bar into the other. Then all your peripherals go into the power bar. It senses when the computer stops drawing power, and cuts power to the peripherals. So I just shut the computer down, and the monitor, speakers etc don’t get left on.

    I also make sure I only leave lights on in the room I’m actually in, rather than all around the flat.

  46. Money Reasons says 29 October 2010 at 05:04

    After some research, I now turn off my computer nightly. The power strip is a great idea, but not always the most convenient. Nobody like a flashing digitial clock display on the VCR (yeah, we still have one).

    So mainly, to my family… I harp about turing the TV, light and computer off!

    Great post (in mine I used a similar vampire analogy too, it just makes sense… Although really perhaps leeches would make a better analogy)

  47. Chetan says 29 October 2010 at 08:36

    I have removed (physically) the battery in my laptop. Therefore, I HAVE to plug in the laptop every time I use it.

    To conserve the battery, I attach it back to the laptop and charge & use it occasionally.

    This has the following advantages:

    1. No vampire power at all. Laptop shutdown = power shutdown.
    2. The normal life of a battery is about 2 years, mine is 4.5 years old and going strong.

  48. Joe says 29 October 2010 at 11:15

    Alot of devices are designed to have low standby power usage (TVs, receivers, etc.), heck my laptop only draws 10 watts when its ON (idle). But those of us that still use cable/FiOS/whatever, I have yet to see a set top box with low standby power. It drives me CRAZY, I would love to see the process behind some of it. “When they turn off the box, lets not turn off our video processing circuitry, lets just output a black frame.”

    Most STBs I have checked draw 20-30 watts all the time, whether you are watching an HD show with surround sound, or you turned it off. you can power off the box every time, and a smart strip would help you with that, since you could turn on your TV and it would bring the rest of the strip online. but then you get to wait for the cable box to boot, which is a couple of minutes in my experience.

  49. Rene says 29 October 2010 at 12:03

    I leave the lights plugged, leave the alarm clocked plugged in as I need it. I have two TVs, the second one is on a power strip along with an old sewing machine that I use for quilting, these two items are only on when I need them, otherwise, it is off-line when not in use and not drawing power. I unplug my toaster as I don’t use it on a regular basis and I do the same with my dryer, but not with my washer. Plugging the microwave into a powerstrips is a bad idea says my dad the electrician – dangerous for it. I don’t unplug it when not in use for two reason, the outlet is in the cabinet above my head and I need the chair to do it and I do not have the time listed on it, so no power going to it. I have timers and 90% of my lightbulbs are the energy efficent. The 10% are the dimmers, the lights in certain basement areas that are on for less than a minute and other areas that I use to alert me when the phone rings and the light blinks on and off. I do like reading articles about how to save electrical power and reduce your electrical bill. I am $33 month (budget plan) for my area.

  50. jim says 29 October 2010 at 14:56

    Re #44 Edgar from Norway:

    About 60% of US homes use natural gas for heat. 30% use electric and 10% use fuel oil, wood or other stuff. Electricity is often/usually the most expensive heat source in most of America.

    About 80% of homes have air conditioning and we spend about 50% as much on cooling as we do on heat.

  51. Milehimama says 30 October 2010 at 08:40

    We have a couple of outlets in our house that are connected to light switches – turn off the light to turn off a lamp in the room.

    We plugged all of our TV/media into a power strip surge protector, which is plugged into this outlet. So at night I just flip a switch and it turns off the TV, PS3, sound system, and anything else plugged in over there. Much easier than manually unplugging everything. Our desktop is also plugged into a surge protector with a switch – when we’re done for the day we can push the switch and turn off the printer, monitor, CPU, etc. all at once.

  52. mick says 30 October 2010 at 16:22

    #35 SuperT: Bravo! ROFLMAO

    #44 Edgar from Norway: Wow re # of descendants…I didn’t know that. Learn something new every day! And yeah, while we have hot summers and need to kill vamps for the (window unit) AC, us New Yorkers know about how nice and toasty the area around the computer is compared to the rest of the house in winter…we can’t keep the cats off it! Eh, cheaper than a space heater.

    #26 CC: yeah, that’s been our plan too. One outlet per room and none in the bath (as well as the various equations about what appliances you can run together) make vamps a non concern.

    And love to the spelling Nazi #15: I always knew “a muck” was wrong but didn’t know why…thanks for the info!

  53. Edgar says 31 October 2010 at 05:52

    OK, I guess my point is not that valid for most of US. Thanks for the statistics 🙂
    The point is still the same though, and I think there are many people out there who think they are saving money when they in reality are not. And while gas etc are cheaper than electricity per Joule you only save the difference in price.

    I’m still on a campaign aginst this “tip” here in Norway as its cold outside all year around 🙂

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