Quick. Take this pop quiz.
Think about all of things that you use everyday that have a plug. Do you have an alarm clock? a lamp? a handheld game? a music player? an electric fan? Do you watch a TV? with a cable box? or with a video game system? Do you use a computer? a cell phone or a cordless phone? Don't overlook the small things: a nightlight? an electric toothbrush? a remote control toy? What about in the kitchen: do you use the toaster? the microwave? the dishwasher? Do you wash your clothes in an electric washer and dryer? An even in the bathroom: hair dryers? curling or flat irons? light-up mirrors?
Wow! That's a lot of plugs!
No, we're not going to tell you to stop using those things. They add fun and convenience to your life. Sure, you might be able to cut down, but no, we're here to warn you about the vampires.
That's right. Vampires. Or, more specifically "vampire power." Vampire power, also known as standby power, is the power gadgets and appliances waste just by being plugged in. Now, plugging in when a device is in use makes sense. So does plugging in to recharge. Everything beyond that is unecessary and it could be driving up your families electric bill by as much as 10%. (Do that math. That's $10 out of every $100! Think what that could buy! Or, better yet, think about putting that $10 per month away for your mom's birthday gift or for your college fund.)
Let's make it real.
It's a rainy weekend. You play your handheld video game down to the very last percent of power. Uh oh. It needs a charge and you need a break. You plug in and go to get something to eat and then get busy talking to your neighbor on the phone. Most game devices take only a few hours to charge. So what's happening when you leave it plugged in longer? Does the electricity stop flowing? The answer is no. It keeps going. Now let's say the sun comes out and your friend next door asks you to come over and play. Just in case it rains again, you grab your gaming device and run out the door, leaving the plug in the wall. Is the electricity still flowing? The answer is yes. That charging plug is quietly sucking electricity. That's why it's called vampire power.
What does this mean?
What you need to remember is that anything in your house that remains plugged in is drawing power and using electricity even if you are not using it and even if nothing is connected to the plug. You can tell that this is happening if your charger has a little light, or if it feels warm, for example. For those of you who like stats: the average charger is consuming .26 watts of energy when not in use and 2.24 watts when a fully charged device is connected to it. And all of that is wasted.
You might be thinking: .26 watts! Whatever a watt is, that doesn't sound like much. Ok. We agree. But look back on your pop quiz answers from the top of this page. If you add all those other devices to the equation, you’ll begin to see why vampire power adds so much to your energy consumption.
How do we keep the energy vampires away?
Well, garlic won't work. So here are a few other things to try.
Just unplug. Handheld games, cellphones, laptops, tablets, toothbrushes, nightlights, curling irons and more should be unplugged when they are not in use. Make your mom happy and put them away too. Neatness keeps expensive things functioning well.
Charge during the day. Most rechargable batteries only need a few hours. It's easy to plug in at night, but if you sleep for eight or nine hours, that's way to much charging. Plug in when you know you will be able to come back in about two hours. Some devices need even less time. Check the manuals. Remember, once your device is fully charged or at 100%, it cannot take anymore juice! Make sure to unplug it from the wall so no energy is wasted. This helps to make the battery last longer too.
Unplug the charger too. Just unplug it. Really. It will be ok.
Get a power strip. A power strip is a set of electric outlets in a single box. It allows you to charge lots of things with just one plug to the wall. The strip has two benefits. First, it can protect your devices from power surges (like the ones we sometimes get in the summer or during a heavy rain storm). Second, you can turn it off. And you should. Hit the off switch on the power strip when you go to sleep or leave for school or any time you won't be needing electricity for a while. The few dollars it costs to get a power strip should be paid for over time in energy bill savings. Power strips are really good for places where you have a lot of stuff plugged in, like around the TV.