Phantom Power Loads: "Sneaky" Electricity Consumption

Our upstairs room is now ready for a spackler/taper to finish it. Aas my father says, I hope he has a sense of humor, because boy,  are there a lot of seams! We also have 7  outlet receptacles throughout the room, which I find strange. In comparison, the room I use as my office only has two, but other than the office and the dining room, the rooms are covered in outlets. Apparently, the previous owners just couldn’t get enough of their electricity!

The electric panel has more than enough circuits in it to accommodate all of the appliances we use without tripping anything (as compared to our last apartment, where we couldn’t use the toaster and the microwave at the same time for fear of blowing one of the glass fuses. The electrical in that building was so old that when I took down the kitchen light fixture, we could see the old gaslight lines running up there!

Our electricity usage hasn’t been too bad since moving into our home last year, which I find surprising because it’s by far the largest place I’ve ever lived. Our bill hovers between $50-$60 a month outside of the winter months, when we occasionally use our oil-filled space heaters to spot-heat certain rooms.

But what about all of the things we have plugged in that aren’t actively being used? Off the top of my head, this includes our paper shredder, my computer, printer, coffeemaker, DVD player, TVs/cable boxes in other rooms, lamps, microwave, and the hand vacuum. But how much do they affect our electricity consumption?

Phantom Power Loads

Even when not powered on, certain appliances and electronics cost you money. That’s because although they’re technically powered off, plugged-in appliances still draw a small amount of electricity.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “75% of the electricity used to power home electronics and appliances is consumed while the products are turned off. This can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance.”

The DOE also suggests up to 20% of your energy bill comes from these appliances. So 75% of 20% is 15% — I’d be happy to save 15% off our bill. So how to address phantom power loads? I’m going to try to unplug what I can without Mr. Saver freaking out.

I’ve started with the TV in the basement, which we rarely use. Next, I’ll try to remember to shut off the power strip in the office, which has a number of electronics plugged in to it. Then there’s the radio/iPod charger. But I don’t think I can get away with pulling the plug on the microwave — that would just be too much of a pain in the butt, since it gets used fairly often. Mr. Saver also keeps his cell phone charger plugged in at all times, which drives me nuts as it is — but I’ll drive him just as batty if I continually unplug it when he’s not looking!

Perhaps this will make a difference, but I’ll be hard-pressed to tell, since our bill fluctuates so much as it is.

Here’s a neat chart that outlines how much appliances/electronics use on standby mode (when they’re plugged in).

