Phantom Load: Ferreting Out the Energy Vampires

Phantom load is electrical use from appliances that are plugged in but not in use. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, phantom load can account for 5-10% of the average home’s energy use, or some 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. That adds up to 87 billion pounds of carbon dioxide in our air and $5.8 billion from our wallets. In other words, the energy vampires located all around our home are bleeding us dry.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2008, the average U.S. household used 11,040 kWh a year, or 920 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month. Tennessee had the highest annual consumption at 1,302 a month and Maine had the lowest at 521 kWh per month. We averaged 650 kWh a month last year.

So what does an energy vampire look like? We did a walk-through of our house to see what we had plugged in all the time:

  • Bedroom: alarm clock, 4 lamps, TV, DVD, cable box
  • Office: phone, printer, computer, lamp, battery recharger, phone charger, paper shredder
  • Bathroom: toothbrush
  • Dining room: WIFI
  • Living room: answering machine, 3 lights, multiple strings of Christmas lights (we use these because we have no overhead lights), stereo
  • Entry: plant light
  • Kitchen: coffeepot, microwave, toaster, fridge
  • Sewing room: sewing machine, clock-radio, pencil sharpener
  • Family room: TV, DVD, roku, cable box, phone, fan
  • Laundry room: washer, dryer sump pump, freezer
  • Art/storage: old computer, old speakers
  • 2nd bathroom: radio

Our challenge this month is to again see how low we can go. Back to the Kill-a-Watt tool to see what each item is using, and then to unplug or install smart powerstrips that turn themselves off when not in use.

BONUS FUN: Seems Energy Vampires make good song material. Sorry I don’t have full videos but this should get you started.

About thinkofitasanadventure

We are a 50-something couple living in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. We attended a sustainability conference at our local high school in November 2010, with keynote speaker Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. What we heard shocked us deeply. We finally understood the need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We immediately began to change the way we live. We joined together with other folks in our neighborhood to learn more, to do more and to have fun doing it! We're part of Transition Longfellow. We're choosing to change now and to "think of it as an adventure." If you are on this journey too, we'd love to hear from you.
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