Phantom Loads are a Major Issue
Across the United States, a silent energy plague has worked its way into the homes of millions of people. This plague causes millions of dollars to be wasted each year and, in many cases, can be prevented altogether with just a few small adjustments in people’s day to day life. In today’s post, we are going to dive a little deeper into a subject that we touched on in our previous post: Phantom loads. This phrase is a reference to energy consumption of devices that are not actually “on” in the traditional sense yet still draw power. Taking the time to identify these devices, study how much power they consume, and the effect that they have on a home’s energy bill is one of the most practical ways that people across the country can help reduce the amount of energy that their home uses that, essentially, is wasted. Continue reading below to learn more.
What Are Phantom Loads?
A phantom load, also known as vampire power or standby power, is any and all electricity that is consumed by an electronic device while it is turned off or in standby mode. In the past, phantom loads, while still concerning, were not as big of an issue as they are today. This is due largely to the fact that as society has progressed, the amount of electronic devices connected to an individual home have only increased. Where a single television or stereo may have drawn excess power in the 1970s, today there may be as many as a dozen electronic devices connected to a home’s power supply at any given time. While it might seem necessary for many of these electronic devices to be fed power constantly, such as wifi routers or home computers, other devices don’t necessarily need to be given a constant source of power. With this in mind, which appliances can afford to go without some juice while you are away from home?
- Televisions: Your TV may be costing you hundreds of dollars a year even when it is displaying your favorite Netflix show or the latest episode of Game of Thrones. If you are like the majority of people in America, you have probably made the switch to a flat screen television that makes use of LCD or LED technology to produce a picture. Over the years these television have evolved beyond just displaying movies and shows, crossing over into the realm of IoT (internet of things) and allowing homeowners to stream content from the internet straight to their televisions. While this has led to a greater level of convenience for the average consumer, it has also had the unintended consequence of creating televisions that draw a noticeable amount of power when they aren’t in use. In order to store all of the information they need to in terms of wifi accessibility, usernames and passwords, and the general settings that every television stores, they draw power from outlets in order to deliver instant results when they are turned on.
- Computers: In today’s society, it is almost impossible to imagine what life was like before home computers were available to the masses. In a 2014 study conducted by Pew Research Center, it was found that 84 percent of US households owned a computer. In the three years since that study was conducted, we can only imagine that that figure has risen, meaning that nearly everyone in the United States has a computer in their home. If you are reading this post, chances are you are doing so on a computer in your home. With that in mind, when was the last time you turned off your computer? Better yet, when was the last time that you unplugged your computer? If you’re anything like most people, the answer to those two questions are probably “not in a while” and work to illustrate the point we are trying to make. Even when you are not actively using your computer, it is drawing power from your home.
- DVRs: Remember what it was like before you were able to record television shows and play them back at your convenience? These dark times (or as we like to refer to them, the early 2000s) were a weird time in the history of technology. We were so close to the modern technology that we have today, but still made use of VCR tapes and other clunky methods of recording our favorite shows. Luckily, TiVo showed us the future and made us wonder how we ever got along without multiple recordings of our favorite shows available at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, DVRs suck up a ton of energy when they are not in use. Because most DVRs are included in a households cable or satellite package, unplugging them regularly isn’t really an option. When these boxes are unplugged, they are essentially reset. This is a major inconvenience that allows these energy hogs to stay plugged in at all times of the day.
How are Phantom Loads Eliminated?
When you get down to it, reducing all phantom loads in a household is impossible. Too many of the devices that are present in households necessitate 24-hour energy connectivity in order to perform their functions as intended. No one is going to unplug their computer or DVR every single day only to have to come home and reprogram all the settings that were stored in the devices. However, with this in mind, it is important to identify those appliances that can and should be unplugged when not in use. In addition to identifying these energy vampires, there a few ways that people can reduce the amount of energy that is wasted from devices that are turned off.
- Invest in a Smart Power Strips: Smart power strips are one of the best lines of defense against phantom loads. These power strips not only protect your electronic devices from surges, they can also reduce or eliminate the amount of power that they draw from your electrical outlets when they are not in use. A small investment in a few power strips can end up saving a household hundreds of dollars.
- Laptop Over Desktop: Desktops, as we explained earlier, draw power at all times. Whether they are in standby mode or completely turned off, they will continue to draw power and, in some cases, can lead to hundreds of dollars of lost energy a year. For this reason, it may be in people’s best interest to invest in a laptop instead of a desktop computer. Laptops can be completely disconnected from a power source without having to worry about any settings or programs being lost.
- Mind the Kitchen: When you are done with your coffee maker, can opener, or any other kitchen appliance that must be plugged into an outlet, be sure to unplug them. Even though these devices tend to draw limited amounts of power when in use, they still draw power when they shouldn’t.
- Invest in Energy Star Products: In the past decade, Energy Star appliances have made great gains in the consumer market. These appliances have been optimized and to draw as little power as possible and must go through a rigorous amount of testing to ensure that they can deliver on the promises that they make.
- Cell Phone Chargers: Even when you aren’t charging your cell phone, the charger could be drawing small amounts of power at all times of the day. When you aren’t charging your phone, be sure to store your charger in a drawer or on a bedside table.
- Extra Appliances: If you have an extra refrigerator in your home, or even a small mini-fridge, you could be paying hundreds of dollars a year in extra energy costs. While it can be convenient to have an area to store extra beverages or food, take the time to decide whether or not this convenience is beneficial enough to justify the added cost to your energy bill.
Reducing the amount of phantom loads in your home is not an impossible task; however, it does take some dedication on your part. For the most part, we have found that people struggle with unplugging electronic appliances they are not using simply because they are not used to thinking about it. Changing our habits is one of the hardest things for people to do, especially when those habits don’t seem to have an effect on a person’s day to day life. To make the transition easier, we suggest that you make a small checklist of items that you need to unplug before you leave your home every day.
If you want to find a way to reduce your energy consumption even more, we suggest that you get in touch with us at RGS Energy so that we can tell you more about our solar installation services. Although it may seem drastic to consider solar panels as a way to reduce the amount of energy that your home uses, we feel that after you learn a little more about our program you will see just how beneficial it can be. Not only do you have the opportunity to completely negate your energy bill, you are also helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses that your home is responsible for producing, and helping to lessen the demands that are placed on municipal energy grids. To learn more about the solar energy services that we provide, please give us a call at (877)-747-4338 or fill out the contact form on our website. We have been