Are Phantom Loads Adding to Your Electric Bill?

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Sources of Phantom Loads. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Phantom load, also known as standby power or vampire power, is the electricity consumed by an electronic device while it is turned off or in standby mode. It is the power that maintains your TV settings and keeps the clock going on your VCR and microwave, but this power comes at a price. A joint study between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several other environmental agencies around the globe put that price at a full 10% of your monthly energy bill!

Are phantom loads contributing an extra 10% to your energy bill? Refer to this list of common phantoms to find out:

  • TVs
  • VCRs, DVD players and DVRs
  • Cell phone chargers (and any other battery chargers)
  • Clock radios
  • Computers and printers
  • Coffeemakers
  • Power strips
  • Microwave ovens
  • Answering machines
  • Any device with a remote control
  • Any device with a clock
  • Any device that is programmable
  • Any device with a power light or standby indicator light

Have some of these phantoms in your home? If so, here are some simple changes that you can make to eliminate them:

1. Unplug things, like chargers, which continue to draw energy when not in use.

2. Consider leaving your microwave and VCR unplugged until you need it. It'll mean a few less clocks in your life, but that might actually be nice.

3. Plug all of your computer components into a power strip. Then, flip the strip off when you're done using your computer. Do the same for your TV, DVD player and other home entertainment devices.

3. Set your computer to go into sleep mode when it's not in use.

4. Invest in Smart Strip powerstrips, which will automatically cut power to devices that aren't being used.