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Unplugging electricity wasting devices can yield energy, money savings

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Typical American homes pay about 10% of their electrical bill for “standby power” – electricity used by devices that are switched off or not performing their primary functions.

The founder and author of an independent personal finance site recommends using an energy monitor to assess consumption for various devices and appliances in homes and offices. On his test, G.E. Miller used the readouts to save 22% on his electric bill.

In a report on his site, “20somethingfinance,” Miller cites data from the U.S. Department of Energy indicating 75% of appliance energy use comes from when the appliance is turned off. “Not only is this a horrible waste of money, but it leads to massive carbon emissions that threaten our planet,” he commented.

Miller’s blog also referenced research on standby power by the Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory managed by the University of California. Findings reveal “in many cases, disturbingly, the amount of energy used when ‘off’ is close to the amount of energy used when ‘on’.”

Also known as vampire power, vampire load, phantom load, or electricity leaking, the most common standby electrical power culprits include several remote ready appliances such as video game consoles, which use 63.74 W when in off, but ready mode, a notebook computer (73 W when turned on), the average LCD computer monitor (55 W), and TVs (48.5 W).

The report also lists several appliances in the “non-remote” category that waste electricity. Those “leaches,” as Miller calls them, include wireless phones, clocks, cable modems, and microwaves with clocks.

A third category, “not so obvious phantom load menaces,” includes appliances one wouldn’t really expect to be using electricity while turned off and not even charging. Among these energy eaters are furnaces, air conditioners, a plugged in, but not charging laptop, desktop computer in sleep mode, computer LCD monitor, computer stereo speakers, fax machine, ink jet printer, coffee maker, surge protector, and cell phone charger.

To stop electrical leaking, Miller had three recommendations:

  1. Invest in an energy monitor. He used the Kill-a-Watt energy monitor, available on Amazon for under $40. The device enables monitoring usage by day, week, month or year. It counts consumption by the kilowatt-hour and calculates electricity expenses. With the readings, users can figure out the corresponding cost for each item and decide whether to keep it plugged in and in on or off mode.
  2. Use a control surge protector to control if TV peripherals are getting electricity. If the TV is off, it shuts down standby power to the other outlets so they aren’t draining energy while the TV is off. He suggests using the power strip in the office (for computer, monitor, speakers, modem, phone, printer, etc.); the entertainment center (TV, stereo, DVD, DVD/Blu-Ray, cable box, video game console, etc.); and the kitchen (coffee maker, microwave, toaster oven, range, etc.)
  3. Unplug devices when they are not in use.

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