Wasted Electricity – Vampire Power

vampire powerVampire power is a way to describe the electricity wasted by some electronic devices even when they are not in use. Examples include TV’s, DVR’s, automated coffee machines, printers, power bricks for laptops, iPhones, iPads and much, much more. So, just how much electricity are these devices really using, even when they are supposedly turned “off”?

In the old days, when you turned something off, it really turned off. There was no more electrical draw from the wall outlet. But in the new world, turning something “off” doesn’t necessarily mean off. If you turn off your TV by pushing the power button on the remote control, you’re actually putting your TV into Standby Mode. If it were in really turned off such that no electricity flowed through the little internal components, how would the TV detect a signal from your remote control to turn the TV back on? All new TV’s, as well as any other device that uses a remote control, are always using electricity if it’s plugged into a wall outlet. The electricity used by these devices is called standby power or vampire power.

Then there are power bricks, which are even more deceiving. These are the power adapters that take 120 volts AC coming from a wall outlet and convert it to 12 volts DC. Even if you don’t have a laptop plugged into the power brick, the power brick will still be warm to the touch if it’s plugged into the wall. Feel a little warm? Electricity is still flowing through the transformer and creating heat, which is wasting electricity. This is the case will all power bricks, or transformers.

There are many sources of vampire power. Here are some of the more common appliances that leach power from your wall outlets without you knowing:

  • TV’s
  • DVD Players
  • Coffee Machines
  • Audio Video Receivers
  • Gaming consoles
  • TiVo’s or any DVR
  • Cable Boxes
  • Computer monitors
  • Uninterrupted Power Supplies (UPS’s) for computers
  • Any recharging station (iPhone, iPads)
  • Anything with a power adapter or transformer

So how much power is really getting wasted? Is it really worth the trouble to unplug everything when it’s not in use?

The amount of vampire power used by each device varies quite a bit. I was astonished with my wife’s little iPod speaker system we have plugged into the kitchen wall outlet. Even if I disconnect the power jacket from the speakers and leave the power adapter plugged into the wall, it draws 22 watts. Strangely, my 52″ LCD TV draws about .05 watts in standby mode as does my A/V stereo system. I would have expected these things to draw a lot more power. Then of course there are the TiVo’s and DVR’s. When you turn those “off”, you’re really just turning off the video circuitry, but the internal hard drive continues to spin and record shows. However, what I didn’t expect was my old stereo alarm clock drew 28 watts just to display the time on an LCD screen, even when the radio wasn’t on.

So again, would it make that much of a difference if I unplugged all this stuff every time I wasn’t using it? Let’s see … 22 watts for the IPod speakers, 28 watts for an stereo alarm clock, about 2 watts for all my audio video equipment (I’m not counting the DVR because that’s expected), 1 watt for the computer speakers, and about 5 watts for the computer monitor when in standby mode. This adds up to about 58 watts. So how much money am I wasting? Let’s do the math …

  • 58 watts divided by 1000 = .058 kilowatts
  • .058 kilowatts * 24 hours = 1.392 kilowatts per day
  • 1.392 kilowatts * $.10 (cost of a kilowatt where I live) = $0.13 a day
  • $0.13 a day * 30 days (about 30 days each month) = $4.18 a month

That’s not that much. In fact, it’s not worth my time to unplug this stuff everyday when I’m done using it. IT makes me feel a bit guilty, but I like the convenience of pushing a remote control button to turn my equipment on. It does give you a sense of how much is being wasted without you even doing anything, though.

There a lot of people who say if we all did this we could greatly reduce the amount of wasted electricity and thus reduce carbon emissions. Well OK, let’s assume a large city of 1,000,000 households wastes as much electricity as me, due to standby power loss (vampire power). That equates to about 1.4 Megawatts a day! And while that may sound like a lot, it pales in comparison to all the business that leave their lights on all throughout the night while the stores are closed. Drive by a car dealership at night and look how many high powered lights they leave on. Drive by a shopping mall and look how brightly lit the empty parking lots are. Look at the downtown high-rise buildings. Look at an amusement park, strip mall, or any store that is closed. The facilities waste far more electricity than we could ever hope to save by unplugging a few devices in our homes.

You might say they leave their lights on to deter thieves. Well, how about a motion sensor? If 50 flood lights are always on, no one pays attention. But if 50 flood lights were to suddenly turn on because someone set off the motion sensor, I’m sure more people would notice that!

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