Vampire Hunters: The Essential Tools for Slaying Energy Vampires.

vampireAs Halloween approaches, we think it's important to disseminate the true-but-all-too-oft-forgotten message that vampires are real. And they're not only after you, they've gotten you. In fact, they've had you in their grasp for years now, although you may not have realized it. 

The vampires I'm talking about are, of course, energy vampires. Every time you see a little LED light glowing at you in the wee hours of the night -- from a microwave, an alarm clock, a DVD player or a TV -- that's an energy vampire. They're in our kitchens, our living rooms, and our dens. They're in our basements. They're in our offices. They're everywhere. 

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), energy vampires actually account for 45 billion killowatt-hours of electricity in American households each year, costing U.S. consumers more than $3.5 billion annually.  ACEEE also estimates that vampires are responsible, on average, for about 5% of household electricity consumption.

The good news: there's no need to worry. Although they're probably already sucked you out of hundreds of dollars of hard-earned cash, you can get rid of them with a few simple tools.  

Leading up to Halloween over the next weeks, we'll be posting a series of blog posts identifying the most common energy vampires, and discussing the easy ways that you can get rid of them. 

Traditionally, the tools that vampires hunters have used to slay vampires are well known: garlic, steaks, holy water, and a helpful (but, of course, ultimately doomed) local guide. Today's vampire-slaying tools are a little more high-tech, but just as useful.

Among them:

Whole House Energy Monitors

Whole house energy monitors keep track of the total energy consumption of your home. Research suggests that their presence in your home can lead to energy savings of around 15%, based singly upon the fact that your home's energy consumption is in your face all the time, so you're more likely to take simple steps like shutting off lights when you're not using them, etc. These are super-cool, particularly because you can view, in real-time, the impact that unplugging electronics and appliances has on your home's total energy consumption. One of our favorites is the Blue Line PowerCost monitor: it's cheap, it's easy to install, and it's accurate. 

If you're interested in taking the whole-house energy monitoring approach a step further, the PowerHouse Dynamics eMonitor is today's state-of-the-art, cutting edge home energy monitoring device. It gives you data down to the individual circuit, has a sleek online interface, and lets you track your home's energy ust month-over-month, view which circuits are the biggest energy-guzzlers, and more. It's a little on the pricey side for the casual vampire hunter, but it's a truly unique and powerful tool.

Single-Appliance Energy Monitors

Perhaps the best option for the casual vampire hunter, single appliance energy monitors like the Kill-a-Watt let you look at the energy consumption of individual electronics and appliances to determine where the biggest energy hogs (and energy vampires) are. You just plug the monitor in the wall, plug your device into it, and prepare yourself to be shocked (in the case of energy vampires, you don't even have to turn the appliance on. They still draw power when they're turned off, which is where the true tragedy lies). 

Smart Power Strips

Smart power strips are a great way to cut vampire energy consumption in certain situations. The classic cases are 1) your home office (or your office office), where peripheral devices like monitors, speakers and printers continue to draw power even after your computer is turned off, and 2) your home entertainment system, where you shut your TV off but peripheral devices like the DVD player and video game consoles stay on, or on standby, drawing vampire power. If you plug your computer or TV into the smart strip's "control" outlet, and the peripheral devices into the "controlled" outlets, the power strip will shut off all power to the peripherals as soon as you turn your computer or TV off. (A smart strip also has "always on" outlets for devices like the DVR, which often needs to stay on; or the lamp located next to your TV, which doesn't draw vampire power when it's turned off.)

A Good Eye (and Diligence) 

Of course, you don't need high-tech tools to slay energy vampires. Just keep an eye out for devices that have lights and displays that are on even when the electronic gadget or appliance is turned off, and unplug them. It's a simple step that goes a long way. 

Here's a quick video that we did a while back explaining what energy vampires are, and how you can slay them using a smart power strip:

Know of any other energy vampires that may be threatening other readers? By all means, let us know. We're all in this thing together.

Comments

I ran around measuring all my "always on" things, and wrote it up:

http://sandeen.net/wordpress/?p=415

I came up with about 180W of "always on" including refrigerators, etc. But surprisingly, they weren't all the classic "waiting for a remote" or "unused charger" vampires. A lot of them were always on for a reason - radon fans, cordless phones, refrigerators, doorbells. Others would be a bit tough to fix - stove clock for example.

Anyway, just tallying it up was interesting. 4.5kWh/day just for that stuff!

Eric,

Very cool. Definitely a good point about the devices that are always on for a reason; a tough fix, but good to at least know what the culprits are.

Big fan of your blog by the way, and thanks for the comment!

Will

Thanks for the kind words. :) The "always on for a reason" stuff does deserve special attention too though, because anything on 24/7 really does add up. Which is why swapping out for an efficient fridge is a big deal... IOW, I think it's worth paying slightly more attention to the wattage of radon fans and refrigerators (and servers) than to TVs which, at least in my home, are not "always on"

Subwoofers!! I used a kill-a-watt on my 2 subwoofers (which don't even have an off switch) on my stereo and computer and realized they use 22 watts all the time, although with IPods, etc. I hardly ever use my stereo! Added one Smart strip and one remote switch and will save about 350 kWh a year, which is worth about $75 in my area.

Hey Joe,

Awesome. There's an argument that measurement alone doesn't reduce your energy consumption, but I think your example demonstrates the point that simply knowing what's going on can have a real impact. (That $75 would probably be better spent on a new batch of music!)

Thanks for the comment,

Will

You can't manage what you don't measure, I always say!

My subwoofer was also one of my early finds. It too was around 20W. I was stunned! My receiver at the time had a switched outlet in back, so I just plugged the subwoofer into that. Receiver "off" means subwoofer -OFF- and problem solved!

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