Even when you turn off your electronics, they could still be wasting electricity. When you press the off switch, many electronics — like televisions, DVRs and satellite boxes– go into standby mode.
During standby mode, electronics don’t turn off completely. They perform updates, record your favorite shows and generally just wait for you to come back, sucking up energy as they do. This is called standby power or phantom load. The energy lost is called vampire energy or leaking energy.
According to the US Department of Energy, your electricity wasters account for 10 percent or more of your electricity bill.
It would explain how my colleague Jason Cipriani ended up saving $840 per year on his electricity bill.
Televisions, DVRs and satellite boxes aren’t the only energy users. Chances are, you have several chargers around your home and they stay plugged in 24/7. Phone chargers use around 0.26 watt of energy per day when plugged in, but not in use. A laptop charger also wastes energy, using 4.42 watts when not in use and 29.48 watts with a fully charged laptop plugged into it.
Test your home for excess energy usage
Want to see if your home is affected by leaking energy? Turn off your AC or heating unit and your hot water heater. Now, turn off everything in your home, but leave it all plugged in.
Then, go look at the electric meter box that’s typically located on the side of your home. Are the numbers still going up? If they are, that means that your devices are still sucking electricity.
How to kill vampire waste
The most obvious way to stop energy leaks is by unplugging everything when you aren’t using it. But this can be a huge pain, especially when you use various items throughout the day or the outlets are behind heavy furniture.
One way to make things a little easier is by using power strips. Whenever you aren’t using your devices, flip the switch on the power strip to cut off all power to your devices so that they can’t go into standby. Some power strips even come with remotes so you can shut off power from across the room, like the Conserve Switch AV Surge Protector or the Uninex Surge Protector.
Smart power strips take this idea a step further. They have outlets that are meant for different types of devices. Some of the outlets are designated for items that need to stay on all the time, like your DVR. Other outlets are for items that go into standby mode or use energy, but don’t need to be on. When you shut off a device or disconnect your device from its charger, the power strip senses it and will shut off all power to the device.
Another option is programmable outlets, like the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch and Quirky Pivot Power Genius. These plug into your regular outlet and have an app you can use to schedule your devices to shut off remotely.
Replace energy-hogging appliances
In some cases you might decide that replacing a device or appliance is the best solution. For instance, Jason found that his old secondary refrigerator cost him $40 per month, enough to justify a more energy-efficient replacement.
Should you replace your appliances? Here are some articles that can help you decide:
Editors’ note: This article was published on June 6, 2016, and has been updated.