Using a power strip to switch off appliances ensures your home won't be plagued by energy vampires. | Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/webking
Halloween is almost here, and a band of spooky energy vampires could be lurking around your home. Unfortunately, these energy-slurping electronics are not interested in candy, but rather sucking your electrical outlets bone dry while raising your energy bills every month.
These so-called “energy vampires” are appliances that continue to draw power from electrical outlets, even when turned off or idle. While these vampires won’t suck your blood, some of these appliances can cause substantial increases to your energy usage, costing you and your family hundreds of dollars per year.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, an appliance constantly taking in 1 watt of electrical current is equivalent to 9kWh per year, adding up to $1 in annual costs (basically $1/watt/annual). Considering how many appliances are used in an average household, costs can quickly add up to $100-200 a year.
To prep you for the colder and more expensive energy months, we’ve prepared a list of cleverly ghoulish (and practical) actions to take care of energy vampires in your home for good:
In the Bathroom—Unplug that hair dryer
No, unfortunately hanging garlic is not step one. But your morning shave and blowout could be a cause for concern if you’re leaving devices like hair dryers, curling irons, or electric shavers plugged into the wall. Even when turned off, these devices can idly sip electricity from your outlet costing you money. Outsmart those pesky energy vampires and tug the plug.
If not, timed power switches are a great way to turn the lights on before you get home or even make sure you didn’t burn the house down with your curling iron. Consider one of these handy devices in your bathroom if you’re forgetful or busy in the morning (and who isn’t?). Peace of mind can be just as valuable as energy savings.
In the Kitchen
You’re primped and ready to head to work, but you have yet to finish that pot of coffee. Before you leave for the day, make a habit of turning off all unnecessary kitchen appliances, especially that new espresso machine. Granted, coffee makers only use 1-3 watts when off, but add that to your microwave, small kitchen television, toaster oven, and other unused appliances and you could save $10-20 per year.
In the Living room
Older set-top cable boxes and DVRs in your living room are some of the most frightening of energy vampires, as they’re less efficient than newer models. Some of these devices are constantly draining 25-45 watts of energy when off. To mitigate this energy waste, hook up your entertainment center and other living room appliances to power strips or an outlet with a wall switch. Then you can easily switch the whole system off when you need to. But remember if you are planning to record a show, your cable box will need to be turned on. It also takes time for your program guide to load, so it may be best to only shut your cable box off if you are not going to use it for extended periods.
If you’re still concerned about the energy usage of your home set-top boxes, be aware that, in December 2013, industry, environmental, and consumer groups reached a non-regulatory agreement that is expected to improve the efficiency of new set-top boxes by 10 to 45 percent (depending on box type) by 2017. So, if you want to save energy and money, consider calling your cable provider about these new, more efficient set-top boxes.
In the Home Office
You may have finished working, but your laptops and PCs in the home office are contributing to your electric bill. Be sure to keep your computers on sleep mode if not in use. Of course, a desktop or laptop computer can still suck 15-21 watts when idle. Turn it off instead and that could be up to $20 in savings from one device alone. Inkjet printers and fax machines, as well as other computers, can easily add to these costs, so be sure to use power strips and flip them off when not in use.
In the Bedroom
Space heaters are a great way to keep a basement bedroom warm. Unfortunately, they’re also a great way to start a house fire and drive up energy bills. If some rooms are colder in your house, consider fixing leaks and or adding insulation instead of using pricey space heaters. You can find ways to fix leaks in your home with a simple home energy audit. Read more tips on heating and cooling in our blog on Saving on Home Heating Costs.
As always, be sure to consider purchasing ENERGY STAR-rated appliances as they can save you more money up front and for years into the future. Check for the ENERGY STAR logo on all products. Also, be sure to look for rebates on these appliances.