Dear Recyclebank: Which appliances and electronics use the most vampire energy? –Emily S. T.
Emily: If you’ve never heard the term before, “vampire energy” is a more colorful name for standby power, the energy consumed by a device that’s not currently in use. Even if an item isn’t turned on, its power supply drains a certain amount of electricity simply by being plugged in.
The amount consumed by any one device is usually small, but between all the electronics in your home, it can add up over time and have a noticeable impact on your energy consumption, not to mention your bill. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that standby power can account for 5 to 10 percent of residential electricity use and adds, “Altogether, standby power use is roughly responsible for 1 percent of global CO2 emissions.”
Electronics that have LED displays or use remotes require a certain amount of standby power, though practically any item with an external power supply can draw standby power. Here are some of the worst offenders:
DVRs (average: 36.68 watts when turned off)
Digital cable boxes (average: 17.83 watts when turned off by remote)
Satellite boxes (average: 15.66 watts when turned off by remote)
Notebook computers (average: 8.9 watts when off, 15.77 watts in sleep mode)
DVD/VCRs (average: 5.04 watts when off)
You can find a more comprehensive list of standby power consumption levels from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Simple solutions can help decrease your home’s vampire energy. Using power strips for your electronics allows you to switch off a number of them at once when not in use. Shut down your computers and game consoles fully rather than leaving them on and idling or in sleep mode. Finally, if you won’t need a device for a while, consider unplugging it entirely; just don’t do it so often that you damage the plug or cord and risk electrocution.