Beware the Vampire: What You May Not Know About Standby Power

There's a vampire in your home, and it may be bleeding you for hundreds of dollars a year. Standby power, also known as vampire power, refers to the electricity consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in standby mode.

According to the US Department of Energy, many appliances continue to draw roughly 10 to 15 watts per device even when they are switched off. These "phantom" loads occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as DVD players, VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances. In the average home as much as 75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off, with the worst offenders being plasma TV's, desktop computers, and video game consoles.

Although the power needed for functions like displays, indicators, and remote control functions is relatively small, the number of such devices in the average household added with the fact that theses devices are continuously plugged in means that the energy usage can reach to nearly 10 percent of total residential consumption. Altogether, standby power use is responsible for roughly 1% of global CO2 emissions.

So, how can you identify products that draw standby power? Almost any product with an external power supply, remote control, continuous display (including an LED), or battery charger will draw power continuously. So, consider using a switchable power strip for groups of computer or video equipment. That way you can switch everything to zero usage with one flip of a switch. And if you aren't frequently using a device, just unplug it.

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