Friday, March 19, 2010

Phantom Power 101

The Basics:
When you turn off your television, computer, DVD player or other electronics, but leave them plugged in, they are still using power. "Phantom power", also known as "phantom loads" or "vampire power" is the energy that is being consumed by appliances when they are plugged in, but not turned on. In an average home, about 75% of all electricity is used to power home appliances while they are turned off.

What You Can Do:
Unplug your appliances and electronics when they are not in use (phone chargers, DVD players, computers, televisions, camera battery chargers, rechargeable battery chargers, even lamps). Use power strips with surge protectors to make it easy to "unplug" many appliances at once. You can do this both at home and at work.

How It Helps:
  • Saves money on your energy bills. Standby mode can cost the average American household as much as $50 (or more) per year.
  • Lowers emissions. If all phantom loads in U.S. homes were stopped, we could shut down 17 power plants.
  • Just by properly switching off electronics like your computer, television and CD player can decrease the more than 97 billion pounds of carbon dioxide produced by waste standby energy every year.
Unplugging your electronics, including lamps, when you aren't using them takes a little getting used to. Daniel and I started doing so last year, and we have saved a lot of energy. You do have to wait for a few minutes for the cable box to reset itself, but the difference we have seen in our energy bills is well worth it! Using power strips really helps. Not only do they have surge protectors in them to keep your electronics safe, but you can invest in different types including ones that have a main outlet so when you turn off your TV you can automatically turn off the cable, the DVD player, the Wii, etc., without having to turn off the power strip. Check out this Smart Strip as an example.

Be Green!

Bonnin, J. & McKay, K. (2009). True Green Home: 100 Inspirational Ideas for Creating a Green Environment at Home. Washington D.C.: National Geographic Society.

Hill, G. & O'Neill, M. (2008). Ready, Set, Green: Eight Weeks to Modern Eco-Living. New York: Villard Books.


  1. That smartstrip is really awesome! I think I'm going to order one for our computer and all of it's accessories.

    Adam and I use surge protectors and shut them off whenever things aren't in use. I need to get a few more around the house though. They are much easier than unplugging everything all the time.

    I am with you, it takes getting used to it but it's totally worth it. It's such a small thing to do but it really saves your wallet and the Earth!

  2. Glad to hear someone else is as crazy as we are! It takes a little time to really get in the mode of unplugging things, or flipping the power strip switch, but it does save about $10 a month.

  3. Wow! I, too, am impressed with the Smart Strip. Though it seems a bit pricey, I would most likely use it for each entertainment set-up we have.