Eco-Rep Green Corner: Unplugged electronics still take up energy

Don’t sweat. Vampire electronics have absolutely nothing to do with our culture’s new obsession with vampires. This article will not include any information regarding Edward Cullen or the HBO series “True Blood,” although I must admit that I like both.
Vampire electronics, also known as standby power, vampire power, vampire draw or phantom load, refer to the electronics that we use on a daily basis that continue to use electricity even when they are not in use. When you unplug your cell phone from its charger, the charger still uses electricity even when the phone is not attached. Some examples of vampire electronics are cell phone chargers, DVD and VHS players, microwaves, computers, most devices with “instant on” functions, a stand-by light or clocks and most home video game consoles. The power used by these items while they are not in use is not significant for each single item, but their wasted power quickly adds up.
While on standby, Alan Meier, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, estimates that the total amount of electricity sucked by vampire electronics costs consumers and businesses totals at about $3 to 4 billion dollars per year, and the International Energy Agency estimates that this standby usage totals between 200 and 400 terawatts globally. Recent reports from Meier estimate that five percent of American energy use is attributed to vampire electronics on standby. Ironically, this is much less compared to France at seven percent, Netherlands at 10 percent, Australia at 11 percent and Japan at 12 percent. On a more personal basis, vampire electronics run amok can use 10 percent of a single house’s electricity.
It may be hard to identify which electronics waste more power than others, and that is where a Wattmeter comes in handy. They come in several different forms, but from my point of view, the “Kill-A-Watt” detector is the cheapest and easiest and can be purchased online for as little as $21.
Some easy ways to reduce the use of standby power are to simply unplug the electronic when it is not in use. Switch off devices that are used in conjunction such as a computer monitor and a printer. Plug your electronics into a surge protector and either unplug the entire thing or switch it off when it is not in use. Timers can also be used to turn off standby electronics during the usual hours that they are not in use.
One small and easy way to reduce power is to simply unplug your chargers in the morning before going to class, and plugging them in again at the end of your day. Although we do not have the power to stop the Twilight or True Blood media crazes, we can stop these vampire electronics in their tracks.

– Hannah Strong
Westminster Eco-Rep

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