By Michele S. Byers
Vampires are popular lately, thanks in part to the Twilight series and the revival of Dark Shadows. With Halloween coming, there undoubtedly will be hordes of vampires knocking on your door for treats.
But barring the door from vampires won’t protect you, since your house is probably already filled with vampires – possibly dozens of them! These vampires don’t suck blood; they suck electricity.
“Vampire electronics” are household appliances and consumer gadgets that use power even when they’re not “on.”
The thirstiest vampires are home entertainment electronics like TVs, cable boxes, DVRs, stereos and gaming systems that are constantly in “standby” mode – ready to snap on instantly at the touch of a remote control. Most computers and printers also suck juice when nobody’s using them.
And how about the chargers for the multitude of devices with rechargeable batteries – cellphones, cameras, razors, flashlights, mini-vacuum cleaners and more? Even when they’re not re-powering anything, they’re still bleeding electricity. Finally, appliances like coffeemakers and microwave ovens have built-in digital displays with insatiable appetites for power.
According to the Energy Star program, the average U.S. household spends $100 per year to power these vampire devices while they are in standby mode. Nationwide, standby power accounts for more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of wasted annual electricity and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.
So, what to do about the vampires in your house, since garlic won’t work?
One solution is to use power strips with switches to plug in your electronics. Flip off the power strip and they’re truly off. One caution, though: You can’t do this with your DVR if you set it to record programs while you’re not there.
The easiest way to deal with vampire kitchen appliances is to simply unplug them when they’re not in use. Do you really need all those electronic displays and digital clocks? Be sure to yank the plug on chargers that aren’t charging anything. But if you’re an early morning coffee fiend, you’ll have to keep your coffeemaker plugged in to start brewing while you’re still in bed.
Another great option is to buy devices with standby losses next to zero.
The U.S. government, the nation’s largest consumer, now requires government purchasers to select products with low standby power. The Department of Energy’s Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP) recently launched the Standby Power Data Center, a website to help federal agencies – and the general public – identify low standby power products.
So get rid of those vampires bleeding your electricity – for the sake of your wallet and the environment! Consider how much of our electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal and you’ll have to admit there’s a huge environmental cost to “leaky” electronics that waste 100 billion kilowatt hours a year.
Check out low standby energy products at the FEMP website at www1. eere.energy.gov/femp/technologies/standby_power.aspx. The site also includes cost calculators for energy efficient products. Another good source of information is the Energy Star website at www.energystar.gov/index. cfm?c=about.vampires.
And to learn more about preserving New Jersey’s land and natural resources, visit the New Jersey Conservation Foundation website at www.njconservation.org or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.