Even being as “green” as I am, I never gave much thought to “Vampire Energy”. This is the power consumed by appliances and electronics that are supposedly “off”. In case you didn’t know, when you “turn off” your TV it’s not really off, instead it goes into a stand-by mode, where it’s “mostly” off. Yes, this would be a good time to insert a joke about “The Princess Bride”.
Mostly this is a convenience feature, so that your Plasma Screen TV will come on in two seconds instead of ten seconds. Not much of a difference really when you realize you’re paying $160 a year in wasted electricity for that eight seconds difference. Other heavy hitters in the stand-by power wasting game are video game consoles which cost about $25 a year in wasted power, and sleeping PC’s and Laptops which waste about $35 each.
There’s also a second kind of wasted energy comes from AC Adapters, sometimes known as “chargers” or, my favorite term “wall warts”. Turns out that most American families have about thirty of these little devils that run 24/7 even though they only actually used for a few hours a day.
When I did my calculations for the ranch’s power needs, so that I could buy the right number of solar panels and wind turbines, I was AMAZED that 20% of the ranch’s power needs went to wall-warts. That’s stunning. And when you are paying big money for solar panels, buying two less panels at $900 a piece really makes a difference!
What does this all add up to? Estimates are that US electric consumers waste $10,000,000,000 (yes, ten billion dollars) on Vampire power every year. Definately a problem worth solving!
So, what to do? No body likes to throw away money and these days adding a nuclear power plant next to the neighborhood park seems like a less appealing option than ever. Turns out there are plenty of easy ways to slay the energy vampire in your home:
- Actually turn things off. Most people don’t know that most devices have two power switches — the one on the front of the device or the remote, and then the “actual” power switch which is usually on the bottom or back of the device. The actual power switch is usually a little rocker switch that makes a snapping sound when you flip it. The “fake” power switch is usually a “soft” switch which you just touch.
- Use a power strip. This is a favorite of mine that I’ve been using for years. I’ve got three power strips, one for my Xbox 360, one for my “entertainment center” and one for my computer. When I want to play video games, I snap on the Xbox’s power strip. That strip has my Xb0x’s monitor, the Xbox, and the powered speakers all plugged in. I do the same for the computer with various printers/scanners/etc. This is so easy to do, and it gets you more organized to boot!
- Buy and use a “Smart Strip”. This the same as tip three above, except that it’s automatic. I personally feel that bending over to operate a manual power strip is good exercise, but this option here is great for the lazy among us. Prices vary from about $20 t0 $30 and certainly will pay for themselves in no time.
- Buy Energy Star devices. Energy star devices often use 85% less vampire power than other devices. Look for devices that advertise features like “Low Standby Power” or “Green Charger”. And, you can retrofit old devices with cool products like these from iGo.
Since we’re off-the-grid at the ranch this is a very real issue to us. So I’ll share with you the ways we’re fighting Vampire Energy at the ranch is via a combination of tactics:
- Motion Detectors: If no one is occupying a cabin or a room in the lodge, after a specified period of time certain outlets go off.
- Wall Timers: I’m sure you’ve seen these at hotel Jacuzzis. With one twist you can set a light or outlet to run for up to twelve hours.
- Smart Strips: This option was discussed above. We’re providing them everywhere because we expect people to be lazy. We also hope that people will like the Smart Strips and we might sell them at the office to help raise a little money for our little ranch.
Good luck with your vampire slaying!