Standby power, also known as phantom load or vampire power, is the energy used by electric appliances even when they're switched off. According to most experts, standby power represents about 10 percent of an average home's energy use -- or more than a full month of electricity each year.
But to fight these vampires and phantoms, garlic, crosses and silver bullets are useless: Only the tips below will help you save energy by driving a stake through the heart of these energy monsters.
Standby Power: What's Watt?
Standby power isn't obvious, which is part of its stealthy nature. You'll have to make a little effort to figure out which of your home's appliances uses energy even when off. Any device that uses a remote control, like your TV or DVD player, uses standby power to determine when the remote sends a signal.
Similarly, any appliance with a clock (like your microwave and coffee maker), a digital readout, or a light is sucking up energy when off. Most TVs and computer monitors today are engineered to reboot quickly when turned on, but they do that by remaining in "standby mode" all the time. Finally, any rechargers that stay warm even when they're doing nothing, like most electric toothbrushes and phone rechargers, are also running up your electric bill.
Smart Power Strips
Ordinary power strips and surge protectors make it easy to waste energy. Fight back by using power strips with an "OFF" switch, and then switching the entire strip off when you're done with the devices that are plugged into it. Go one step further by using "smart" power strips. Some of these have a built-in timer, while others operate by motion sensing or electric-current sensing. Most electronic retailers carry smart power strips, but ask your electric company first: Some sell them at a steep discount to their customers.
Turn Off the Monitor
Your computer monitor
uses a tremendous amount of energy over the course of a year, and much of that is wasted. One very simple solution: Turn off the monitor when you're done computing, and wait an extra 5 seconds for the monitor to reboot when you start up again. Seriously, you won't miss those 5 seconds. And screen savers? No, they don't reduce energy use much. Again, just switch off the monitor.
Unplug Your Rechargers
All of us are guilty of this: We keep our cell phones and other electronics in a constant state of readiness by keeping their rechargers plugged in 24/7/365. Most rechargers, however, draw power even when they're not recharging anything. Plug your recharger in only when it's needed, and the energy savings will add up.
Use Energy Star Appliances
Regardless of how carefully you manage your appliances, it's always smarter to start with appliances that use less energy to begin with. That's where the U.S. government's Energy Star
program comes in, certifying appliances that are designed to be energy savers. Since the program started, it has saved about $18 million in electricity bills each year -- some of those savings could be yours.
The 1-Watt Initiative
was started by the International Energy Agency in 1999 to lower the use of standby power to not more than one watt by 2010, and not more than 0.5 watts by 2013. Dozens of countries have joined forces to implement this smart energy-saving plan: In 2001, President George W. Bush issued an executive order stating that every U.S. government agency must purchase electronic products that use no more than one watt when in standby power mode.