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Question of the Week: What are your energy vampires?

2008 October 27

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Vampires could be lurking the shadows of your home. Energy vampires continuously suck energy from electrical outlets and unnecessarily waste energy. These vampires won’t drain your blood; they’ll drain your pockets! Energy vampires cost Americans almost $10 billion a year, and account for almost 11 percent of all U.S. energy use!

Energy vampires are the electronics, adapters, and appliances with fangs in your outlet, sucking power even when apparently not in use or “off.” For example, a TV always uses a little power so it can always receive the “on” signal from the remote control. Adapters, too, use power even when not plugged into their device. You can easily check your home for energy vampires using your power meter. Turn everything off as you normally do, as if you were leaving for the day – but don’t unplug anything you don’t normally unplug. Now, look at your power meter. What do you have for vampires sucking energy from your home?

What are your energy vampires?

(en español)

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Podrían haber vampiros al asecho en las penumbras de su hogar. Los vampiros de energía continuamente chupan energía de los interruptores eléctricos y malgastan innecesariamente la energía. Estos vampiros no le chupan la sangre. Al contrario, ¡están vaciando sus bolsillos! Los vampiros de energía cuestan a los estadounidenses alrededor de $10 mil millones cada año lo cual representa cerca del 11 por ciento de toda la energia usada en EE.UU.!

Los vampiros de energía son los efectos electrónicos, adaptadores, enseres eléctricos cuyos colmillos clavan al interruptor y chupan la energía aún cuando aparentemente estos aparatos no están en uso o está apagado (“off”). Por ejemplo, un televisor siempre usa un poco de energía para que pueda recibir la señal de “on” del control remoto. Los adaptadores también usan energía aún cuando no se le haya enchufado el efecto electrónico. Usted puede verificar si hay vampiros de energía en su hogar utilizando un medidor de energía. Apague todo como normalmente hace como si fuera estar fuera de la casa por todo el día, pero no desenchufe nada. Entonces mire su medidor de energía. ¿Cuáles son algunos de los vampiros que están chupando la energía de su hogar?

¿Qué son los vampiros de energía?

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

31 Responses leave one →
  1. Utah Chris permalink
    October 27, 2008

    First? Cell phone chargers left in 24/7.

  2. Power Ranger permalink
    October 27, 2008

    This is interesting. However, you left out the main issue: how to minimize the drain. Knowing that not all appliances have easily accessible plugs or power receptacles, what is a good way to avoid the energy “sucking.”

  3. Jim Adcock permalink
    October 27, 2008

    Some “wall warts” are energy vampires, so aren’t. How can you tell? Well, when nothing has been attached to the wall wart for a couple hours, say your cell phone hasn’t been charging, then touch the wall wart and see if it feels warm or not. If it feels warm then it is wasting energy doing nothing. If it feels cool then it is not wasting electricity. Wall warts always feel warm when they are doing useful work — like charging your cellphone — that is not the issue. The issue is if they continue to waste energy when they are not doing useful work. Some wall warts waste energy, some don’t — know your warts! Likewise is that TV or cable TV box wasting energy when you are not using it? Touch it, especially around any vent holes and see if it feels warm, or if it has any fans running to blow the warm air out of it. If it feels warm when you haven’t used it for a couple hours then it is wasting energy. If it doesn’t feel warm, then it isn’t wasting any energy. Some electronic devices waste energy, some don’t — know your toys!

  4. Stephanie permalink
    October 27, 2008

    biggest is the tv and all the electronics. we have TiVo that must be left on/standby all the time for it to work properly. I fight my husband to turn off the computer at night and he gets mad when I unplug stuff we’re not using like the ipod home.

  5. Green Irene permalink
    October 27, 2008

    There are quite a few “energy vampires” out there – and they are rapidly increasing in our homes.
    Consumer electronics, for example, play an increasingly large role in home energy consumption, accounting for about 5 percent of energy use. Believe it or not, about 40 percent of that electricity is consumed while the products are turned off.
    Power adaptors, or “wall warts”, are those clunky black things you find on many electrical cords. You’ll notice that they stay warm even when their device is turned off. This is because they draw energy from the wall all the time. These devices can account for 5-20% of total home power consumption. In some homes they even exceed the traditional highest energy user, the fridge. Power vampires are the fastest growing power users in our residences.
    You can decrease the amount of electricity you waste. A couple of Green Irene’s recommendations are below:
    1. Consider owning a Kill-A-Watt meter to see what it costs to run various appliances per year. It’s also great for use with old appliances, which are costing more than you might think, or other high energy use items like aquariums, torchiers or light based art. Testing things with the Kill-A-Watt can become addictive.
    2. Plug your adapters and other electronics into power strips and turn off the power strip when you are not using the devices. Some power strips even have remote switches you can put on your wall so you do not even have to bend down to turn them off.

