Also called standby power, it's the energy your appliances and gadgets use when you think they are powered down.
What's using vampire power in my house and why?
Anything with a remote, like the TV. A sensor is always on, waiting to get the signal from your remote.
Anything that allows for a quick startup, like your printer. You think it's off, but it's not.
This row of iChargers. Providing a charge even when nothing's attached to it. New vocab: wall wart.
And any appliances with a display screen like the clock here on my microwave.
In fact, this bad boy uses more power a year reminding me I'm late for something than it does reheating mac n cheese.¹
Some studies have found standby power responsible for 5, 7, 8 or even 10 percent of our power usage. That's not insignificant! The Discovery Channel just tried to tell me the average household loses $200 a year to vampire power, $60 to the TV alone (but I think that's crazy talk). This number goes down as we replace our appliances with newer models but then goes back up as we buy more and more chargeable gadgets.
And labeling of standby power usage is in its infancy. You are more likely to know if your breakfast cereal contains GMOs than if your new flat screen has low or high standby-power loss.
What can you do about it? You can buy better appliances, ones that follow the One-Watt Initiative, losing a watt or less when in standby mode. You can buy fancy power strips, ones that slave to a master gadget, meaning, for example, the cable box only turns on when the TV turns on. Another strip allows you turn off the TV but keep the wireless router hot. And one even uses a motion sensor! Wow.
Or you can do what we do: unplug stuff when it's convenient. We turn off our surge protector when we're not charging things. I don't need to keep the rechargeable toothbrush in the charger and the charger doesn't need to be plugged in. And neither does the printer. And of course you can always go extreme and reduce your family room electronics.
Admittedly, we're not talking a lot of waste. So while I'm not exactly driving a stake through the energy suckers in my house, I do hope that this little article helps to shed some...sunlight, if you will, on vampire power.