Thursday, January 8, 2015

Reduce Phantom Load: 3 Smart Ways to Save Money and Energy with your Home Electronics

By Sarah Kellner

Nothing beats your kids' excitement as they tear the wrapping from a brand new Wii or iPad on Christmas morning. The same could be said for the gleam in your husband's eye as he covets his new flat screen TV. So, now that the New Year has begun and you're eyes-deep in fancy electronics and their accompanying chargers, HDMI cables and power cords; just plug them in and forget it right?
Keep in mind that more tech means more household energy consumption, which ultimately leads to a bigger carbon footprint and a bigger crater in your bank account. You can't prevent this entirely, but there are a few simple things you can do to ease the blow and save money:
Phantom Load
Did you know that about 75 percent of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while your devices are turned off? Shocking, right? This energy consumption is commonly called phantom or vampire load and can be drastically reduced if you use these smart tips.

1. Use Smart Power Strips
These handy guys look and act like normal power strips, but they have a "smart" sensor that detects when the main device—like a TV or computer—is turned off, and then automatically turns off all the peripheral equipment—like cable boxes or speakers. If you do not have a smart strip, another option is to simply unplug your devices manually.

2. Identify the Main Culprits
The easiest way to cut down on phantom load is to stop it at the source, and knowing who the biggest energy consumption culprits are in your home will help. You can perform these checks with a device like a Kill-A-Watt, a home power meter that you can pick up for around $20 at your local home improvement store. Just plug it into an outlet, plug your devices into it, and note the readouts for each. Set your savings priorities using this data.

3. Switch to "Sleep" Mode
While screensavers are great for keeping your computer screen's pixels from burning up, they do not save energy, contrary to popular belief. The best choice for laptops and computer workstations is enabling the "power saver" or "sleep mode" to kick in after a few minutes of inactivity. When you're done using it for the day, power down completely and unplug.

Now that you're armed with the right knowledge and tools, do an energy audit on your home electronics. You'll be able to sniff out those top offenders in no time!

Sarah Kellner writes for The Home Depot about DIY projects and ways to save energy and money. If you are looking to reduce some of your home's phantom load, visit the home electronic pages at to see these and other solutions.

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