Identify Power Vampires

Which Power Leeches You Should be Unplugging to Save Energy

Power Vampires plugged into a socket. What is a power vampire? Power vampires (or power leeches) are electrical devices that continuously draw power from your power outlets, even when not supplying any useful service. One example that we have encountered already is the power adapter for halogen lights. However, a modern home may easily have 10 to 30 power vampires: television sets, cable boxes, modems, satellite receivers, VCRs, DVD players, DVD recorders, fax and answering machines, computers, printers, copiers, wireless and cell phone chargers, wired and wireless hubs and routers, monitors, battery-powered power tools, stereos, boomboxes, shredders, speaker systems, iPod chargers, video camera chargers, night lights, plugged-in electric toys and game machines are among the most common power vampires. As a simple rule, the more gadgets in your home, the more power vampires. Is the power consumption of power vampires significant?

Power vampires usually consume only a few watts. However, consider that these devices consume power around the clock, 8,760 hours per year, and you will appreciate their impact; a recent study found that together they accounted for 5 to 20 percent of total home power consumption, even exceeding the traditionally highest user (the fridge) in some homes. Power vampires are the fastest-growing power users in our residences.

So, what are annual power vampire figures? Roughly speaking, each watt of vampire power costs you one dollar per year. So, if you have 25 power vampires consuming an average of 7 watts each, they will cost you $175 per year, and emit about 2,000 pounds of CO2.

Garlic won’t do much good against power vampires (though it will probably improve your health), but there are a number of ways to eliminate virtually all vampires effectively. The simplest way to get rid of these power-suckers is to unplug them when not in use. An added advantage is that this measure is absolutely free.

Quick Tip: Power vampires can suck up to 20 percent of your power. Exercising them will reduce your energy bill by $50 to $200 per year ($250 to $1,000 in five years).

More convenient are power bars. For about $5, you can lay one or several power vampires to rest. You can extend the life of battery-powered equipment by not leaving it plugged in at all times, nor letting it run to zero for long periods of time. For example, a study of Apple laptop batteries found, curiously enough, that batteries in a charge state of 40 percent actually had the longest lifespan. Rarely used equipment (e.g.: battery-powered power tools) is best put on a timer-controlled power bar, to be charged for a few hours once a month or week; this way you reduce the power cost as well as extending useful battery life. Even if you double the life of a single rechargeable battery, you will probably have already paid for the timer three times over, without counting the power savings. How can you identify power vampires in your home? There are a few simple rules: If your equipment uses an external power adapter/power brick (usually black in color), it is always a power vampire. If the equipment feels warm even when it has been switched off for a while, it is a power vampire. If the power adapter is internal (i.e., no black external power brick), it could go either way:


Common power vampires:

  • Laptop chargers
  • DVD players
  • Fax machines
  • DVD recorders
  • Answering machines
  • Digital video recorders
  • Printer
  • Photocopier with paper sorter
  • TVs
  • Phone chargers
  • Cable boxes
  • Hubs and routers
  • Cable modems
  • iPod chargers
  • Modems
  • Video camera battery charger
  • VCRs
  • Night light

Often a power vampire

  • LCD monitor
  • Photocopier without paper sorter
  • Audio system
  • Plugged-in electric toys

Quick Tip: Any equipment with a small, black “power brick” is a power vampire. So is any equipment that stays warm after it has been turned off for a while.


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