May 21, 2009

10% electricity wasted by ‘vampire power’ in homes

By
Jim Harris
Magazine Article

By: Jordana Levine

Up to 10 percent of household electricity is wasted in homes around the world. Even when electrical appliances and equipment are not being used, they still draw away power, causing electricity bills to swell and contributing to one percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.[1]

Standby power, also called vampire power, phantom power, or leaking electricity, is the power that is used by anything electronic when it is not switched on.  Although it may seem that an appliance is idle, it usually uses electricity to be prepared for a remote control, show the time on a digital clock or standby light, or, much of the time, do nothing at all.  When something is plugged into the wall, it sucks away power, acting as an “electricity vampire.”

Smart Strip
Smart Strip

Although many products have some sort of indicator to show that they are an electricity vampire, such as a display, remote control, or rechargeable batteries, some are secret suckers.  The only way to tell with those ones is to use a meter to measure the energy they use.

A DVD player can use over 10.5 watts of energy when it is turned off, a garage door opener uses an average of 4.48 watts when it is idle and ready, and a rear-projection television uses nearly 7 watts on average when it is turned off, but it can use up to 48.5 watts, depending on the model.[2]

Each watt used costs an average of $1 US per year for any one of the 28 countries that is a member of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Although this may not seem like a lot, when you take into account the numerous appliances, usually 40 or more, scattered around a household, the cost can be astronomical.[3]

Vampire power can be decreased with common sense, or by using advanced technology. One way is to simply unplug appliances or use a power strip to switch them

off when you aren’t using them.  Unplugging battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged can also be helpful.[4]

Companies have also created a variety of products to stop the vampire load.  The Smart Strip is one example; it’s a power strip that has different outlets to plug your electronics into – some shut down when the appliance is switched off and some stay on all the time, so you can keep the things on that need to be on all the time and let others turn off when they’re not being used.

Watt Stopper is a company with a full line of products including some similar to the Smart Strip, and some that use motion detectors, light detectors, controlled outlets, and other tools. There are products for home and business.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California believes that, although most savings will be very low individually, it is possible to decrease standby power by 75 percent overall.[5]   With new technologies spewing out all over the place, the reduction process should be a lot easier.

1  Energy Analysis Department. “Standby Power: Frequently Asked Questions.”  2009. http://standby.lbl.gov/faq.html
2  International Energy Agency.  “Reducing Standby Power Waste to Less than 1 Watt: A Relevant Global Strategy that Delivers.” 2002.  www.iea.org/textbase/papers/2002/globe02.pdf
3  Ibid.
4  U.S. Department of Energy.  “Energy Savers Tips: Home Office and Home Electronics.”  22 Jan 2009. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/home_office.html
5  Energy Analysis Dept. “Standby Power.”

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