What makes vampires so creepy is that they’re terribly good at earning your trust – right before turning you into dinner. And the vampire living in your home this very second is no different; he just lives in your power lines, quietly draining your home’s efficiency and driving up your electricity bill, month after month. But with our help, you’ll soon learn how to spot him, and be able to stop him from haunting your home ever again.
How the Electric Vampire Sunk His Teeth into Your Power Lines
Ever since humans first harnessed electricity, this vampire has been lingering in our power lines. It’s been called many things over the years – ghost power, phantom load, idle current, stand-by power, leaked electricity – but the truth remains the same, that vampire energy is sapping your home’s efficiency, and your wallet, all the while.
In the past – when generating electricity costed less and humans used fewer electric devices – vampire energy was largely a non-issue for consumers, providers, manufacturers, and regulators alike. But, as we’ve become far more reliant upon our various electronics, both a country and a people, for purposes beyond lighting our homes, cooling our air, and heating our water, the problem has grown exponentially.
“The United States consumes 26% of the world’s energy, and of that energy, approximately 5% is lost to vampire energy.”
Other hard-wired and plugged-in electrical devices – such as TVs and speaker systems for the living room, microwaves and toaster ovens in the kitchen, hair dryers and electric hot tubs in the bathroom, and other home appliances like security systems and ceiling fans – produce what engineers like to call Miscellaneous Electric Loads (MELs). And when all these various devices and appliances are not actively being used, and are thus sitting in stand-by mode, they’re still consuming electricity as vampire energy. Nonetheless, while many folks focus on their larger appliances like refrigerators, central cooling, or water heaters, they often ignore or forget the MELs when increasing whole-house efficiency.
Granted, while your electric toothbrush may not put that much strain on your power bill all by itself, the larger pull of all your collected devices is far more troubling. Overall, the United States consumes 26% of the world’s energy, and of that energy, approximately 5% is lost to vampire energy. (With that amount of wasted electricity, we could literally power the entire country of Italy for a year.) And in the United States alone, vampire energy costs consumers more than $3 billion a year altogether. But with just a little bit of knowledge, and by being proactive, you can stop this siphoning specter from stealing so much power from you and start saving on your electricity.
3 Silver Bullets for the Energy Vampire Lurking in Your Home
Let’s start with some scary math. In 2014, the typical home in the United States consumed an average of 10,932 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity courtesy of sleep-eating electronic devices and electric appliances. And although the power needed for their stand-by functions (such as displays, indicators, and remote-control capabilities) is relatively small, the enormous amount of vampire energy collectively consumed by such devices resulted in 22% of all appliance energy consumption and 10% of the total residential energy consumption across the entire United States.
As a result, vampire energy costs the average American home more than $200 a year. (You can even easily estimate the cost of your home’s own MEL waste by using this Vampire Energy Calculator.) But you can save yourself this cost, and at least 10% more on your electricity statement every month, just by implementing these simple changes – and you’ll soon quit paying to feed the vampire energy you’ll never use.
- Buy a power strip or surge protector with a single on/off switch.
Not only does this little gadget increase the number of available outlets in your home and protect your devices from power surges, but it also makes killing the energy vampire super easy. Simply plug as many devices as you can into the power strip, and whenever you’re not using that cluster of devices, just flip the switch built into the strip and begin multiplying your power conservation in a matter of seconds. (And, as an added bonus, these power strips also cut down on the potential hazard of electrical fires, as far few devices in your home are even using electricity at any given time.)
- Unplug those non-essential devices when you go on a trip.
Just like you turn off the lights and the air conditioner when you go on vacation, walk around the house and do the same for all your devices before you depart. Sure, leave the fridge plugged in for the sake of fresh food; but the toaster, TV, and video game consoles can all take a rest without doing any harm to your home.
- Get green gadgets.
Ironically enough, over the lifetimes of many microwaves and televisions, these devices actually consume more electricity during the hours they’re not in use than in the times you’re using them to heat up dinners and watch your favorite shows. So, whenever it comes time to replace these appliances, do so with more efficient ones to mitigate this waste. By purchasing quality, energy-saving products, as indicated by an Energy Star certification, these devices are guaranteed to meet certain low-energy consumption criteria, and to save you money in all kinds of ways, including cutting down on stand-by power consumption.
Overall, while it may not seem like much more than a trickle of your own vampire energy slipping away, you’re still losing money, and when your trickle combines with every other trickle across the country, they combine to make one gushing river of waste. Just remember that all of these efforts – all together – will not only net you a bunch of savings on your electricity and reduce your amount of wasted power, but they will also help to decrease our country’s carbon footprint, and diminish the appetite of the vampire in the power lines.