How To Prevent Phantom Loads In Your Home

Sign with beware of phantom loads

You are energy responsible, right? You turn off the lights, tell the kids to keep the doors closed when the AC is on, and bought energy star appliances. But… you never seem to have lower electric bills. The problem is, monitoring your electricity use can only go so far. No matter how careful you are, there are energy suckers in your home drawing power continually, whether on or off. Here is the scary truth for most appliances – as long as it is plugged-in, it is in “stand-by mode” and drawing power. In fact, the difference between the power used when a device is being used and when it is “off,” for many devices can be minimal. Having an awareness of how your appliances are affecting your bill when you aren’t using them can boost your savings and allow you to properly budget.

Phantom loads are loads produced from your electrical appliances when they are on standby or in idle mode. Also known as vampire loads, phantom loads are the result of the convenience factor built into most electronics. For instance, when you press the power button on your remote you expect the TV to turn on. Well, what allows this to happen is that the TV is never really off. It is, instead, in standby, waiting for a command from the remote. 

Now you may be thinking that it’s worth a few extra bucks for features that probably make your life easier. But you may want to think again. According to the US Department of Energy, about 75% of the power used by household electronics is “phantom” (power used when it is turned off). That means that if it costs you $100 to run your desktop computer for the year, $75 of that has nothing to do with actually running the computer. Now, take that number and multiply it by every appliance in your home. For a little convenience, that’s a lot to pay!

Appliances you can Prevent Phantom Loads

Here’s a list of common household appliances and how much power they use while on stand-by monthly:

  1. Televisions: 48.5 W
  2. DVD Player 7.54 W
  3. Printer: 1.58 W
  4. Air Conditioner: 1W
  5. Furnace: 4.8 W
  6. Gaming Console: 63.74 W 
  7. Coffee Maker: 2.7 W
  8. Desktop Computer: 21.13 W
  9. DVR & Cable Box: 43.61 W
  10. Satellite TV Box: 33.6 W. etc
  11. Internet Modem: 6.25W
  12. Microwave: 3.08W
  13. Laptop: 15.77W

Now, let’s think about this for a second. Based on these numbers, a home with 2 TVs, a desktop, 2 laptops, printer, cable box, internet modem and router, coffee maker and microwave would be wasting about 150 kWh monthly. If this home fixed its phantom load problem they could be saving $432/year.

Ready to tackle phantom loads head on? Here’s how.

  1. Assess the Problem: This can be done with a Kill-a-Watt meter. You can find one of these on Amazon, but if you just want an idea of how your appliances perform you can borrow one from your local library. This little device is plugged in between your appliance and the outlet and gives a reading of how much the appliance is using. Check the usage when actively using the appliance, and again when the appliance is not in use. Pay special attention to big offenders like computers, internet modems, cable boxes, and gaming consoles. Another way to check is to simply go out to your utility meter and take note of the current meter reading. Then tomorrow run things as you have been and check the meter again. The difference between your first reading and the second gives you how much power you used for the day. Next, make a conscious effort to unplug any electronics when you are not actively using them. Check the meter again at the end of the day. The difference between your daily readings will tell you how many kWh you are wasting daily from phantom loads.
  2. If you aren’t using it, unplug it: The issue of phantom loads can be easily eliminated with one simple action. If you aren’t using it, unplug it. With the exception of electronics that do not work properly when constantly unplugged (i.e. nobody wants to constantly reset their clock every morning or go through the hassle of plugging in the stove to make a pot of tea) simply unplug what’s not in use. Desktops and microwaves and TVs. Only plugging things in when you need them go a long way. Also, unplugging battery powered electronics when not in use or charging will extend your battery life. Simply unplugging your cable box, internet modem and wi-fi router can save you hundreds. When everyone goes to bed and these appliances aren’t in use is the perfect opportunity to save money.
  3. Use power strips: Use power strips to plug all connected devices into the same outlet. This makes it easier to unplug everything at once. Also, there are many brands that offer programmable power strips that can be customized to your usage needs.
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Certified Ghostbuster

Hey there ghostbuster, now you know how to chase away those scary phantoms and save your family a few bucks.  You can now prevent those annoying phantom loads from stealing your hard earned cash and while doing so, you may become a little more energy conscious. We all have a part to play in creating an efficient and sustainable future, so let’s leave the ghosts in the past!



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