Everyday Cheapstake: Save $200 a year by axing standby power
Take a stroll through all the rooms in your home tonight when it's dark. Notice all the little green or red lights staring at you from TVs, cable boxes, phone chargers, computer peripherals, sound systems, the coffee maker and the microwave. I did this recently, and it was like walking through a forest filled with tiny critters staring back at me.
Those lights are powered by something known as standby power, and it sucks extra energy from the grid into your home day and night around the clock. That is power you're paying for to keep your electronics in "instant-on" mode.
Many gadgets, electronic devices and appliances draw power even when they're switched off or not in use, just by being plugged in. Though it may seem trivial, it can add up over time.
Chargers for cellphones, digital cameras, power tools and other gadgets draw energy even if they're not in use. Appliances like televisions, computer monitors and DVD players can also draw power whenever they're plugged in.
Estimates are that all together, phantom energy can account for 10 percent of an individual home's electricity use. Doesn't sound like much? Well, consider this: Cutting your monthly usage by 10 percent will get you over a month of free electricity every year. Here's how to stop the drain:
First of all, not every electrical item is drawing phantom power. Your toaster and lamps, for example, do not likely pull electricity when they are "off." But your computer with all of its peripherals (monitor, printer and scanner) running 24/7 is. A typical home computer consumes about 300 watts. If you only use it four hours a day but it's always plugged in, you're wasting up to $200 a year, depending on the rates in your area.
Items that depend on standby power have digital displays or small "on" lights that glow 24/7. Determine which of these, if any, you must have ready to go in standby mode and which you can spare 20 seconds for them to power up.
Perhaps you have a television that loses all of its settings if turned off, or it's located in such a place that getting to the plug just isn't feasible. Also, it's not practical or advisable to unplug major kitchen appliances like your stove, refrigerator or built-in microwave. But it is more than likely that you have dozens of items in your home, including chargers for things like your toothbrush, cellphone, camera and iPod, that do not need to be powered up at all times.
The way to stop this drain on your wallet is to unplug your devices from their power source when they aren't in use. It's that simple. Hint: Plugging bundled devices (think TV, DVD player and DVR; or computer, monitor and printer) into the same power strip and then simply turning it off is the easiest and most efficient way to get control over the phantom-energy monster in your home — and save some money in the process.
Email Mary Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.