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Vampires And Phantoms And Warts – Oh My! – A Guide Down The Yellow Brick Road

Contributed by  Margie Campaigne, Sustainability Educator.

Who doesn’t want to pay less to their utility company and keep more money for themselves? I certainly do. For those interested in saving the 5% to 30% of their electric bill that is simply wasted on powering electronics when not in use, this is for you.

Phantom and Vampire power goes by a few other names too. (By the way, a “wart” is the name used for devices that recharge your cells phones, etc. They do need to be unplugged when not in use.) Basically phantom or vampire power is the power used for electronics that have an “instant on” feature, or internal and external clocks. Even when you turn them OFF, they are still partially ON. One very simple way to prevent your computer and peripherals, your entertainment center, and so on, from drawing power when not in use is to plug them all into a power strip or surge protector – then they can be turned totally off all at once, with one switch.

Some people have been lead to believe that every appliance must be unplugged in order to avoid this drain, but that is not the case. Not every appliance has electronic components or clocks. For instance, many of your kitchen countertop appliances such as toasters, mixers, slow cookers, and blenders are really off when not in use.

To prove this to myself and others, I used a Kill-A-Watt meter to test all of my kitchen countertop appliances. The KAW meter can be programmed to show the amount of electricity being used in watts, amps, and so on. Every single kitchen appliance on my countertop tested out at using NO electricity when not turned on. The only exception was a coffee maker that has a clock built in.

Whenever you need to replace any older appliance, be sure to shop for one that is Energy Star rated. They have been engineered to use less energy than their older and non-rated cousins. Several years ago, after an energy audit, I used available grant and loan money to replace my old furnace and a couple of older appliances with Energy Star models (washer and refrigerator). I kept track of my energy use over the next year and compared it to the year previous to the upgrades. My electric bill dropped 44%!

In summary, do use power strips or surge protectors to turn your electronics off completely. Don’t worry about unplugging most of your kitchen countertop appliances, as when they are off, they’re off! Why not keep track of your savings and share your results?


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