Call it what you will: phantom load, idle current, vampire power, wall wart; they're all euphemisms for the way devices use and waste electricity when they aren't even on, and they're everywhere.
Researchers estimate that phantom loads (standby power) account for 2-8% of total household energy. If you’d like to find out which appliances/electronics in your home attract the largest load, devices like the Kill A WATT and WATTSON will do the trick. The best action you can take is to start eliminating unnecessary power use in your home today by following these tips:
1) Purchase a "Smart" Power Strip (available in Canada & US for about $40) that automatically cuts the power when your devices are turned off. Alternatively, you can buy a remote control outlet system such as LaCrosse RS-204 (the same price) which comes with two outlet receivers and a remote. Place the receivers in the wall outlet, plug a regular power strip into that and you have remote control over all the devices (+ their phantom loads) on that strip. The Mini Power Minder has the smarts to shut off your computer’s peripherals when the computer itself is shut down.
2) When buying new items, be sure to buy the most energy-efficient items. Look for products with the ENERGY STAR label or find out which products have met the Green Electronics Council's EPEAT standards in their online product database. In addition, look for ways to power your products without using electricity, such as investing in a solar-powered backpack or a foot-powered portable energy source (another cool one is a solar-powered charger for you iPod and cell phone). The Government of Canada offers several grants and incentives for purchasing ENERGY STAR products.
3) Remember to unplug smaller things like your cell phone charger, which is only in use for a fraction of the day. The total effect of this will make a big contribution towards saving energy in your home. Check out the charts below to find out how much energy (watts/hour) is used by these devices during “passive” and “active” standby modes. If unplugging your stereo after usage for an entire year can save you 25$ on your annual electricity bill, think of how much you can save by being just as efficient with all of your household appliances!
Passive standby: the lowest power level set by the user
Active standby: product is not doing its intended function but is not set to the lowest power mode
- Tables are courtesy of Natural Resources Canada.
Kreg Weiss is a co-founder of My Yoga Online and certified Hatha Yoga Teacher. Several years ago, Kreg discovered yoga while teaching health and fitness. Yoga dramatically transformed Kreg's approach to teaching health and wellness as well as changed his personal life bringing new direction in finding physical, mental, and spiritual growth.