  6. Awalker permalink
    October 27, 2008

    You need to get this: http://www.amazon.com/Northern-Tool-Equipment-Switch-Wireless/dp/B0000ERN8H/ref=pd_sim_e_16

    I use one of these to completely isolate and turn-off the TV, VCR, Stereo, and some minor decorations/game systems with one push of a remote button, nicely velcroed to the underside of the coffee table. Works perfectly.

  7. Mark permalink
    October 27, 2008

    I would be interested to know if the 11 percent energy use mentioned in the post is just home use. What about commercial and public buildings such as schools and office buildings? Are they included in the 11 percent. In terms of eliminating an energy vampire one method I use is to plug everything into a surge protector or power strip. Then I just turn off everything with the power button on the strip; although this is not feasible for everything it does help some. (I noticed some one else just posted this suggestion too).

    I made a post on commercial energy vampires at http://blog.exitsignwarehouse.com/18/energy-vampires-away-from-home/

  8. Utah Chris permalink
    October 27, 2008

    All this talk about the drain of appliances left plugged in and now I’m starting to re-think having a coffee pot with a timer.

    You’d think manufacturers of chargers for cell phones would be smart enough to design, build and sell smart “anti-vampire” chargers.

    Shouldn’t that become the next great regulatory avenue for EPA? Bolt on SD programs to EPA energy efficiency requirements that include cell phone chargers?

  9. Urbanwitch permalink
    October 28, 2008

    For me it will probably be the TV and cellphone chargers that drain most of the energy.

    ~Urbanwitch

  10. Anonymous permalink
    October 28, 2008

    computer and tv are the biggest unnecessary vampires. i shut them off, but should turn off the powerstrip as well. not everyone in the household cooperates with me.

    also microwaves with digital displays are a huge drain. i heard that a microwave uses more energy to keep the clock working than it does to heat food! our cheapo microwave doesn’t have a clock.

  11. Susan permalink
    October 29, 2008

    Very interesting topic! Believe it or not, hair dryers are a HUGE energy drain even tho they are used rather infrequently & are not kept plugged into the wall, because of their high wattage. How much energy are you actually wasting with all these energy vampires tho?

  12. stephanie permalink
    October 29, 2008

    What about the garage door opener? I assume since it has a remote it sucks energy all day. And to use the wall button it still needs to be plugged in. Does anyone know how much energy these waste? Times it by all the garages in America and I wonder? Not that I’d go back to the old lift up doors! And what about outdoor lights with photocells to automatically turn them on and off? I wonder how much energy these use? This would make a great science project for some high school students to spread the word!!!

  13. Pete permalink
    October 29, 2008

    We unplug everything we can when not in use – microwave, all chargers, TV, stereo, CD player, and anything with an indicator light – including powerstrips! I have not quantified my savings, but waste is waste no matter the magnitude. What I would like to find is a powerstrip (without indicator lights!), that has individually switched outlets – which would make it easier to completely switch off without having to yank the plug each time.

    What’s the biggest ‘vampire’ of all? Probably your electric water heater, continuously reheating your water 24/7/365, just to keep up with tank cooling. We have a timer on ours, and a separate meter, and we pay less than $4 per month to heat our water (our kWh rate is about 8 cents).

  14. Druz permalink
    October 29, 2008

    Before everyone goes around unplugging everything in the house, one must consider the “power-up” usage and the ” power-up wear & tear” on the device. Home computers are a good example. Everytime you cut power to the computer it must be re-started; there is a surge of power at that point very much higher than normally used. And every time the power surge engages the hardware to do work, the hardware is one step closer to failure. There are also intangible safety and security considerations.

    In energy use, carbon footprinting, or any other balancing act, one must look at the BIG picture.

