The Phantom of the Electric Bill

The phenomenon known as “phantom electricity” is the continuous sucking of power from everything you leave plugged in – and it’s a big deal, accounting for roughly four billion*, yes BILLION dollars spent annually by residential America. The biggest energy vampires? Television and audio equipment, computers, and large appliances.  

How do you fight back? Simply being cognizant of phantom energy is half the battle. The other half is figuring out what to do about it. The simplest solution is to unplug everything (yes, everything) when you’re not using it: phone chargers, computers, media equipment, lamps and appliances.

Keep in mind; I said “simplest,” not easiest solution.  The easiest is to buy some smart power strips – those extension cord-looking things with several plug-in slots and convenient on/off toggle switches. By using these you can easily plug in everything from one area in your house (say your DVR, DVD player, TV, receiver, speakers, etc.) and simply flip the switch to “off” when everything is powered down. That’ll stop most of the insidious energy-sucking.

More simple ways to stop power bleeding

  1. If you’re not using a power strip, at least put your computer on hibernate mode when not in use.
  2. Disable “quick start” mode on blu-ray players. 
  3. Unplug things you’re not constantly using, like coffee makers, toasters and other small appliances. 
  4. Disconnect your cell phone, Bluetooth, tablet and other chargers once they’re powered up. 
  5. Buy appliances with the Energy Star® rating – they’re designed to use less energy, thus reducing phantom use.

 To learn more about phantom electric use, I’ve included some handy links below.

Phantom Load – a white paper by Student Sustainability Education Coordinators at University of California, Berkeley

Energy Reduction – from the U.S. Department of Energy

Standby Power FAQ  – from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory