I love finding new ways to save energy, because it's one of those great areas where money and values work in tandem. This week I learned something I totally new to me (thanks to Ideal Bite)-- many household appliances are draining energy even when they're turned off!
According to the government's ENERGY STAR program, 40% of the electricity that home electronics use is consumed while the products are turned off. The impact of this on your energy bill will depend on your particular situation-- one Berkeley study suggests the savings would be 6 to 26% off your total bill.
The "phantom load," as it's sometimes called, is a result of many different household items (sometimes called "vampire devices," leading to perhaps the best-named law ever, California's Vampire Slayer Act of 2006). Some of the most problematic energy-drainers while "off":
- Cable boxes or satellite dish boxes
- Sound systems
- VCRs and DVD players
- Computer printers
- Cable modems/DSL
There are also the smaller items; for example, did you know that your cell phone charger is using energy even when your phone isn't attached? It's only a couple of watts, but it's a good idea to get into the habit of unplugging your charger from the wall when you unplug your phone from the charger. Kitchen appliances like microwaves, rice cookers, breadmakers, and coffee pots also typically use less than 5 watts-- but there's no reason to leave them plugged in when you don't have to. The little things add up.
And how much do they add up to? Around 50 to 100 watts in the average house, which is 30 to 60 kilowatt-hours a month (based on 20 standby hours a day). At prices of 5 to 15 cents per kWH in July 2006, that's somewhere between $1.50-$9 a month.
Okay, so doing this isn't going to make you rich (although most frugalites like to trim where we can!). So how about finding another motivation? Every kilowatt-hour is equivalent to 1.55 pounds of CO2 emissions (U.S. average). That means if you use 30-60 less kWh a month, 550-1,100 pounds less of CO2 go into the air every year. (For context, a gallon of gas puts about 20 pounds of CO2 in the air, so this is the pollution equivalent of using 25 to 50 gallons less gas!)
Now that I know about this, I've started right away to change my habits. One easy way to make sure you're not wasting energy is to plug many appliances into one power strip; then you can turn it on and off, which is a little easier than unplugging and replugging everything individually. Maybe half of my relevant appliances are already on power strips, which I've started turning off this week; this weekend, I'm going to think about the logistics to make sure all my vampire devices are either on power strips or are plugged in outlets in convenient locations (the TV's plugged in behind the bookcase at the moment, for example). For curiousity's sake, I'll try to see if there's an effect on my electric bill-- although since my heat is electric, it's going to be hard to be very scientific about it as heating costs go up.
I would absolutely love to hear from all of you guys on this. Do you have any more information on the watt usage of particular devices while they're turned off? Do you unplug things already? If so, have you seen the effect on your electric bills? Or do you think this is small stuff, not enough to be worth your effort?
(This post was inspired by an Ideal Bite tip; I found Ideal Bite via Millionaire Artist.)