Cute kid dressed as a vampire for Halloween, used to demonstrate the very real thread of energy vampires, which are appliances that draw energy when not in use.
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Cut off energy vampires

Do You Have Energy Vampires Lurking In Your Home?

Kimberly Hutchings
October 12, 2023

October is here, and spooky season is upon us — a time when ghouls, ghosts, and creepy crawlies lurk around every corner. But there's one type of terror that can lurk in our homes all year long, and if you ask us, they're some of the scariest of them all.

Yep, that's right. We're talking about energy vampires.

What Are Energy Vampires?

An energy vampire refers to any appliance or device that continues to drain power, even when not in use. You may think these appliances are off, but in reality, they're continuing to draw small amounts of power that can contribute to some significant (and unnecessary) additions to our monthly energy bills — talk about frightening!

In fact, according to a 2015 study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), it's estimated that energy vampires are costing the nation around $19 billion in wasted energy every. single. year (that's $165 per household!).

It's an obvious problem and one that equates to roughly 80 million tons of carbon dioxide produced annually, and that's just here in the United States.

But why does it happen?

Well, there are a few reasons. But on the whole, it comes down to function.

For instance, devices with screens that are always on (like a clock on your microwave), ones with internal temperature monitors (like your refrigerator), and technologies designed to receive signals (like TVs that communicate with remote controls) all require some degree of power even when they're not being actively used.

It makes consuming vampire energy pretty unavoidable, but that doesn't mean there aren't things we can do to minimize the waste and lower our energy bills in the process!

So, where do we begin? The good news is that many of these monstrous consumers are hiding in plain sight, and identifying them is the first step.

Identifying Energy Vampires

Knowing which appliances and devices are consuming unnecessary power is a great place to start when it comes to reducing our consumption of vampire energy.

On the whole, you'll want to consider devices like:

  • Televisions and cable boxes
  • Computers and gaming consoles
  • Phone, tablet and laptop chargers
  • Kitchen appliances (including refrigerators!)
  • Hair dryers, electric toothbrushes and other bathroom devices

Consider taking on the role of an amateur vampire hunter and conduct an at-home walkthrough to locate some of these devices in your living space. Once you've made a list, it's time to take action.

Taking Action Against Energy Vampires

First things first, we're going to need a lot of garlic.

Just kidding.

Home energy vampires are actually pretty easy to combat, and most solutions are low-cost or no-cost to put into action. Let's look at each of the significant contributors we listed above.

THE ENERGY VAMPIRE SUSPECT: Televisions and Cable Boxes

A TV in a living room

When left plugged in, our televisions and cable boxes can consume a lot of excess energy.

In fact, combined, studies suggest these devices could be costing homeowners anywhere between $18 and $111 annually in standby power alone — that's a lot of Netflix!

Fortunately, there are a few ways that you can help slay their wasted consumption:

  • Connect your television and cable box to a power strip! A power strip lets you quickly turn off electricity to your TV or cable box with the flick of a switch. They're a great option if you're planning to be away for the weekend or want to reduce consumption when you're at work or out of the house — just don't forget to turn your cable box back on if you're planning to record any shows!
  • Adjust your device's power settings. Did you know that on some televisions, the "quick start" setting can consume up to 37 watts of power? That's quite a bit of energy! Take a peek at your TV's settings and see if there's an option to turn off this feature as a way to dial back on wasted power.
  • Assess consumption room by room. While our living room televisions may get a lot of use, other rooms in our home see less activity. Take guest rooms, for example! Consider unplugging televisions and other devices in these rooms when unoccupied to save money on idle energy consumption.

THE ENERGY VAMPIRE SUSPECT: Computers and Gaming Consoles

A white gaming console and controller

While not quite as bad as televisions and cable boxes, computers and gaming consoles can also be major vampire energy culprits.

