How to Defeat Your Energy Vampires

By Mallory Combs on May 10, 2016



Take a tour of an American home and you’re bound to find the glowing eyes of vampire loads in nearly every room.

Vampire loads, or the energy used by electrical appliances that are not in use, are increasingly becoming substantial energy drainers with some estimates showing their yearly cost as high as $200, or 10 percent of a household’s energy use! All this wasted energy also takes a toll on the environment, since electricity production accounts for 37 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

New York times writer Tatiana Schlossberg  found this hard to believe and decided to conduct an energy audit on 30 household appliances to see how all this vampire energy drain added up. Using a Kill-a-Watt power meter, Schlossberg discovered

  • Many appliances use a lot of power even when they are idle. For example, her TV drains power even when off – about 227 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually – which Schlossberg found is more than the average person uses in a year in some developing countries.
  • Most appliances are “always on” – either to power a digital clock or to keep appliances connected to the internet. Did you know that even mattresses and LEDs connect to the internet now?
  • Small appliances can make a big dent. Schlossberg’s coffee maker uses more than 900W when making coffee, which comes to 50 kilowatt-hours a year, or a little more energy than what someone in a developing country uses in a year. 

Luckily, there are ways to avoid wasting energy and money on vampire loads. The first step is investing in advanced power strips. Similar in shape and size to traditional power strips, these “smart strips” have built-in features that save energy by shutting off power to idle appliances while also protecting your appliances from dangerous power surges. Some utilities, such as Simple Energy’s partners Central Hudson, Orange & Rockland and Horizon Utilities, even offer discounts on advanced power strips in the form of rebates or coupons. After a $10 rebate, eligible customers’ total for a TrickleStar 7-outlet advanced power strip, comes to $12. With an average savings of $38.76 a year, these advanced power strips are a relatively affordable efficiency investment with a big payoff.

The next step is investigating ways you can closely monitor your energy use.

“Many utility companies will provide hourly data for electrical energy consumption,” Schlossberg points out. “And, utilities in some parts of the country are installing smart meters, which allow you (and the utility) to track how much energy your home is consuming on an hourly basis.”

Simple Energy’s Engagement Platform provides exactly that functionality – and more – to customers of its partner utilities. Program participants  are able to see their energy usage in real time – including the dip that occurs with the installation of advanced power strips, the switch to LED light bulbs, and more. Check to see if your utility is a participant or if it offers similar programs that empower customers to save energy.  

Want to learn more? Read Schlossberg’s full energy audit.