October 24, 2011

Energy Vampires Will Bleed You Dry

Suzanne Grant, APR, Spokesperson/Lead Communications Specialist,  
Progress Energy Florida

Everyone knows a leaky faucet requires immediate attention because a leak wastes water and costs money. Yet lurking undetected in nearly every home, there are other leaks – energy vampires – that constantly drink from your electrical outlets, wasting energy and running up your power bill. These tiny gremlins with the glowing green eyes that peek out at us in the dark of night from every corner of your house need immediate attention, too.

Vampire loads, also called phantom loads or standby power, refer to the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode.

Here’s a scary thought: U.S. households spend rough $100 per year to power home electronics like clock displays and remote controls left in standby mode. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), vampire loads are ghoulishly responsible for approximately five percent of the energy consumed in the United States, costing more than $3 billion each year.

“Energy vampires haunt every room in your house,” said Malcolm Barnes, energy efficiency manager for Progress Energy Florida. “Unlike fictional vampires, they don’t sleep during the day. They draw power 24 hours a day, which quickly adds dollars to your power bill.”

Vampire loads on electronic equipment generally fall into three categories:
  • Clocks and other always-on components. Devices that use internal clocks or other modules that remain operational even in off mode. For example, a desktop computer keeps a clock and other functions operating even when it’s off. 
  • Direct-current (DC) power: Pick your poison here; laptop and cell phone chargers, cordless phones, electric toothbrushes, etc., all rely on DC power and draws electricity all the time. If you leave your cell phone charger plugged in, it will still draw power even if fully charged or the phone is disconnected from the charger. 
  • Electronic Controls: Appliances with remote controls or electronic power switches require a sensor to remain alert all the time – ready for someone to hit the on button. 
Vampires are everywhere: microwaves; wireless power tools; coffee makers; DVR, DVD, and VCR players; cable and satellite boxes; MP3 players; digital TV converters and video game consoles. The DOE reports that in a typical U.S. home, eliminating energy vampires could save you two percent on your electric bill each month.

“There are a few tricks to kill energy vampires,” said Barnes. “The easiest way is to plug electronics into a power strip; then turn the strip off when not in use. Smart power strips do the work for you by automatically cutting off power when devices are not in use.”

Other ways to reduce phantom load include:
  • Turning off the computer monitor when it is not in use for more than 20 minutes, and turning off both the CPU and monitor if the computer will not be used for more than 2 hours. 
  • Looking for the ENERGY STAR® label when purchasing new appliances. ENERGY STAR® appliances use less energy, sometimes half as much, to perform their normal duties. 
  • Keeping it simple—avoid buying products that include ―bells and whistles‖ you don’t need. Some of these extra features might waste energy. 
  • Watching out for the cube shaped- transformers that plug into the wall. These vampires are 60-80% inefficient when plugged in, so it is especially important that these are on power strips. 
You can use an energy monitor to detect which devices are consuming this phantom energy in your home.  Your local library may have these devices to check-out.  Join Pinellas County Extension for classes on how to use these monitors, and borrow a monitor that day.  We will be in libraries throughout the county in the coming months.

For a more thorough assessment, contact Progress Energy Florida for a no-cost Home Energy Check. Through the Progress Energy service – which can be performed online, over the phone or in person – a highly-trained Energy Advisor will provide customized, energy-saving advice and determine your eligibility for company rebates toward energy-efficient home improvements. A Home Energy Check is a prerequisite to all Progress Energy rebates for energy-efficient home improvements.
To sign up for a no-cost Home Energy Check or to learn more than 100 energy-saving tips, visit or call 1.877.364.9003.

Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), provides electricity and related services to more than 1.6 million customers in Florida. The company is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., and serves a territory encompassing more than 20,000 square miles including the cities of St. Petersburg and Clearwater, as well as the Central Florida area surrounding Orlando. Progress Energy Florida is pursuing a balanced approach to meeting the future energy needs of the region. That balance includes increased energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. Click here for more information about Progress Energy.

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