Staking the Vampires: Gadgets, Standby Power and Savings
People tend to assume that when an electric gadget isn’t in use it doesn’t consume power. That’s a costly misconception. In fact, many household items and gadgets consume small amounts of energy constantly. Energy vampires are electronic devices that continue to consume power when turned off or on standby mode.
The amount of electricity consumed by standby power requirements is sobering. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, energy vampires consume 100 billion kilowatts a year, costing the nation $10 billion in unnecessary electric bills.
I don’t know about you, but anytime a statistic hits the billions, my mind finds the number unbelievable. If you’re looking for a smaller, more manageable way to understand the standby power problem, consider this: energy vampires cost the average U.S. household $100 a year.
Spotting the Vamps
So, what’s sucking the power out of your walls? Any electronic device with a remote control consumes standby power. The remote may work on batteries, but the gadget needs power to receive remote commands.
Electronic devices that display the time consume power when not in use, as does any gadget that has a red “off” light. Smartphone, iPod and battery rechargers continue to use power after you remove the phone or battery, unless you unplug the charger.
Computers, monitors and entertainment systems are the Big Bads of the energy vampire world. When all are plugged in a gaming console, large-screen television, cable box, Blu-ray player and surround sound system can consume as much power as your refrigerator.
Computers are terrible power hogs, a problem compounded by popular beliefs. It’s long been believed shutting down and restarting a computer eats more power than leaving the device running. This is entirely false.
Turning off computers at night and activating sleep or hibernate features during the day saves an average of $50 in electricity per computer every year. The savings are significant enough if you’re an individual. A business that requires multiple computers, such as an SEO company, stands to save even more.
The most obvious solution to standby power problems is to unplug all electronics when not in use. This sounds easy enough until you realize just how heavily the modern home relies on gadgets. Few people are willing to spend ten or fifteen minutes a night unplugging unused electronics, only to get up eight hours later and plug them all back in again.
A little preparation, however, makes it much easier to control standby power. You can buy power savers with built-in timers that plug into wall sockets. Plug the electronic into the power saver, and set the timer to turn off at night.
Connect multiple electronics to a high quality surge protector. The surge protector only takes up a single wall socket and turn off with the flick of a switch. You can also purchase “smart” power strips that sense when a gadget goes into standby mode and shut off power to the device. This solution does have limitations with devices that would need reprogramming after power interruptions. Fortunately, some smart power strips include a couple of outlets that provide continuous power.