Haege: Vampire devices suck up electricity
As you open your door to hand out Halloween candy Saturday, you are likely to see neighborhood kids outside your home dressed as vampires. There are also vampires inside your home that suck up plenty of energy year-round.
Vampire electronics are those TVs, DVRs, video game consoles and other appliances that continually draw electricity even when not in use. In general, anytime you see an electronic device or appliances with a little red, green or yellow LED light or display on, it is using power.
According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), nrdc.org, Americans spend $19 billion a year in electricity costs related to vampire appliances and electronics, or an average of $165 per household. While video game consoles, cable TV boxes and computers are among the biggest vampire offenders, appliances like your clothes washer and dryer, refrigerator, coffee pot or toaster also have digital displays and electronic controls that continually draw power.
In fact, an NRDC study of 70,000 homes in California found an average of 65 vampire power loads. These always-on devices consumed an average of 164 watts per home, which equates to the amount of energy it would take to brew 234 cups of coffee daily for a year.
One way to eliminate vampire power issues is to simply unplug these items after use. But that is very inconvenient, so you may want to plug them into a power strip with a surge protector and just shut off the strip. And whenever possible, look into putting them into a sleep or standby mode when not in use.
If you want to see your electric energy consumption in real time, you can try a product like the Kill a Watt electricity usage monitor from P3 International, p3international.com. P3 also offers a TV Standby Killer or the Save a Watt Edge that will completely cut off power when it is not in use.
According to Joel Miller, a program manager for DTE, dteenergy.com, one of the best ways to find out how many things are using vampire power is to check your electronics and appliances in the middle of the night.
“If you look at things when they are turned off and see the LED lights are still on, or the motor to the electronic device is still making noise, it is using power,” Miller said. “But you can decrease the amount of power these things use in half by thinking about what really need to be left on and what can be put on standby or turned off.”
Miller said computer speakers are often left on 24 hours a day and draw electricity, yet are seldom used. Certain computers are also a big drain of electricity when left on. “A computer can draw 30 to 40 watts of power, and if left on can cost an added $3 a month,” he said. “And that is just one item. So you can see how a lot of items using vampire power can really increase your electric bill.”
Miller said one way you can get a better handle on your home energy use and find ways to save energy is using DTE’s new Android and iPhone app, Insight, that can be used for qualifying homes that have an advanced meter and broadband Internet service.
If there are certain types of electronics and appliances that you want or really need to leave on, you can still save some money on the amount of power they use by replacing them with Energy Star rated versions.
If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536 between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.