'Phantom Load': When Off Isn't Really Off
Many electronics and small appliances silently consume electricity – what we call "phantom load" – even when they have been turned off.
Seventy-five percent of electricity used by home electronics is actually consumed while products are turned off, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Examples of phantom load users include:
- Video games
- Digital video recorders
- Chargers for phones and electronics
A DVR that's plugged in can consume 35 watts even when it's turned off.
Those 35 watts being consumed 24-7-365, at 9.8 cents per kilowatt-hour, would cost you about $30 per year – plus the additional cost when you're actually using it.
A microwave oven may add $2 to $3 per year for its off-time. That's not much by itself, but consider all of the devices in your home that consume phantom load and the costs add up.
You probably won't be able to eliminate all phantom load. But the more you eliminate, the lower your bills will be.
The first step is to unplug appliances and electronics when they aren't in use. Power strips can allow you to completely power down several appliances with one switch.
Energy saving tips for home offices and electronics from the Dept. of Energy (energysavers.gov)
Overview of phantom load (wikipedia.org)
News story: "Phantom Load: Save Some Cash, Get Unplugged" (usnews.com)
Detailed explanations from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (lbl.gov)