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The Scary Truth About Vampire Energy

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Vampires are everywhere, sucking unnecessary energy. Here's how to conquer them.

If you've been a little scared to open your power bill lately, it could be that you're haunted by vampires — energy vampires, that is.

Energy vampires are electrical devices that expend energy when they're plugged in, even when they're not in use — which may not only cause unnecessarily high utility bills, but could also waste a good deal of energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. household spends as much as $100 a year powering devices that are off or in standby mode.

Among the most common culprits are chargers for devices like mobile phones, mp3 players, and power tools, which we often leave plugged in all the time. There are other big offenders though, too, like electronics that are turned off but in an active standby mode — like DVD players that are off but set to record a TV show. According to, computers, game consoles, and plasma TVs can also be especially wasteful. Nearly everything with a plug will draw a little energy even while turned off, but according to a chart from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, there are appliances like coffee makers (without clocks), night lights, and window-unit air conditioners that suck fewer watts when turned off.

  • Change your computer settings. Screen savers may seem like they save energy, but they might not be quite the solution you'd expect; the more graphic screen saver patterns can actually expend more energy than not using a screensaver at all, and may even prevent your computer from entering "sleep" mode. Change the settings on your computer so that system standby and hibernate features are enabled both in the Battery (DC) and Power Adapter (AC) settings, so that they work whether the computer is plugged in or running on battery. Or, power your computer down if you know you'll be away from it for more than 2 hours — it's only a myth that computers burn more energy powering on and off than they do just remaining on.

  • Invest in power surge strips. It would be tedious to have to constantly reach behind cabinets and other furniture to unplug all your appliances while they're not in use, but if you plug everything into a power surge strip, that number of appliances is now just a single switch away from turning off the energy current. Even better might be a smart strip, which can sense when a computer or another electronic appliance is shut down, and will prevent them from drawing energy from the outlet.

  • Unplug chargers. Most people just leave their chargers plugged into a wall socket, whether or not they're actually charging computers, cell-phones, mp3 players and the like, but even when they're not being used, chargers that are plugged in are still pulling electricity. Plug in your chargers only when you're using them (or plug them into a power strip that you can turn off when not in use), and charge your gadgets for only as long as they need to become fully charged (which also helps preserve the gadget's battery life). You could also consider investing in energy-saving chargers, which shut off when the device is fully charged and do not continue to pull energy.

  • Reduce the number of clocks in your house. If you and your partner have your own alarm clock on either side of the bed, consider getting rid of one, switching to a clock with dual alarms if necessary. You might also think about whether or not it's really necessary to see the clock display on your coffee maker, microwave, and other appliances; if not, those devices can be kept unplugged when they're not in use.

  • Check an appliance's energy consumption. There are a few handy electricity-usage monitoring gadgets will determine the energy usage of any appliance; just plug it into the wall and then plug the appliance into it, and you can generate a calculation that shows how much the appliance costs to run — and instantly see how much you'd save by unplugging it.

  • Consider an energy audit. An energy audit can pinpoint energy-guzzling appliances and help you determine how to cut down on your energy usage. Some local power companies will even perform an energy audit for free or at a discounted rate. You can also find information online or in the bookstore about performing your own energy audit. Be sure to check your energy bill a couple of months after taking the actions suggested by the audit, to see if your changes were effective.

Who knew you could vanquish vampires in your home without a clove of garlic or a stake? Paying a little more attention to what's plugged in will be just as effective.

What are ways that you combat vampire energy? Share your tips in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.