Silver Bullets and Surge Protectors

An Invisible Villain

If you’re like most people, you have an invisible villain hiding in your television set, slowly sucking away your electricity and your money. This silent monster is called standby power, also known as vampire power. But you can get rid of it.

Vampire Power

Television sets and electronic devices often include a standby power feature. They draw a small amount of electric current even when they are switched off, so that they can be fully powered up and ready to use sooner when you turn them on. That small amount adds up, especially when you have multiple devices.

Chargers can also be vampires. A small transformer that converts AC utility power to DC to recharge a mobile phone, tablet, media player, or other small device will keep drawing power even if the device is fully charged or no longer connected.

In fact, according to a 2015 study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, idle load electricity accounts for nearly one-fourth of electric power consumption in the United States—enough to keep 50 major power plants running all year. That’s a considerable amount to pay just for electronics to start up a little faster.

Wooden Stakes and Garlic

To get rid of the power vampires in your house and office, you don’t need holy water or sunlight—just a few changes to your daily habits and maybe a few devices. Here are some proven tactics for reducing idle loads and unnecessary costs:

Measure your electric power consumption. You can find a smart meter at any home improvement store, and use it to find out how much electricity your devices really use. This will also help you decide where to concentrate your efforts.

Use a surge protector or power strip with energy saving technology. These let you turn off power to connected devices without having to unplug them. Some surge protectors have smart outlets that switch off power automatically when a “master” outlet is no longer in use.

Use a timer for devices you only use at certain hours. For example, if you only use your coffee maker in the morning, put it on a timer that switches it off for the rest of the time. Your computer operating system probably has energy saving settings built in, too.

Change the settings on your home entertainment devices. Your television, gaming console, digital video recorder, streaming device, or cable box may let you switch off its quick-start feature.

Unplug electronics that aren’t in use. If you’re not going to use a device for a while, pull the plug. This keeps it from drawing power while it’s not doing anything for you.

Save and shut down instead of using sleep mode. Computers and gaming consoles will generally let you pick up where you left off if you save your current status. You wouldn’t leave your car running for hours while you’re not using it; park it and switch it off.

Check ENERGY STAR ratings when you buy. Many electronic devices have an ENERGY STAR energy efficiency rating, showing how much electricity it consumes, and how that compares to similar products. The differences can be significant.

A New Dawn

Power utility companies understand the importance of energy conservation, and would rather help you reduce waste than build more power generation facilities. For that matter, some government agencies have proposed rules that limit how much electricity a device can draw while it’s in standby mode. But you bear the cost, so you have the most to gain. A few simple changes to your equipment and routine can make a big difference in how much you spend.

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