At one time or another, everyone has looked at an electricity bill and wondered, “How did I use this much energy?” While some of it may have to do with that misremembered Netflix bender, these questions might be related to other overlooked culprits in our homes.
What Are Energy Vampires?
Many homeowners and renters may be unfamiliar with energy vampires, a phrase that’s become increasingly common in energy efficiency. The term refers to electrical usage in appliances or electronics in an idle position. Many household products set to a lowest energy position (sleep mode, standby or “off”) will continue to draw electrical current when they are plugged in. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory:
Almost any product with an external power supply, remote control, continuous display (including an LED), or charges batteries will draw power continuously. Sometimes there is no obvious sign of continuous power consumption and you need a meter to be certain.
As household products become smarter, vampire energy consumption becomes greater. In a recent New York Times article, the author noted several common consumer electronics that never really turn off and may even have a constant internet connection:
To turn a TV on with a remote, it has to be on to receive that signal. If it’s a “smart” TV, it has to be on to stay online. And if your TV is in quick-start mode – to avoid the pain of waiting 15 seconds for it to boot up – it’s drawing even more power.
Lots of traditional household appliances – things your grandmother owns – are also moving online, just like your grandmother. Light bulbs, ovens, refrigerators, coffee makers – even mattresses — can now connect to the Internet, so they also draw power all the time.
A study performed by the National Resource Defense Council estimated that the U.S. loses about $19 billion, or about $165 per household, to inactive devices every year. According to the study, this energy would account for approximately 1 billion tons of carbon dioxide or about 15% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Depending on the number and kind of devices, this can lead to a significant impact on your electrical usage over the course of a year. Our hope is to help residents better understand exactly what these energy vampires are and how to combat them.
So how much can vampire energy cost? Using a list compiled by the Berkely Laboratory, we’ve put together a modest number of common consumer products and their associated vampire electrical costs.
The table above includes the average and maximum measured watts drawn by each appliance in its lowest energy position. Using Berkely Laboratory’s conversion method, we turned those watt measurements into kilowatt hours (kWh). We then compared that value against the mean electrical cost in Ohio, $0.12/kWh as of August 2016 according to The Department of Energy. We then created an “Average Cost” and a “Maximum Cost” in dollars. Because these are average values gathered for one specific month, they will not perfectly match local rates or specific appliances in the home.
For example, a rear projection television uses an estimated 6.97 watts of electricity while switched off by remote. Assuming a constant draw, that’s approximately 63 kilowatt hours of electricity over a year. Thinking about it in dollars, you can use that $0.12/kWh rate cited above to find the average annual cost for a television in the “off” position. In this case, the cost would be $7.53.
Assuming the 16 appliances in our list remained plugged in but unused, we estimate an average cost of about $86.24 and a maximum cost of about $226.32. However, this list isn’t comprehensive and excludes common appliances like stove ovens, washing machines, water heaters, light bulbs, cell phones, tablets etc. It also accounts for one of each listed item, whereas many homes have multiple computers, televisions and other products.
What You Can Do
Energy vampires take advantage of our routines and habits. It’s easy to remember something obvious like a light bulb, but it can be challenging to even recall all the appliances in every room, much less unplug them all. A few simple steps in the home could make a big difference on your energy bill.
- Consider grouping electronics and other household appliances with a power strip. A home entertainment system, for example, may include a television, game system, streaming devices, speakers and other devices that can all be turned off at once.
- When you’re ready to upgrade, choose energy efficient items. Energy Star products, while more costly at the initial purchase, can more than make up for their higher sticker price over their lifetime. Many devices are eligible for rebate programs that may cover the additional cost.
- Take stock of innocuous appliances ahead of an extended vacation. When possible, unplug computers, spare chargers and other devices. Where applicable, turn down the temperature on water heaters in the home.
Taking a few simple steps can get you well on your way to a more efficient home that’s better for the environment and better for your wallet.