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Are You Living with Power Vampires?

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Are You Living with Power Vampires?

Get rid of those suckers!
Chris  Prelitz
Chris Prelitz More by this author
Feb 18, 2010 at 09:00 AM

Are you living with power vampires? Also called phantom loads, power vampires come from electrical devices that suck electricity even when we think they’re turned off. Video recorders, coffeemakers, computers, printers, television sets, and wall warts (AC adaptors) are the biggest suckers. As stated in the article “Energy Savers the Real Stars,” published by The Christchurch Press: “The consumption of hidden power vampires in the U.S. is said to equal the electricity output of 17 nuclear power plants.”

Here are a number of ways to stop power vampires. Choose whichever method is easiest for you to use and you’ll stand a much better chance of closing your phantom leaks.

  1. Unplug wall warts. The easy way to tell if a wall wart or power cube is sucking hidden power is to touch it. If it’s warm to the touch, it’s using electricity 24/7, just like a leaky faucet drips water down the drain. Some items, such as cordless vacuums and razors, can simply be unplugged when you’re not using them.
  2. Use switched plugs. Many rooms, especially in older homes, have an electrical outlet controlled by a switch (usually at the room entrance). Run an extension cord or power strip (that you can hide behind furniture) and plug all your appliances and wall cubes into that switched plug. When you’re not using the equipment, turn it off at the wall switch. A lamp plugged in to that same plug (with a CFL or LED bulb, of course) will be a visual reminder when your power is on.
  3. Pick up some power strips. Plug your appliances into an easily accessible power strip and simply shut off the strip when you don’t need those items. This tends to work better in the garage or an industrial or loft space where aesthetics aren’t an issue.
  4. Check out a smart strip. Basically a power strip with a little brain, the smart strip knows when you’ve shut down an appliance and cuts power to everything in the strip. These are great for computers and printers. Some even come with different colored sockets that let you keep one or two items “hot” (such as a Wi-Fi router).
  5. Monitor your power with a watt saver. If you really want to know what that avocado green fridge in the garage is costing you each month, pick up a wattmeter. For about $30, this gadget plugs in between your appliance and the outlet. The wattmeter can tell you if your appliance has a phantom load, the monthly kilowatt use, and it will even convert that to dollars and cents. See
About Author
Chris  Prelitz
Chris Prelitz is the son of an ocean and aerospace engineer father and a mother of Native American descent who grew up on a rural farm. Raised in the midst of these two extreme views of life provided Chris with an appreciation for both high-tech and Continue reading