Energy Efficiency and Phantom Load

Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Blog, Clean Energy, Lefty Loosie

Energy Efficiency and Phantom Load

A few weeks ago I attended the ORNL Sustainability Summit with the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance and agreed to participate in the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s (TDEC) Office of Energy Programs (OEP) new outreach and awareness campaign designed to reduce unnecessary “phantom” plug loads. To read more from the E.D.G.E. program, visit the Tennessee Energy Education Initiative’s page on the program. photoIf you don’t know, “phantom load” is otherwise known as “vampire power” because it comes from your appliances, lamps, or other electrical appliances that are turned off, yet still “suck” power and increase your energy bill in the process. It was a pretty simple process. I was given a Kill-A-Watt meter and asked to record five different household devices while they were in standby mode. I chose things that were the most convenient to unplug and plug, such as my Iphone 5 charger, my VOX Guitar Amplifier, Mr. Coffee Coffeemaker, Samsung Clothes Washer, and a Sony DVD Player/Stereo. I have to say that was pretty shocked the most by the VOX Guitar Amplifier. The VOX on standby used 31.2 watts, equaling to 273.31 phantom kW hours per year (8,760) and equaled almost $30/year in energy cost. Considering that I have two guitar amplifiers plugged in at all times, I was wasting around $60/year just on those two devices. That’s $5/month and not even accounting for how much they use when I’m playing them. My full results were as follows: Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 12.55.25 PM

In one year, taking this into account and then just adding in the other guitar amplifier, I was throwing $6/month down the drain. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, consider the fact this is for devices that I’m not even using. They aren’t even on. Now add in all my televisions, my computers, my refrigerator, dryer. Can you imagine what the total amount could be?

The amplifier led me to direct a question to a friend at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), who said he wasn’t shocked because guitar amplifiers are small niche that currently don’t have standards like most appliances, but that external power supplies might help.

I’ll admit that I have worked on energy efficiency issues for more than 6 years and I’ve always been a bit skeptical about some claims. I’ve also been skeptical concerning the upfront costs that a lot of efficiency programs require, and have always pushed for policies that help those most effected by high energy bills, but don’t have the capital to do anything about it. Focusing on phantom load requires no cost at all and I was completely shocked at the amount of money I was wasting.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says that on average, 7.5 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. The biggest users are DVRs/TiVos, home offices.

I think from now on I’m going to start unplugging stuff. As most Americans can’t really afford to finance or spend chunks of cash on the upfront costs of most energy efficiency programs, one thing we can do is unplug stuff we aren’t using. It’s free and it saves us money in the long run. In my case, probably more than $100/year, if not more. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but for those that can’t afford new HVAC systems, more insulation and even new lightbulbs, an extra $5-7 a month is well worth the time to unplug things we aren’t using.


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