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Vampire Energy: What It’s Costing You and How To Prevent It

By Guest Blogger Justin Bencsko

The phenomenon of Vampire Power is costing American households millions of dollars every single day.   Studies estimate that about 5-10% of the average household’s energy bill comes from this Vampire Power.  Calculate that to a dollar amount across the country and you have about $4 billion in wasted spending every year!  (Some estimates go as high as $10 billion)

Vampire Power is just a name for the power that your electronic devices waste while they are not being used.  For example when your television is off it is still sucking power.  When your computer is sitting idle, it’s still using energy.  Phone chargers, laptop chargers, routers, appliances large and small- the list could go on and on.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce this wasted energy.  For example EnergyStar appliances are much more energy efficient, using around half the energy as regular units.  If you are in need of a new appliance it would be wise to at least consider getting an EnergyStar product.  The other big thing you can do is to make sure you unplug anything which you aren’t using, in turn getting rid of this vampire loss.  This is simple for things like phone chargers, a toaster, or coffee pot, since you only have to worry about a single plug.  When it comes to something like your home entertainment system though, this becomes much more of a hassle.

The biggest culprit of this Vampire Power drain is, in fact, your home entertainment system.  Think about how many things you have plugged in, all of which drain power.  Televisions, video game consoles, cable boxes, satellite boxes, DVD players, sub woofers, audio receivers- they all waste power while not being used.  A plasma TV alone can cost $165 a year in Vampire Power drain according to the department of energy.   Your Xbox or PS3 isn’t much better, costing upwards of $70 a year potentially.  In short- it isn’t cheap to leave your home entertainment system plugged in all the time.

So what should you do about it? Well the simplest answer is unplug everything in your entertainment system when you aren’t using it!  Now how you go about doing that is really what we are worried about.

Option one would involve manually unplugging every single device that requires power.   If you have no problem doing that every time you want to watch some TV, than more power to you.  For most of us though there has to be a better option than squeezing your arm into a tiny nook behind the TV to get 6 different plugs out of the wall every single time you want to use the TV.

Option two which makes this a little bit easier would be to buy a normal, everyday power strip.  Instead of reaching behind your television to unplug all your electronics individually, a power strip would allow you to control everything from one switch in a much more accessible location.  This is perfect if you are conscious about remembering and don’t mind walking up to the TV to flip the switch.  If you are like me though and would definitely forget to do this half the time let alone make sure your kids remember, there are ways to make this even easier.

Option three would involve some type of device or power strip which would control power either automatically or remotely, making this process even simpler.  I did some research and there are a few options:

  • Remote Controlled Power Outlet.   There are a number of companies who manufacturer these.  They are exactly the same as a regular power strip except there is also a remote control so you don’t have to get up and turn the power off manually on the strip.  This is a great option, the only potential problem is making sure you don’t lose the remote for the device, which would render the thing useless.
  • Automatic Power Outlet.  There are also a number of manufacturers that make automatic power outlets. On these units there is a master plug along with a number of auxiliary plugs. What you do is plug your TV into the master control and the other electronics into the auxiliary plugs.  When you turn your television off, the master control senses this and automatically shuts down all power to the auxiliary plugs. This is great as it literally is a set it and forget it device.  The only problem with this is the TV is still left suck energy, which is unfortunately the biggest energy hog of them all. The reason for this being necessary is that you need power to the television so that it can detect the remote when you want to turn your TV back on.
  • Liftmaster MyQ App.  Liftmaster manufactures mostly garage door openers, but they do have a new product that could be of use in our situation.  They have an app that allows you to remotely control a number of accessories, such as your garage door, indoor lighting, and appliances through your smartphone.  One of their accessories they offer is a power switch.  This makes it very similar to a remote control power outlet, but with 2 differences.  The remote is actually your smartphone which you are less likely to lose and has a MUCH bigger range in which you can use it.  (The app will work from anywhere in the world with cell phone service.)  The other advantage is you can see at any time whether the entertainment system’s power is on or off by looking in the app.  This is good for when you forget or don’t remember if you actually turned the power off.  There are disadvantages to this system as well.   First of all it takes longer to set up. You have to set it up through your router and sync it to your phone before you can use it.  It also has a reoccurring yearly fee in order to use the app. (Free for the first year and $14.95 for every year after that.)

Which option you decide to use doesn’t matter, as long as you make sure you are consistently remembering to completely shut off power to the entire entertainment system while your aren’t using it.   If you are diligent and remember to do this every single time you are not only saving a significant chunk of change, but you are also doing your part in this world to help conserve energy.  Imagine if everyone did their part to get rid of vampire energy waste.  If we cut consumption in half that would be over 2 billion dollars in saved energy and money!

About the Author

Justin writes the blog for precisiondoor.net, a garage door repair company with locations all across the country.

About Kevin


Kevin is both an environmentalist and a tech guy and has been writing, editing and publishing this blog since 2007. He answers questions related to how you can use tech to go greener.

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