Vampire lore originated centuries ago in Eastern Europe and has been creeping people out across the globe ever since. From Asia to Africa to the Americas, many cultures have versions of vampire stories. The fear of the blood-sucking undead has precipitated panic and violence, inspired academic papers and even given rise to mathematical proofs claiming to lay the notion of vampirism to rest once and for all. Luckily, here in Fairfax County, the only vampire tale we need be concerned with is that of vampire energy.
Also known as phantom energy, vampire energy refers to the power devices use when on standby, or when they are simply plugged in but not in use. Everything from your phone charger to your DVR can suck energy when you’re not looking and, if left unchecked, can be a true nightmare for your wallet, amounting to as much as 20 percent of your monthly electricity bill.
Before you run out for garlic and stakes, there are a few simple steps you can take to slay the vampire energy in your home.
Take an inventory of your outlets. What do you have plugged in around your home? Are there items that you use infrequently, or only at a certain time? If you charge your phone overnight, do you need to leave the charger plugged in all day? Ask yourself some hard questions about your usage and unplug where and when you can.
If you’re not sure which devices are using power while switched off, try turning off the lights – many devices have standby lights that glow when they’re pulling power. Look for the glow and you’ll know.
Get smart about your power strips. One of the best ways to vanquish the energy suckers in your life is to outsmart them. By investing in smart power strips, you can leave your devices plugged in but rest assured the power will be cut when they’re not in use.
Smart strips are comprised of power outlets and circuitry which allow for control of the power flow to individual devices, depending on their usage. Many devices, like printers, TVs and computers go into standby mode when they are “turned off.” They pull less power than when they are on, but they’re never completely offline. Smart strips allow you to control which devices should always have power flowing to them (like certain medical devices), and which should be cut off when not in use.
Program proactively. Become an expert at programming your thermostat and take control of when your heat and air conditioning are running. If you’re uncertain about how to use your programmable thermostat to save energy and money, the U.S. Department of Energy offers some advice.
Don’t let vampire energy suck the life out of your budget. Recover the dollars that are slipping away with these commonsense steps and you’ll be well on your way to a better energy future.