  15. obxtrainman permalink
    October 31, 2008

    Believe it or not, your refrigerator consumes a very big portion of your energy. Not a lot you can do there. Except to ensure that the condenser is kept clean. However, another big user is your hot water tank. It can be covered with an insulator, and have a timer put on it. If all of your family is away from home all day, you don’t need it to be heating the water all day. Set the timer so that you have hot water for the morning, then off. Then have it come back on shortly before people start returning home.

  16. Rick permalink
    December 2, 2008

    As someone who works in IT, I have to recommend against the constant turning off and on of your electronic equipment. Sure you may save some energy, but you will drastically shorten the life span of your equipment and loose the benifits of the instant on / background processes many of these things now provide. Energy conservation is important, but lets not get carried away here. Do you really want to have to reprogram your TV everytime you turn it back on. What about your TiVo or DVR. And about that external hard drive on your computer or the computer itself. I destroyed an externa hard drive because it was plugged into a power strip that turned it off and on everytime my computer was turned off or on.

    I decry energy waste. Get LED lights or CFLs if you must. use a hot water system that is on demand and not using a large storage tank. turn off all the lights in your home you are not using. These are the real things we need to be doing when we can to reduce energy use. Yeah, DC adaptors could be better designed to cut off when not actually charging. That should be mandatory. But with new technology will also come added cost.

  17. Bruny Sant permalink
    July 31, 2009

    I already did my part. Me and my husband built 20solar panels for our home, and the electricity bill went from $250 a month to about $22 a month, which is great. There’s a website that give good advise on how to acheive this task, the site is at: How To Make Solar Panels

  18. Mike Mitchell permalink
    January 8, 2010

    One problem I see here is that since everything in the world is going towards electronics that means that our energy needs are only going to be increasing. Unfortunately this trend needs to be reversed or we need to start coming up with much more energy efficient electronics. That is one of the points I make in my argument for Solar Power Use

  19. Facebook application permalink
    February 3, 2010

    The term energy vampire means a person who is a downer and requires more energy to be around because they demand attention. Do people actually think that energy vampires have mystical powers and can give and take energy as they please?

  20. Daniel Smith permalink
    March 16, 2010

    This is really a interesting question as we see that their are a lot of electronic stuff that consume a lot of energy and i think I find a better way to get rid of it that is my small solar panel at least it makes my computer working and charge my phone battery..

  21. Hank Cressey permalink
    March 25, 2010

    I think there needs to be a balance between energy consumption and energy production. Energy vampires are only half the problem. The other half is supplying the power we do need from a quality source. But it is always a good idea to make you home as effecient as possible to offset any unnecessary power consumption. Everyone should take a look at some great Home Energy Saving Tips.

  22. Tech Wholesalers permalink
    May 12, 2010

    Inter net helps people to save their precious time. Internet shopping is getting vital and is playing a big role in changing our life style. Electricity has dramatically changed the lives, Appliances are necessary for every home.

  23. Sven Sjostrom permalink
    September 14, 2010

    Simple methods are always most effective.

    1. Drawing curtains in the summer to reduce solar heating and therfore reduce Air conditioning power consumption.
    2. Opening curtains in the winter to improve solar heating and therefore reduce the central heating energy consumption.
    3. Decrease thermostat settings by 1 or 2 degrees

  24. Sienna permalink
    September 22, 2010

    Computer and TV are the certainly the biggest unnecessary vampires in today world and one way of reducing our dependence on commercially sold electricity would be to learn

  25. Alan permalink
    October 20, 2010

    The most effective way to save is to turn off the appliances after using it!

  26. Cris permalink
    November 5, 2010

    I looked into building solar panels with my husband. The main stumbling block to building solar panels is acquiring solar cells at a reasonable price!!! A little time spending ringing suppliers and internet research paid off though and slowly we can see the ROI.
    So yeah, I’d definitely recommend it!
    Cris

  27. Pegford permalink
    November 25, 2010

    In some homes they even exceed the traditional highest energy user, the fridge. Power vampires are the fastest growing power users in our residences.You can decrease the amount of electricity you waste.

  28. Torah Bright permalink
    January 22, 2011

    Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? as it is extremely helpful for me.

    Torah B.

  29. Smartphones permalink
    February 11, 2011

    I think most people will say that it is cellphone that chargers most of the energy.

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