Revenge of the Curse of the Son of the Energy Vampire!

By Vernon Trollinger, October 30, 2012, Energy Efficiency, News

By day, they appear as if dead…But in truth they only sleep…

For by night they awake to feed upon the force that powers the living…

And drive up the cost of your monthly electric bill.

Know them for what they are: energy vampires!

Energy Vampires are real, and you have a stake in eliminating them from your house. They can be anywhere, doing anything —but even though they appear to be switched OFF or “asleep”, they’re still silently sucking electrical power. Computers, printers, TVs, tablets, MP3 players and cell phone chargers —anything that uses a transformer or power brick is “ON” all the time that it’s plugged in. Controlling them can help lower your home’s monthly electric bill.

Power Bricks: Coffins of the Un-OFF

Most older (or cheaper) power bricks (or blocks if they are smaller) never turn off because they use voltage transformers. These are coils using induction to change the voltage from your wall outlet to the lower voltage your gadget uses. Since there is no OFF switch between the coil of wire in the transformer and the plug in the wall, they are ON all the time giving off nothing but heat.

Fortunately, newer power bricks do turn OFF when their controller circuits don’t detect a connection to the gadget they charge or power. However, if a power supply in a gadget includes a clock or can be used by remote control then it still feeds on a trickle of power to be ready for use (standby mode). Take for example, the humble coffee maker. An auto-drip coffee maker that includes a programmable brew-clock with an LED display has a peak energy use of about 900 watts to heat water to make coffee and a slightly less amount to keep it warm for a period of time (assuming it has an automatic shut-off). But even when it’s OFF, it will still draw energy to run its clock. This kind of digital clock uses about 2 volts DC at .01 amps which is equal to about .02 watt. Now, .02 watt isn’t much even after 24 hours (.48 watt hours) and individually, these kind of devices consume a droplet of a kilowatt hour making their detection tricky. Some consumer-grade load detectors won’t reliably detect such a small load. So, over time if you have 10 or more of these gadgets and little appliances, their appetite will eat into your electric bill.

Standby Power & Sleep Mode: Death-like Trance

According to EnergyStar.gov “The average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power devices while they are off (or in standby mode).” Specifically, remote control devices such as TV’s, cable boxes, DVR’s, DVD and VCR players, as well as home theater systems all rely on having circuits powered up and standing by to pick up signals from a remote control whether anyone is in the building ready to use them or not. So they too are ON even when you think they’re OFF.

If you have a computer or game console that you leave in sleep mode instead of turning it off for the night, it’s still using power. For desktop computers and game consoles, that can be up to 83 watts worth per hour. In 24 hours, that’s 1.99 kWh. In a month, that’s 55.72 kWh of energy used just in sleep mode. Depending on how much you pay that’s going to cost you $5 to $6 more on your electric bill.

What can you do when vampire energy sinks its teeth into your electric bill? Simple: if you’re not using something, then turn it off or pull the plug. Unplug battery chargers once their charging job is done. Not only can this save you some money but it can enhance the life of your charger. For computers, turn them off if you won’t be using them for more than one hour. If you leave it ON because it takes too long to boot up, then you either have an older machine or some serious virus problems. Since 2007, most PC’s boot in less than one minute using popular operating systems. What about the sleep mode devices? Control them with a smart power strip. Smart power strips use a master device as a way of controlling other devices. Newer ones monitor energy use and automatically turn off when power usage falls to vampire power levels.

With just a little bit of planning, you can take a bite out of the Energy Vampire feeding frenzy before they bleed you dry.

Happy Halloween.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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