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Vampire Loads: Not a Halloween Trick or Treat

  • Posted: 09.20.2021
image of sign that says, "Beware of vampires"

More and more household appliances suck electricity even when they are turned off, and some use nearly as much when turned off as they do when you have them turned on. That’s because they may be performing functions—such as operating clocks or lights—even when the appliance isn’t working. Many also are performing updates, connecting to remote servers and recording data. This function is sometimes called a “vampire load” or “standby power.”

It’s estimated that this extra energy use may add an extra 10 to 20% to your monthly utility bill, depending on how many of these vampire appliances you have in your home.

Where the Energy Bite Occurs
While there are many culprits, four items are the primary culprits, according to Tom Tate, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. These are:

  • Set-top television boxes
  • Instant-on televisions
  • Gaming systems
  • Chargers

All of these items are on all the time, even when they appear to be turned off. The worst offender: An instant-on TV uses nearly as much power when off because it is warmed up and ready to go 24/7.

In addition, gaming consoles use as much energy as a refrigerator even when it’s not being used, and set-top boxes use energy whenever the light is on and especially if you have a DVR recording function.

Other items that draw on power even when the appliance isn’t on include:

  • Coffee makers
  • Anything that turns on instantly via remote control
  • Devices with a standby light or clock
  • Any product with a large plug on the cord (such as a cellphone charger)
  • Any product with a brick-shaped box on the cord (such as a laptop)
  • DVD or Blu-Ray players
  • Garage door openers
  • Wireless phones and answering machines
  • Microwaves
  • Gas ranges
  • Electric toothbrushes
  • Digital clocks
  • Stereos and speakers

What You Can Do
Tom’s suggestions for reducing vampire loads:

  • Unplug chargers when not in use
  • Use smart power strips. These look like normal power strips, except that one of the outlets is the master that receives power all the time. The others are off. When the device connected to the master outlet turns on, the other outlets receive power too. Tom says this is a perfect set up for your TV system: Plug the TV into the master outlet and when you turn it on, the set-top box, speakers, streaming devices and any other components will turn on, too. The same is true for your computer system components.
  • Turn off the instant-on function on your TV and your set-top box if it doesn’t have DVR or if you haven’t plugged it into a smart power strip.
  • Disable automatic updates in gaming consoles and turn off the console completely after every use.
  • When replacing any device or appliance, look for an Energy Star rated product.