Inefficieny is likely sucking energy from your home and not just at Christmas. Phantom power is standby power drawn by nearly everything that uses an external power supply, remote control, continuous display (LED) or battery charger. Standby power silently claims an estimated 5 percent of the nation's total energy use.
If you've walked past your computer in the dark and noticed there are still lights on, even though you've turned everything off, that is standby power. This is true not only of computer displays, monitors, screens, computer speakers, wireless transmitters and printers, but also of cell phones and laptop chargers, modems and set-top boxes (for satellite, DSL and cable), televisions, game consoles, DVD players, VCRs, fax machines and answering machines.
Other power-sucking devices include anything with an LED panel such as clocks on ranges and microwave ovens, internal clocks and sensors, coffee makers, remote control sensors, battery rechargers, mobile phone and camera chargers, chargers for electric toothbrushes, power conversion packs and anything that communicates with a base unit, such as cordless phones. If the device is warm, even when the charge is complete or the device is turned off, it's drawing phantom power.
Even in sleep mode, your PC is drawing standby power, and screen savers aren't saving power at all. If you prefer to leave your computer on, there is software that cuts energy consumption to computers while not in use. See seven options at http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tech-transport/computer-energy-sipper.html.
One piece of electronic equipment can draw as much as 5 to 10 watts of continuous standby power annually and some even more. Multiply that by 30 items in your home drawing 150 to 300 watts annually, and these numbers take on new significance.
You can reduce power and save money on your utility bills by following a few simple steps.
If you're not using a device, unplug it. Group multiple electronics such as computer stations, entertainment centers or small kitchen appliances and plug them into surge-protected power strips. That way, each group can be turned off with one switch. You may also consider using timers to turn off equipment.
Explore power strip products which now come with many different options. For example, a "smart" power strip senses power usage and turns off peripherals, such as printers and scanners, when not in use. Other strips allow for multiple switches so you can keep some equipment on (like your PC or DVR) while other equipment is switched off. Some will reduce standby power while leaving devices turned on. Prices range from under $10 to about $100, but the investment pays off in the long run.
Be vigilant and don't leave equipment like cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and batteries charging longer than necessary. Unplug external power suppliers such as chargers or power packs when not in use.
When purchasing new electronics and appliances, select products with the Energy Star label. Manufacturers must earn that endorsement by meeting strict energy-efficiency guidelines, and the products draw less standby power. Some appliances allow the users to turn off the LED panel with continuous time or power status readings.
Unplug extra equipment around your home when not in use, such as extra television sets and DVD players in bedrooms. Unplug your microwave when not in use.
Read EnergyGuide labels. If standby power is listed, look for products that use 1 watt or less.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has compiled a chart showing ranges of standby power for a variety of electronic products used in the home.
Visit http://standby.lbl.gov/summary-chart.html to learn more.
Benjamin Franklin said, "Watch out for the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."
Protecting your home from power is taking care of the pennies so the dollars stop adding up. Remember, don't just turn it off, unplug it.