Phantom Energy Wasters

How unplugging can save money and energy

Ghosts may not scare most of us, but phantom loads are a different story.

A phantom load—as you probably know—is the electricity that gets drained away by electronics and appliances, even when they're in standby mode or switched off.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 75 percent of the electric power consumed in the average home comes from appliances—such as VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers, and kitchen appliances—that are turned off, but remain plugged into the wall. Phantom power.

In other words, when we leave the VCR or stereo plugged into an outlet, it's a constant, invisible waste of energy (and money, as most of our electric bills start to skyrocket.) The solution couldn't be easier. All it requires is pulling the plug or buying a powerstrip and switching it off when its not in use.

So why is it so hard to do?

I've long been in the habit of turning off the lights when leaving a room, but it's not second nature yet to unplug the stereo or TV or phone chargers.

I'm good about powering down rarely used electronics, such as the paper shredder, and fairly good at unpluggging electronics and appliances that I use often (but not daily) like the blender or computer printer.

But I haven't made the leap to unplugging chargers and other things that stay plugged into the wall for no good reason. I'm not proud of it, but I rarely pull the plug on chargers for my cell phone, laptop and iPod.

Technically-speaking, I know unplugging is easy. In fact, it's embarrassingly easy. But I'm not in the habit and often forget to do it.

The good news that guilt over-powers my inclination to be lazy and forgetful. Maybe that twinge of guilt will kick in often enough to make unplugging second nature, just like switching off the light when I leave a room.

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