Consider the following ways to combat these unsuspecting energy suckers:

  • Opt for a shutdown over sleep mode. When left in sleep mode, your laptop or desktop computer can still consume around 2-5 watts per hour, which is a lot of wasted power when you consider devices left on week after week! Opting to shut down your devices completely when you know you won't be using them for a while is a simple way to reduce unwanted energy use.
  • Invest in a power strip! Like your television and cable box, connecting your home computers and gaming consoles (as well as printers, fax machines and other home office tech) to a power strip is a great way to counteract vampire energy. With all of your tech hooked up to one spot, you can easily flip a switch to turn them off and prevent them from drawing excess power.
  • Optimize your settings. While shutting down your devices is always the best power-saving option, you can also optimize your settings to minimize wasted power when they're on. Consider setting up your computer to go into sleep mode after 15-30 minutes of inactivity, and check if there’s an "instant on" setting you can disable on your gaming console. It may mean a slightly slower start-up, but those energy savings are worth it if you ask us!

THE ENERGY VAMPIRE SUSPECT: Phone, Tablet and Laptop Chargers

A handful of different kinds of chargers

This next tip is probably as simple as they get, but it can make a huge difference in reducing your household's vampire energy levels — unplug your chargers when they're not in use!

Phone chargers, tablet chargers and laptop chargers (as well as just about any other type of charger you can think of) are still drawing power, even when they're not attached to their respective devices.

Unplug them from your walls (or connect them to a power strip) to avoid unnecessary energy drain.

THE ENERGY VAMPIRE SUSPECT: Kitchen Appliances (Including Refrigerators!)

A microwave with a digital clock on it

Our next group of suspects are hungry for power — and you can find each of them in the kitchen!

From sneaky clock displays on microwaves and ovens to kettles, coffee makers and blenders that sit unused most of the day, our kitchens are full of energy vampires unsuspectingly racking up our monthly electrical spending.

Luckily, we've got a few tricks to help treat yourself to a lower energy bill:

  • Use a smart plug to schedule devices. One of our favorite things about smart plugs is their scheduling capabilities. It's a feature that can work wonders to reduce wasted energy! Consider scheduling appliances like your coffee machine to only power on when you wake up in the mornings. Less electricity use *and* waking up to a fresh brew — we don't need convincing!
  • Reflect on unnecessary appliances. In most households, many kitchen appliances remain plugged in 24/7 for convenience's sake, but trying to unplug these devices can significantly reduce your energy spending. Try to unplug toasters, kettles, blenders and other appliances (like that second fridge in your garage) until you need them— you'd be surprised at the impact it can make!
  • Invest in ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR appliances are products recognized for meeting strict environmental and sustainability standards outlined by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Think of them like your standard appliances — except better for our planet! In addition to consuming less energy when in use, ENERGY STAR products generally consume lower amounts of standby power and/or automatically power down after a certain length of time. It makes them a great eco-friendly option to replace some of your older, energy-sucking appliances!

PRO TIP! Did you know that refrigerators naturally cycle on and off throughout the day? It's true! As a matter of fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can safely leave food for up to four hours in a fridge that's disconnected from power, making them an excellent candidate for that smart plug scheduling trick we mentioned earlier.

Consider setting a timer to allow your refrigerator to power down for an hour or two each day (hello, OhmHours!) to cut back on vampire energy — just make sure to leave the door closed to avoid food spoiling!

THE ENERGY VAMPIRES IN QUESTION: Hair Dryers, Electric Toothbrushes and Other Bathroom Devices

The final category of energy vampires we need to discuss are the ones in our bathrooms. Think hair dryers, curling wands, electric toothbrushes, electric shavers and the like.

They may seem small, but their contributions to your energy bill might not be!

Try these tips to maximize your savings:

  • Unplug devices when they're not in use. Quick and simple. If your devices aren't in use — unplug them! This is especially true for electric toothbrushes and shavers whose chargers we tend to leave plugged day after day. Keep your devices off the charger when their batteries are full to cut back on vampire energy.
  • Invest in smart plugs for power savings and peace of mind. Ever left home and thought, "Wait, did I unplug my straightener?". We've all been there, but smart plugs can offer great peace of mind (as well as energy savings) by allowing you to cut power from outlets through an app on your smartphone while you’re on the go! Plus, their scheduling features are great for devices like heated towel racks, allowing you to warm your towel pre-shower rather than heating around the clock (which can cost some homeowners over $300 a year) — win!

October is a time for thrills and chills, but your energy bill should never be the thing making the hairs rise on the back of your neck.

We hope this post has taken some of the mystery out of a few of your home's energy vampires and given you a few tricks (and treats) to enjoy some energy bill savings. Good luck, and happy vampire hunting!

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