Beware of Energy Vampires: The Device in Your Home That May Be Sucking Energy from the Sockets When You Least Expect It

By March 3, 2019Tips

Vampires are notorious for a number of their qualities: they suck your blood, they’re living in this world as undead, and they largely operate at night– scary stuff! But vampires aren’t just restricted to Halloween, horror movies, and young adult books; in fact, you may be in the presence of a vampire right now and not realize it. I’m talking about energy vampires.

Energy vampires are electronic devices in your home or office that continue to draw electricity from the power sockets despite being set to off, idle, or standby modes. In that way, these energy vampires mirror the qualities of vampires stated before. These devices: suck energy from your wall socket, they’re doing so even when you think they are powered off, and they’re energy-wasting ways largely occur at night.

To prevent the wasting of energy and increased power bills, it’s important to recognize where these energy vampires may be hiding in your home and what you can do to fend them off.

Characteristics of an energy vampire

Most energy vampires will come with one of several tell-tale signs that will let you know you’re dealing with an energy suck. External power supplies (such as a square AC adapter) that are plugged into a wall will typically be a sign of an energy vampire constantly drawing power, which is even worse because the energy drawn during this time is even more inefficient than when it’s powered on. Any devices that have a remote control will necessarily have a constant amount of energy draw in order to be on standby for communication from the remote control. Additionally, products that have continuous display, such as indicator lights or clocks, are inherently drawing electricity to power those features even though they may be set to off. Lastly, any product that charges a battery when plugged in (e.g., a cell phone charger that’s plugged into a wall but not connected to a phone or a cordless vacuum that’s plugged in and fully charged) will constantly be drawing a small amount of energy, day and night, when it’s plugged in. A simple test you can implement if you’re unsure is to feel the device in question– if it feels warm when it’s switched off, it’s still draining power.

As you look around your home or office and identify any electronic devices that fit one or more of these descriptions, you’ll know you’re dealing with a terrifying energy vampire. But just to be clear, let’s examine some of the most common energy vampires people unknowingly welcome into their homes.

Common energy vampires

Many homes are haunted by the same types of common energy vampires of which you should be aware:

  • Entertainment devices, such as televisions, cable boxes, DVD players, video game systems, stereos, and surround-sound speaker systems are well-established energy vampires, drawing power so they’ll always be ready to turn on by remote control at any given moment
  • Smart home products, such as smart lights and smart voice assistants, likewise require a constant stream of power in order to allow them to remain constantly able to turn on at a moment’s notice
  • Cell phone, laptop, and tablet chargers that are left plugged into the wall when the devices are at full power or when the devices aren’t even connected will continue to draw power from the socket
  • Any rechargeable items that have reached full charge, including electric toothbrushes, electric razors, cordless vacuums, electric tools, and portable battery chargers
  • Computers and computer-related equipment, like routers, printers, and scanners
  • Typical household items with built-in clocks, such as microwaves, coffee makers, and ovens

How to fight back against energy vampires

When it comes to energy vampires, you can put away the garlic and the wooden stake and implement some of the following strategies.

First, because most standby power in energy vampires is lost by the power supplies that convert the alternating current in the wall to direct current for use by the electronics, the easiest method to minimize this wasted energy is to unplug devices when they’re not in use. As most power supply units waste 30% to 50% of the power that flows through them, this brute force solution can save you headaches when the utility bills are delivered. So, unplug devices, chargers, and anything else when it’s possible to do so. Sometimes that can be and arduous process, such as for an entertainment center that has many different devices plugged in behind a cabinet without easy access to the sockets. In these instances, you can defeat energy vampires by using power strips to plug in all the connected devices and simply turn the strip on and off when you want to use the set of devices (there are even smart power strips that will do this automatically based on a timer or occupancy).

Further, for devices that allow you to go into idle mode or sleep mode, such as computers or video games, make a habit of turning them all the way off instead of sitting in these sleep modes.

Lastly, when you’re searching out which new electronic appliance to buy, look for an ENERGY STAR label as that will indicate equipment that is the most efficient overall, and the ENERGY STAR program does take into account standby energy use.

Final takeaways

Despite the fact that each energy vampire is only typically drawing a very small amount of power, the high vampire count in most homes (25 electronic devices are plugged in at any given time in the average household) can result in significant energy use in aggregate over the course of a year. Some estimates find that 5% of all U.S. power use comes from such standby power, while some tools exist to even show you how much you’re paying for energy vampire standby power each year.

In an environment where we’re constantly seeking out increased efficiencies and opportunities for energy savings, these facts are not ones to ignore. So, now that you know what’s at stake, you can force your personal energy vampires to rest in peace.

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