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Home > Resource Conservation > Electricity > Vampires  

Resource Conservation: Electricity: Vampires

pic of vampire that fades
     When we look at the conservation of electricity, it is usually about turning off appliances when they are no longer in use. Here, we look at what happens after we turn the appliance off. Some of them still suck power (stand by mode).

 

     Problem: The things we turn off still suck power. In the US we control everything with a remote and expect the thing we control to instantly come on. That is what we have come to expect with our cars, DVD players, TV's, computers and so on. This expectation has built a phantom into the system. Consumers want it, so manufacturers built it. Therefore, we may have several appliances in our home that will continue to consume power even after they are turned off. This is mainly done to keep the appliance instantly ready to turn on. If power is completely removed it may take a little longer to turn on (20 seconds).
     Is it a big problem? It is estimated that in 2004 that some 60 billion kilowatt-hours was wasted just from vampires on the system. What   
that means for the average household is a waste of energy between $20 and $130 a year. This could be coming from your entertainment system, your computer area even your kitchen.
     Solutions? We propose a few solutions below. However, you may want to determine if you have a lot of extra power usage in your house (business). We would recommend buying or sharing the purchase of a Kill-A-Watt. This device measure power used by appliances (on or off). If 2 to 5 households buy one and share it, it is a very small cost but a great measuring tool and will help you determine what is best for you.

Solution 1: Free and easy as long as you remember to do it.

     This solution is easy. Put all of your appliances that are near each other on the same power strip. Then when you are finished using the appliances (computer, entertainment center, kitchen appliances) simply unplug the power strip from the electrical outlet.      You will have to remember to do this and have the electrical socket in a place where you can continently get to it. However, this is simple and elegant. Some appliances (computer, cable box) may get updates during standby, as well as run virus scans so you may want to accommodate for that.

Solution 2: May cost a little but the return will be reasonable.

General Comments:

     Wouldn't it be nice if we can turn off the vampire (phantom) power as easily as turning off the TV. This solution deals with that. In solution 1, you put your appliances on a power strip and just unplug it when not in use. That could be a little cumbersome if it is behind a desk or cabinet. This solution is just like solution one except the power bar is operated by remote control. Here we suggest you buy something but only if it pays you back.  This is done by first measuring the phantom power with Kill-A-Watt. Make sure your appliances are turned off. Next use our calculator below to find when your return on investment occurs. Since these power strips will last several (past 7) years, if your return on investment is 3 years or less it may be a good idea to buy a power strip.
     It is easy, but you have to get into the habit of doing this or your investment will not pay off.

Energy Efficient?

     This solution kills the vampire power consumption. The power strip itself uses a very small amount of power. The power strip has 2 outlets that are continuously on and 6 outlets that are controlled by the remote control (batteries included). Therefore, one power strip can help you remove the vampire power drain for 6 appliances while keeping 2 other appliances going. It is simple as that. The 6 appliances may use 10 to 100 watts when turned off. This adds up to a lot of usage over a year.

Installation:

     Installation is easy. Plug your appliances into the power strip. Plug the power strip into the electrical circuit on the wall. Plug the appliances you want continuously on in the two provided.       Since the unit comes with a remote control with a wall mount, you may want to keep the remote loose or install the mount on the wall and put the remote in the mount. Whatever you prefer.

Disposal:

     Current Power Strip: Your power strip is a piece of electronics. Usually made of a combination of metal plastic and electrical components. You have a lot of choices. You can uses your current power strip somewhere in your home or business. You could give it to a charitable organization (church, Good Will).
     It may be that if you separate the metal from the plastic you could recycle the metal. We are unsure about the plastic and other electronic components. If it is an older strip there may not be very many electronic parts.
    Newer Strips and e-cycling: Having said all of that to the left, just about every state has enacted an e-cycle program.  We have many of them here. Many of these types of recyclers will take old computers, monitors, cell phones and so on. Some may even take power strips so you should take a look. At this point we are not sure  where these items go (recycled here or over seas) but they probably save some on the land fill.

We are finding it difficult to research the disposal of some of the products we recommend. If you have a suggestion for other means of disposal write us and we may post it on this site.

Our Picks:

kill-A-Watt meter
Kill-A-Watt Meter Power Meter.
The Kill-A-Watt power meter. This will measure the power consumption of an appliance even when it is turned off. It can measure in Kilowatt Hours or it can directly show you $ per year. The Kill-A-Watt is a product from P3 International.
Belkin power strip
Belkin Conserve Energy-Saving Power Strip with Remote.
This power strip has 2 continuously on outlets and 6 that you can switch on and off with the remote control. The remote comes with it's own batteries. Belkin has been in business out of California since 1983. 

Look for Specification sheets for these products here.

You can find these items at the Greencompletely.com Amazon Store.

Go here to see if there are possible rebates for these items.

Quick Note On Savings:

     Since everyone's situation is different it is hard to give a calculation that reflects your exact situation.
     Our example is of an entertainment center. You use the center for approximately 4 hours a day, that leaves 20 hours a day with no use. Let us further assume that the center consumes 100 Watts an hour when not in use.
    At $0.10 a kilowatt-hour that is $73 in a year of extra power wasted. If you spend $40 to solve this problem, then it pays for itself in 6.5 months. This means that in a 10 year period of use the solution will pay for itself 19 times over.  

Green Calculator:

Calculate Return on Investment to Remove Vampires

Current Consumption:
Estimated Watts Per Hour:
Hours a Day Switched Off:
What You Pay ($/kilowatt-hour):
Money Spent on Solution($):
______________________________________________________
Is everything filled in above?
 
Results:
Yearly vampire power (kWatt-hr):
Yearly Vampire Cost ($):
  
 
Return on Investment: Months

Solution 3: A bit costly.

     This by far is the most expensive solution. Buy new appliances. The newest appliances that are ENERGYSTAR rated have to follow new regulations for power consumption when they are in sleep mode (or turned off). It may take a pretty penny to replace your appliances but when you turn them off you know that they will be sipping power and not slurping it.     Some of the new EnergyStar initiatives require some appliances to be a Watt or less in "stand by" (or energy saving) mode.
     There is a 1 watt initiative (2010) and a 0.5 Watt initiative (2013) being worked on by EnergyStar. Look at the links below to see what EnergyStar is doing for the requirements to get their approval.
How a product earns the ENERGYSTAR label. This is general information about how a manufacturer gets their product certified. The requirements for products for your home. Go to Step 3 and pick the appliance. The requirements for products for your business. Go to Step 3 and pick the appliance.

Glossary Of Terms:

Energy Vampire: Term used to describe a device that still draws power even though it has been shut off. Load: Amount of power being drawn by an electrical device.

References:

"How can surge protectors save energy?", How stuff works  http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/energy-saving-surge-protector.htm taken 7/11/11

www.belkin.com

http://www.pickocc.org/publications/electric/Vampire_Power.pdf
pdf from pickocc.org talks about different things about vampire power. nice and brief. Taken 5/7/09

http://www.grinningplanet.com/2004/10-26/vampire-power-electricity-article.htm, Good source about monitoring and getting rid of vampire power. Vampire power in U.S. and around the world.

ENERGY STAR Factoid Worksheet for 2008, EIA Table 4_residential elec end use 2008

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standby_power, This is a Wikipedia link, taken 2/15/12.

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_how_earn, from EnergyStar about how they earn their label. 2/15/12.