Product/Mode Average (W) Min (W) Max (W) Count
Air Conditioner, room/wall
Off 0.9 0.9 0.9 1
Charger, mobile phone
On, charged 2.24 0.75 4.11 4
On, charging 3.68 0.27 7.5 23
Power supply only 0.26 0.02 1 32
Clock, radio
On 2.01 0.97 7.6 23
Computer Display, CRT
Off 0.8 0 2.99 21
On 65.1 34.54 124.78 21
Sleep 12.14 1.6 74.5 14
Computer Display, LCD
Off 1.13 0.31 3.5 32
On 27.61 1.9 55.48 31
Sleep 1.38 0.37 7.8 30
Computer, desktop
On, idle 73.97 27.5 180.83 63
Off 2.84 0 9.21 64
Sleep 21.13 1.1 83.3 52
Computer, notebook
Fully on, charged 29.48 14.95 73.1 13
Fully on, charging 44.28 27.38 66.9 8
Off 8.9 0.47 50 19
Power supply only 4.42 0.15 26.4 19
Sleep 15.77 0.82 54.8 16
Fax, inkjet
Off 5.31 0 8.72 3
On 6.22 2.89 14 8
Fax, laser
Off 0 0 0 1
On 6.1 6.1 6.1 1
Ready 6.42 6.42 6.42 1
Heating, furnace central
Off 4.21 0 9.8 16
On 339.71 70.5 796 14
Hub, USB
Off 1.44 0.95 1.81 5
On 2.06 1.06 3.55 7
Modem, DSL
Off 1.37 0.33 2.02 16
On 5.37 3.38 8.22 20
Modem, cable
Off 3.84 1.57 6.62 8
On 6.25 3.64 8.62 16
Standby 3.85 3.59 4.11 2
Multi-function Device, inkjet
Off 5.26 0 10.03 23
On 9.16 3.9 17.7 24
Multi-function Device, laser
Off 3.12 0 4.7 3
On 49.68 5 175 4
Night Light, interior
Off 0.05 0 0.34 10
On 4.47 0 27.97 19
Ready 0.22 0 1.2 8
Phone, cordless
Ready, handset 2.81 1.05 4.89 35
Ready, no handset 1.58 0.59 3.09 35
Active (talking) 1.9 0.59 3.38 33
Off 0.98 0.54 1.8 10
Phone, cordless with answering machine
Ready, handset 4 2.15 7.4 20
Ready, no handset 2.82 1.72 4.7 20
Active (talking) 3.53 2.2 6.5 21
Off 2.92 0.9 7.4 11
Power Tool, cordless
Ready, charged 8.34 1.82 14 5
Active 29.53 1.39 66 16
Ready 1.74 0 4.7 23
Printer, inkjet
Off 1.26 0 4 25
On 4.93 1.81 22 25
Printer, laser
Off 1.58 0 4.5 7
On 131.07 1.7 481.9 5
Range, gas
Ready 1.13 0.7 1.7 4
Scanner, flatbed
Off 2.48 0.27 8.2 6
On 9.6 1.71 15.6 10
Security Systems, home
Ready 2.7 2.7 2.7 1
Set-top Box, DVR
On, no recording 37.64 25.95 49.2 4
On, recording 29.29 27.27 31.3 2
Off 36.68 23.3 48.6 4
Set-top Box, digital cable with DVR
Not recording, TV off 44.63 44.38 44.87 2
Not recording, TV on 44.4 44.2 44.6 2
Off by remote 43.46 43.3 43.61 2
Set-top Box, digital cable
On, TV off 24.65 14.2 74.74 18
On, TV on 29.64 14.1 102.23 18
Off by remote 17.83 13.24 30.6 14
Off by switch 17.5 13.7 26.3 16
Set-top Box, satellite with DVR
Not recording, TV off 28.35 25.8 30.9 2
Not recording, TV on 31.37 24.2 36.3 3
Off by remote 27.8 22 33.6 2
Set-top Box, satellite
On, TV off 15.95 7.69 33.2 33
On, TV on 16.15 7.69 33.2 33
Off by remote 15.66 6.58 33.05 25
Off by switch 15.47 6.58 32.7 31
Speakers, computer
On, no sound 4.12 0.69 9.84 21
Off 1.79 0 5.6 19
Stereo, portable
CD, not playing 4.11 1.29 6.83 15
Cassette, not playing 2.42 1.16 5.92 13
CD playing 6.8 3.96 9.2 15
Off 1.66 0.7 5.44 19
Radio playing 3.3 1.36 8.25 20
Television, CRT
Off by remote 3.06 0.3 10.34 38
Off by switch 2.88 0 16.1 58
Television, rear projection
On 186.09 186.09 186.09 1
Off by remote 6.97 0.2 48.5 16
Off by switch 6.6 0.2 48.5 15
Timer, irrigation
Off 2.75 1.5 5.9 14
Ready 2.84 1.5 5.9 16
Tuner, AM/FM
On, not playing 9.48 5.08 16.4 3
On, playing 9.92 5.07 17.7 3
Off 1.12 0 3.37 3
Amplifier
On, not playing 33.99 21.4 70.93 6
On, playing 39.16 21.11 69.3 6
Off 0.27 0 1.8 7
Audio Minisystem
CD, not playing 13.99 1.67 36.95 28
Cassette, not playing 13.85 1.67 33.14 24
CD playing 19.09 5.2 41.2 24
Off 8.32 0.3 24.58 27
Radio playing 14.41 2.98 38 28
CD Player
On, not playing 8.62 4 25.7 7
On, playing 9.91 5.8 25.6 7
Off 5.04 2 18.4 7
Caller ID Unit
Ready 1.27 1.27 1.27 1
Cassette Deck
On, not playing 4.53 4.36 4.7 2
On, playing 5.72 5.2 6.25 2
Off 0.54 0 1.08 2
Clock
On 1.74 0.99 3.61 21
Radio playing 2.95 1.7 4.2 2
Coffee Maker
Off 1.14 0 2.7 12
Copier
Off 1.49 0 2.97 2
On 9.63 3.6 14 3
DVD Recorder
Off 0.75 0 1.5 2
DVD Player
On, not playing 7.54 0.24 12.7 33
On, playing 9.91 5.28 17.17 33
Off 1.55 0 10.58 33
DVD/VCR
On, not playing 13.51 8.48 20.5 21
On, playing 15.33 9.43 22.37 19
Off 5.04 0.09 12.7 21
Game Console
Active 26.98 5.4 67.68 24
Off 1.01 0 2.13 26
Ready 23.34 2.12 63.74 24
Garage Door Opener
Ready 4.48 1.8 7.3 34
Low-voltage Landscape
Ready 1.13 1.1 1.17 2
Microwave Ovens
Ready, door closed 3.08 1.4 4.9 18
Ready, door open 25.79 1.6 39 17
Cooking 1433. 966.2 1723. 18
Musical Instruments
Off 2.82 1.2 4.2 9
Receiver (audio)
On, not playing 37.61 17.1 65.2 18
Off 2.92 0 19.7 18
Subwoofer
On, not playing 10.7 5.8 20.6 7
On, playing 12.42 5.9 20.6 6
Surge Protector
Off 1.05 0 6.3 6
On 0.8 0 6.92 43
Telephone Answering Device
Off 2.01 1.31 2.55 7
Ready 2.25 1.42 2.83 7
Television/VCR
Off by remote 5.15 2.15 13.3 6
Off by switch 5.99 2.15 13.11 7
Turntable (audio)
On, not playing 6.01 1.72 12.8 3
Off 0.2 0 0.6 3
VCR
On, not playing 7.77 3.8 11.62 14
Off 4.68071 1.2 9.9 14

