Phantom Electricity Loads – Daily Financial Tip

electricity outlet - phantom electricity loadsAs you sleep, when you’re on vacation, when you’re at home and when you’re not, appliances around your house are secretly using small amounts of energy even though they have been turned off. This power usage is referred to as “phantom electricity loads” and depending how how many electric gadgets you have around the house, can be costing you quite a bit.

The origins of the phantom electricity load problem dates back about 30 years to the mid 1970s. Before that, when you turned off an appliance, it was truly off. Today when you “turn off” an appliance, it’s a bit misleading because it really isn’t turned off — in reality it’s


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10 Responses to Phantom Electricity Loads – Daily Financial Tip

  1. Max says:

    ” … scanners, modems, routers and other kitchen appliances … ”

    I thought I was the only weird guy who had his scanner and router sitting on the coutertop in the kitchen next to the toaster.


  2. samewriter says:

    There’s a cool gadget at amazon called the “Kill-a-watt” that you can plug into the wall between your appliance and the wall socket that will tell you the power usage from that device.

    Of course the problem is that you’re generally seeing a snapshot of only one device at a time, and any one load will seem pretty minimal. But if you have a power-strip with all of your ‘standby’ computer devices plugged in, it’s interesting to see what the actual combined usage of those is (still generally pretty minimal, though).

  3. mahanda says:

    i will have to apologize to my husband after this, he always unplugs everything, and i thought he was being silly.
    thanks, every penny saved…..

  4. Scott says:

    The easy solution is to use power strips where you have lots of items plugged in together. You can usually get one for free around the holdiays (after rebate – of course!). Plug in you TV and all associated items, then turn the power strip off and on as needed. I do that for the TV area and the computer collection.

    Another phantom electricity load are those special circuit breaker outlets installed in damp areas. If you are installing one, install a switch that controls when power goes to it, or that will drain power too.

  5. makingourway says:

    I purchased the Kill-o-watt. Unfortuantely I left it pluggedi into something and never really checked. That’s a problem with inconveniently placed outlets.

    I’m also curious, I remember reading somewhere about dc power adapters, those black boxes that are attached to all your electronic devicees (cordless phones, printers, scanners, etc…). Do they draw and use power when the device isn’t running?


  6. jim says:

    makingourway – yes. The only devices that likely won’t draw power are those where you need to flick a switch of some kind (the switch connects a circuit).

  7. hon_jr says:

    makingourway : Yes, the “wall warts” (transformers) attached to devices use electricity all the time they are plugged in. Not only is this wasteful, it reduces the life expectancy of the transformer, and (if one fails in a major way), can be a fire hazard. Our house fire in ’04 was caused by a boom-box that didn’t protect the way it should have.

    Also, just because an electronic device has a switch, doesn’t mean it isn’t using electricity! Anything with a remote has to use electricity all the time, or the remote wouldn’t turn it on! But some things without remotes use power all the time, too: the manufacturer uses a low-voltage switch in the face-plate, which is cheaper for them to make, but the transformer still pulls nearly full power all the time.

    That’s what phantom power usage means.
    Don’t use it? Unplug it!

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