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How Vampire Electricity is Haunting Your Electric Bill

Energy Vampires: How Phantom Load is Draining Your Energy Bill

There is a sinister force that lingers in the shadows, draining energy when you least expect it and raising your energy bills. It’s a phenomenon known as phantom load, also referred to as vampire electricity or stand by power, and many of our most commonly used electronic devices and gadgets are the biggest culprits. But what is phantom load, and how can we slay these energy vampires and keep our bills from becoming monstrous?

What is phantom load?

toaster with toast popping upA phantom load occurs when a device continues to draw power—even when switched off or in standby mode. That means you’re paying for electricity when you aren’t even using that device or appliance. How much are you paying? Well, according to Cornell University, these energy vampires can add as much as $200 per year in household energy costs.  

What causes phantom load?

Technically, anything powered by electricity has the potential to draw ‘vampire power.’ Phantom load is caused by a number of devices that you may be forgetting about, and it could be anything with a standby or sleep mode. These include devices we use daily, and some examples include:

  • Computers: That laptop, asleep and folded shut, may seem like it’s completely inert. But if you have it plugged into the wall, it is draining energy even when not active. Even if the computer is totally shut down, it can still be drawing ‘vampire power’ to run in the background.
  • Televisions and entertainment devices: Entertainment devices like TVs, cable boxes, stereos—these are almost always energy vampires. As a rule… if it has a remote, it is probably draining electricity from your wall without you even knowing.
  • Appliances like coffeemakers and toasters: whether it has a timer and standby settings or not, most small appliances like toaster ovens, microwaves, and coffeemakers are using energy even when you don’t have them turned on.
  • Unconnected laptop or cellphone chargers: if you unplug your device from a charger, it’s not drawing power, right?  Wrong. If a charger is plugged into the wall, it will minimally drain some power, whether a device is attached to it or not.
A great way to tell if you are the victim of an energy vampire is if a device is ready to ‘wake up’ and be used at a moment’s notice without powering on. If you’re curious about how to find phantom load or whether a particular appliance is drawing standby power, you can use a watt meter to find out. By plugging a watt meter into the wall and then your device, you can see if it is drawing power even when switched off. If it’s not, congratulations! You’re on your way to uncovering and neutralizing the source of vampire electricity drain.

Want to know more about vampire power and what you can do about phantom load? Discover more with Charles! 

How do I stop phantom load?

video game consoleYou don’t have to sit back and take being a vampire energy victim; you can fight back! You can avoid standby power and put your hard-earned dollars back into your wallet. But how?

  • Unplug: The most effective way to slay energy vampires is to unplug your devices when not in use, ensuring you are only using energy when you need it.
  • Check your settings: Many devices come with energy-saving settings built to help reduce the amount of power they draw when not in use. Enact these energy-save modes whenever possible.
  • Use a smart power strip: If unplugging each device seems like a lot, or you are likely to forget, fear not! Another viable option for keeping phantom load in check is to use smart power strips. These helpful little tools can stop electricity from reaching your little energy vampires without needing to constantly plug and unplug. The best news? They are relatively inexpensive, and the energy they save can add up to thousands in the long run if used properly.
Taking a few easy steps now to help keep phantom load in check can keep the appliances you love from draining energy from your walls and money from your wallet. If you’re interested in ways to neutralize vampire power, or to learn more about how to become more energy efficient in general, discover all the resources Consumers Energy can offer at ConsumersEnergy.com/charlesathome.