Could proposed new standards stop energy “vampires”?

Take a good look around any home and you’ll find them – those almost unnoticeable red, blue or yellow lights indicating that some appliance or electronic device is plugged in. That “vampire energy” drain happens even when you’re not around.

According to a 2008 study, unoccupied new homes in California used 117 watts before anyone had even moved in!

Vampire energy is electricity used when a device is in “stand by” mode, just waiting for the next time we want or need to use them. a typical American home has around forty different devices that are constantly drawing power. These equal almost 13% of residential electricity use.

Think of it this way. If a device constantly draws 1 watt of power for a year, its energy consumption is 9 kWh. That corresponds to about $1.00. Check out the wattage drawn by some of our most commonly used home devices (averages).

  • computer display (sleep mode)           12.14 w
  • desktop computer                                     21.13 w
  • FAX machine (inkjet / laser)                 over 6.22 w
  • Cable modem                                                 3.85 w
  • TV                                                        approx. 3 w
  • DVD / VCR                                                     5.04 w
  • Microwave (door closed)                       3.08 w
  • Microwave (door open)                        25.79 w

Vampire stand-by lighting wastes large amounts of energy each year

Even a wall-based garage door opener uses almost 4.5 watts of energy!

Add these to all the other electric / electronic devices you have in your house and you start to see why your utility bills are high.

In 2oo7, Congress directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to come up with standards for standby and off-mode energy use for all products subject to national energy efficiency standards. A recently released DOE report outlines proposed energy efficiency standards for microwaves.

These handy kitchen helpers drain energy through their clocks and other displays, the cooking sensor, power supply and control boards.  The proposed standards would require microwave displays and other standby features to use energy more efficiently by limiting the standby energy used for most microwaves to just 1 watt. Built-in and above-the-range units that combine a convection oven and microwave would be allowed to use up to 2.2 watts in standby. DOE estimates that the savings from these proposed standards will add up to a cumulative 410 trillion BTU over 30 years. For comparison, this is approximately equal to the energy used in one year by 2 million U.S. homes.

The DOE also estimates that these improvements will save consumers from $1.82 to $3.6 billion over the life of the rule.

Using automatic-off power strips like the USB Ecostrip will eliminate vampire energy waste

But until these standards are modified (likely) and approved (who knows when), there are things consumers can do to help reduce “vampire energy” drain.

First and foremost, unplug things when not in use. That goes for kitchen equipment, electronics, even your cable box – when you leave the house and at the end of the day. You’ll be stunned at the drop in your next electric bill.

Second, consider investing in Energy Star labeled equipment / devices. They were designed to use less energy from the get-go.

Third, plug your devices into automatic-off power strips. They’re affordable, popular – and they work.

As technology improves and consumers demand it, manufacturers are developing electronics that utilize less energy. We can do our part by being smart consumers and smart about how (little) we use energy, especially at home. Those blinking lights are a clue that you’re wasting energy. Hit that plug!

One Response

  1. Interesting! That’s a much higher estimate of vampire energy use than I have seen before. Those CA homes speak volumes though. If anyone is interested in where to easily get a smart power strip, see I use power strips for my computer and peripherals, and my TV/VCR/converter box – easier than unplugging them all – just turn off one switch!

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