Vampire Energy: What is It, How Much is Lost Annually &
What Can You Do to Stop It
Vampire energy could be nickel-and-diming you into the poor house, while continuously sucking up the planet’s natural resources at a disturbing rate. This energy waste, dubbed vampire energy, comes from everyday appliances like your TV, microwave, VCR and video game player, and it happens while they’re turned off.
A TV with a remote may use more energy during the 20 hours it is turned off than it does for the four hours you watch it in the evening, according to the Department of Energy.
“Vampire energy loss” from appliances in passive mode (the clock on your microwave) or standby mode (your VCR scheduled to record something) account for 5-8 percent of your home’s total electricity usage per year, according to the Department of Energy, which is equal to about one month’s electricity bill — for every household in the United States.
Add that all up, and you get about 68 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity wasted a year. That amounts to the electricity generated by 37 power plants, at the expense of over 97 billion pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
“When a consumer thinks the device is off, it should be using as little power as possible,” said Alan Meier of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in a Salon.com article. “But in their haste to get products onto the market, manufacturers don’t make those modest design improvements, and we, the consumers, pay the price in unnecessarily high standby power use.”
That tiny clock on your coffee pot is a classic example of something that uses vampire energy. To save money and natural resources, unplug it when you’re not using it.
Vampire Energy Costs Billions
The average VCR in standby mode costs you over $10 a year. Your cordless phone base station just over $3. Taken alone, that doesn’t sound particularly alarming, but it adds up. A plasma TV costs nearly $160 a year, just to run it in standby mode. Your computer? About $34. And your game console around $26.
According to the latest estimates, about 5 percent of the electricity used in the United States goes to standby power, and costs the United States about $4 billion a year. This percentage, however, is on the rise, and it could increase by as much as 20 percent every two or more years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
What Can You Do?
Fortunately, how much vampire energy you allow to be sucked from your home is largely within your control. Here are the top tips to stop vampire energy from costing you money, and wasting electricity:
- Unplug appliances directly from the wall when you’re not using them. If you have several in one area (such as a computer, printer and fax machine) attach them to a power strip and then simply turn off the power switch.
- If you’re not going to be using your computer for a while, but you don’t want to shut it down, turn off the monitor. This will save much more energy than using a screensaver (screensavers alone can cost you up to $100 a year).
- Reduce the brightness on your TV and computer screens by half. This can reduce their energy usage by 30 percent.
- Turn off lights whenever you’re not using them, and use natural light as much as possible during the day.
- Unplug phone, toothbrush, PDA and portable tool chargers from the wall when you’re not using them.
- When purchasing appliances like a refrigerator or dishwasher, look for the EnergyStar label. These appliances can sometimes use half as much energy as other appliances.