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Uncover the Energy Vampires in Your Home

energy vampires

Vampires likely are lurking in your home, but holy water and garlic will do nothing to save you from them.

We’re talking about energy vampires, the appliances and electronics that drain electricity when they are plugged in, but not actively in use.

Think about your furnace during the summer, for instance, or your TV when it’s not switched on. Even your coffee pot and alarm clock could be culprits. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that households have between 20 and 40 devices in their homes that are draining energy.

In fact, the energy department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says that these phantom power drainers total about 5 percent to 10 percent of residential electricity use in most developed countries. Those numbers likely are growing as we rely more on electronics and gadgets.

What’s the hit to our pocketbooks? Energy vampires cost electricity consumers more than $3 billion a year, according to Duke Energy. That’s $100 per year for the average U.S. household.

But there’s some good news. Experts say that we can turn many of these energy vampires out of our homes. They say it’s possible to reduce this standby power by as much as 75 percent.

How? Here are some tips.

Know what to look for

The energy department laboratory says there are plenty of clues to help you discover the energy vampires in your home. Offenders include devices that use a remote control, have an external power supply, include a digital display, contain a battery charger or have a soft-touch keypad.

Duke Energy recommends that that you also look for “wall warts” and “bricks.” Wall warts, it says, are chargers and other devices that have a large plug. Bricks are those big black boxes that you’ll find at the end of cords for laptops or cable TV equipment.

Start banishing them from your home

The lab offers these tips for cutting off these energy drainers.

  • Unplug appliances that you don’t use often. They recommend the TV or VCR in a guest room. You also could unplug your coffee maker after you use it in the morning or your computer printer if you print only occasionally.
  • Use a power strip with a switch to control clusters of products. These can cost about $20 and allow you to cut power to specific devices with one click. The energy department lab recommends targeting clusters of computer devices, such as a PC and scanner; video equipment, such as a DVD player and TV; and audio pieces, such as CD players and receivers.
  • Buy products that don’t suck up much electricity when they’re not in use. The lab notes that this is tough to do as most products do not list their vampire energy use. But, it says, most Energy Star products use lower amounts.
  • Let it sleep. Putting some items in sleep mode, often available in computers, will help save energy over time, Duke Energy says.

The lab has one word of warning: Be mindful about what you unplug. The charge in many re-chargeable products is lost over time. Before you need to use something that you’ve unplugged, check to make sure it’s charged up.

Wondering how much energy vampires are costing your family? Duke Energy has a handy calculator so you can find out.

Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today!

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