Phantom Energy. No, it’s not electricity created by ghosts, it’s the energy your appliances consume when they are not in use. That’s scary, when you think about it. How can your TV, laptop, modem, printer, game console, coffee maker, toaster, etc., be consuming energy if you’re not using them? They can and they do – and you (and the planet) are paying for it.
That’s right. According to the US Government and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, up to 10% of your electric bill goes to pay for things you aren’t actually using, but have left plugged in. Sorry to tell you this, but if you still have one of those massive rear-projection TVs and you turned it off using the remote, it’s off the charts when it comes to Phantom Energy drain. Take a look at this chart and see how much energy and money you’re wasting at home and at the office. You’ll be surprised.
A study by the Energy Center of Wisconsin measured Phantom Energy for different appliances and devices. Here’s just a few results: treadmill – 5.6 watts, printer – 4.3 watts, battery charger – 2.6 watts, CRT TV (old cathode ray tube TVs) 26-31 inches - 1.3 watts, desktop computer – 2.4 watts, modem – 1.5 watts, and a laptop - .07 watts. These are only a few things that we all have around the house, but the energy waste adds up.
After learning this a few years ago, I’ve saved quite a lot on my energy bill. Instead of plugging everything directly into the wall, I use power strips and turn them off when I’m done. In the kitchen, I leave my toaster and coffee maker unplugged. Unfortunately, my microwave is up high, and being a short person, I can’t reach it without climbing onto the counter. If you have a countertop microwave, put it on a strip and turn it off. Yes, you won’t have a digital clock on the microwave, but do you really need it for the few seconds you’re setting your cooking time? Note: be careful when you plug/unplug frequently – check to make sure those cords aren’t frayed, which can cause electrocution and death. In fact, make it a point to routinely check the cords of all electrical devices. You’d be surprised how quickly a laptop computer’s power cord frays without you realizing it (Apple, I’m talking to you!). Going out of town? Unplug everything that doesn't need to be on, including your power strips, and set a couple of lights on timers to fool burglars.
What about lighting? Replace your old bulbs with more energy efficient ones. If you have a vanity light strip with several bulbs, only use one or two. If it’s daytime and the sun is shining, don’t turn on a light. I’m writing this blog in a room lit by the open window (clean air and daylight are important!) and my computer is on a power strip. When I take the laptop out of the room or shut down the computer, I switch off the power strip. At night, I only have a light on if I’m in the room and I unplug my modem when I go to sleep. It might sounds like overkill to save only 10% of your electric bill, but what if everyone did this? We’d reduce our collective electrical needs; therefore, we’d reduce the non-renewable resources needed to create that electricity by 10% if not more. If you want to learn more ways that you can save energy, watch our series On Begley Street, where Ed Begley, Jr. and his wife, Rachelle Carson Begley, start each episode with a great tip.