Baby News!

Congrats to Mrs. Frugal and family at Cool to Be Frugal on the arrival of her 10 lbs., 2 oz. bouncing baby boy!

14 comments to Phantom Power Loads: “Sneaky” Electricity Consumption

  • 50-60/mo? Wow! Our electric bill averages $350 over the year. I started to change bulbs to CFL, but I’m sure these phantoms are a bigger issue.

  • Hey Nicole, cool post! I wrote one about phantom energy a few months back, but your chart is a real eye opener. Weird that a DVR uses less energy when recording than not recording. And uses more with the TV off?

    There’s a cool tool that’s been on my wish list for ages…the P3 Kill a Watt. You plug it in and then plug different appliances in and it tells you exactly how much energy they are using. If you pull your electricity rate from your bill and punch it in the Kill a Watt will breakdown how much it is costing you by day, week, month, etc.

  • Looking at the Department of Energy Website you linked they say appliances and home electronics make up 20% of a typical energy bill. So by turning off your appliances you will only save 75% of that 20%. Other sources I’ve read put phantom power at 5-10% of household energy use. I just did a post on this same thing yesterday so I found the numbers interesting.

    In our household we keep items plugged into a power strip which can be switched off. Flipping a switch is pretty easy, it boggles my mind that anyone would think that is too much trouble.

    • Nicole

      @Andy: Thanks for pointing out my math error — that’s what I get for writing posts late at night. It is easy to switch the power strips off, which has been one of my first steps to see if there’s a difference in our utility bill.

  • I have read that we have all this hidden electricity consumption but your list blows my mind. What to do about this? Is this just part of life these days?

  • I can’t see how a toaster uses power when not in use. but some appliances do because they have timers, lcd’s etc.

  • I keep hearing about this, but honestly, I can’t imagine running around unplugging everything and switching off power cords.

  • I did this in my old house, and I couldn’t believe how my electric bill went down! My current house is one like you described-we have to turn off the A.C. to use the microwave, or else we have to go down in the scary basement to flip a breaker.

  • I would love to see how this works out! We leave a bunch of things plugged in and I haven’t even thought about unplugging to save some money. My hubby wil also get ticked if I unplug the microwave, but I might be able to get away with unplugging the cell phone chargers and the toaster…

    • Nicole

      @BITFS: It will be hard to accurately gauge the savings, but I’m willing to see if we save some money! My toaster is always unplugged, it makes me nervous if it’s plugged in all the time.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nicole Canfora Lupo, Nicole Canfora Lupo. Nicole Canfora Lupo said: Phantom Power Loads: Sneaky Electricity Consumption http://bit.ly/95wUbx Your electronics/appliances are costing $ — even when they're off! […]

  • […] Phantom Power Loads: “Sneaky” Electricity Consumption • Rainy-Day Saver […]

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