A 4-Step Guide to “Phantom” Loads

Studies show that in an average home, 5 to 8 percent of electricity consumption stems from appliances with “phantom” loads, which means that they consume electricity even when switched off. To put that in perspective, the average North American household consumes roughly 10,800 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year. If you estimate that 6.5 percent of your total electricity consumption comes from phantom loads, the amount drained by these appliances equals about 700 kWh annually — or $70 per year.

So how can you tell which devices are okay to leave plugged in?

  1. Satisfactory Standby: Microwave ovens and alarm clocks, which use relatively small amounts of standby power, are acceptable to leave plugged in. If you record programs frequently with your DVR, you should probably leave it plugged in.
  2. Unnecessary Unplugging: You don’t have to worry about unplugging items with mechanical on/off switches, such as lamps, hair dryers, or small kitchen appliances like toasters or mixers…they don’t draw any power when turned off.
  3. Power Strip Protection: Try plugging household electronics like personal computers, monitors, printers, speakers, stereos, DVD and video game players, and cell phone chargers into power strips. Not only do power strips protect sensitive electronic components from power surges, you can quickly turn off several items at once.
  4. Smart Savings: A better solution to power strips may be found in “smart strips”. Most smart strips feature three outlet colors, each with a unique task. The blue outlet serves as a control plug and is ideal for heavily used devices like TVs or computers. The neutral or green outlets are connected to the blue outlet. Turning off the blue outlet will also cut power to any equipment plugged into those outlets. Devices plugged into red outlets remain on — electricity to these outlets never cuts off making them perfect for satellite boxes or other appliances that need constant power.