By Gene Wang, People Power
Did you know that the average household has 25 electronic devices plugged in at any given time? But many of these devices aren’t used daily, and are left plugged in. I challenge you to take a quick tour of your home to take an inventory of devices currently connected to an outlet. I’ll wait….
Many of the electronics you just spotted are vampires. Not the blood sucking kind, but the energy sucking variety. Vampire energy, also known as standby power, is the electric power consumed by many consumer electronic devices when they are switched off but still plugged in, and that wasted electricity is costing you a lot of money! According to the EPA, idle gadgets suck up to $10 billion in energy annually.
In order to help you cut back on energy use (and bring down that pesky monthly electricity bill), I’ve put together this handy room-by-room guide to energy vampires along with some suggestions on how to avoid using standby power without unplugging every electronic in your home.
Your kitchen is full of vampires, but thankfully they are pretty easy to identify. Most appliances with a digital clock are constantly sucking power in order to keep the time up to date. Coffee makers, microwaves, and ovens are all common culprits. Even though it seems counterintuitive, your microwave actually consumes more electricity powering its digital clock than it does heating food. Heating food requires 100 times more power than running the clock, but when you add up all the time it spends in “standby” mode, the clock ends up costing you more.
Since unplugging individual appliances after each use can be a real hassle — when you’re ready to eat your lunch, you’re ready! — you might consider grouping your energy vampires together and plugging them into a power strip with an on/off switch. This is an inexpensive and easy solution — simply turn the power strip on and all your appliances (coffee maker, microwave) are ready to go!
Another tip: When it comes time to replace large appliances, like your refrigerator or dryer, look for low standby products that are Energy-Star certified.
The Living Room
Unfortunately, the place where most people gather to socialize in your home is also the biggest consumer of vampire energy, assuming this is also where your home entertainment system is located. TVs, the cable box, game consoles, stereos and DVD players are all huge consumers of standby power. Your plasma TV can suck up over 1,400 kilowatt hours annually, adding up to as much as $150 every year, and cable boxes use about 500 kilowatt hours per year. Americans spend about $2 billion each year on the standby power consumed by cable boxes. I can think of much better ways to spend that kind of cash.
You can easily group these appliances together on a power strip like you did in the kitchen. However, if you record TV shows with your DVR, you may need a different solution. (I don’t want you blaming me when Scandal doesn’t get recorded!) Smart power plugs like Monster Central Power Controls can detect how much electricity your electronics are consuming and can be set to turn off automatically each night, then turn back on every morning. This will help you save money and energy when no one is using the entertainment center and will ensure you never miss your favorite programs.
Laser printers consume a surprising amount of power, mostly because they are in constant standby mode waiting for you to hit the print button. Desktop computers and laptops are also consuming standby power.
You can change the settings on your computer so that the hibernate features are enabled in both battery and power adapter settings. And unlike years ago when you were told it required a lot of power to shut down your computer every night, consider powering down before you go to bed. When your laptop is finished charging, unplug the charger from the wall so it isn’t continually draining power.
Look out for alarm clocks (remember, anything with a LED display is a vampire), cell phone and other electronic chargers, as well as space heaters and air conditioning units in your bedrooms. You probably need the alarm clock in your own bedroom, but if you have one in your guest room, you might want to leave it unplugged until Aunt Mildred visits. The same goes for rarely used TVs, game consoles, DVD players and other electronics in less frequented bedrooms in your home.
When your chargers aren’t in use, either unplug them or turn the power strip they are connected to off. There are apps and products available that will allow you to remotely control appliances like your air conditioning unit so that you don’t have to leave it running all day. Using an app and smart plugs, you can tell your air conditioner to turn off when you get in the car to go to work in the morning and turn on you’re on the way home from work.
One thing you don’t need to worry about in your bedroom is lamps, which actually use very little vampire power. You can leave those plugged in without having to worry about their effect on your pocket.
For the safety of your home, it is best to unplug things like hair dryers, straighteners and curling irons when you aren’t using them. The bathroom is also a great place to use a timed power switch. The timer will help you save money and energy and will protect your home in case you forget to unplug your hair dryer in the morning.
Also, remember to unplug your electric toothbrush chargers and electric razors once they are fully charged.
If you have an electric hot water heater, it’s sucking down a ton of vampire power too! Be sure to wash your hands with cold water, do your laundry with cold water and take fast showers. These hot water saving habits alone will keep you from losing hundreds of dollars every year down the drain.
I bet you didn’t think there would be vampires hanging out in your garage! All the handy men and women out there should remember to unplug their power tools when they aren’t in use — think drills, saws and electric screwdrivers.
That electric car should stay plugged in, though, unless you plan on biking to work in the morning.
Now that we’ve taken a virtual tour of your home, here is a quick recap of the tips for battling the energy vampires in your home:
- Unplugging everything is unrealistic – use power strips with on/off switches to easily turn groups of electronics off when not in use
- Unplug devices when they are fully charged
- Unplug devices you don’t use daily
- Invest in smart plugs that allow you control your bigger appliances remotely from your smart device – putting you in control of your energy use, even when you aren’t around
And here’s to lower monthly electric bills! Take that, Count Dracula!
Gene Wang is CEO and co-founder of People Power, an award-winning software company enabling remote control and management of connected devices from your smart phone. People Power’s groundbreaking smartphone app, Presence, transforms spare iPhones, iPads, and iPods into wireless video cameras with motion detection video alerts for free home monitoring. Presence expands to control smart plugs to manage power, robotic stands so you can look around while remote, and other sensors to improve safety, convenience and save you money. People Power’s mobile-and-cloud Internet of Everything Platform enables service providers and manufacturers to deliver smart home solutions to improve security, energy management and home automation.
Gene likes to record and play music and is happily married with three great children and a bad dog.