Are energy vampires infesting your home? Here’s what you should know.

We like to tackle the big topics here at POWER MOVES. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how often we recommend switching to ENERGY STAR® LED light bulbs, sealing up your ceiling, and crunching the numbers on your home’s energy efficiency.

But sometimes we like to geek out over the small stuff, too. “Energy vampires”—appliances and electronic devices that use electricity even while switched off—will probably never affect your bill as much as a badly sealed attic. Yet because this topic tends to get sidelined, it means a lot of people just don’t know about how easy it is to save a little extra electricity each year.

So today, we’re going take a closer look at how those plugged in appliances might just be adding a few bucks to your bill.

It’s “Off,” But It’s Not “Off-Off”
We tend to think of our electronics and appliances in terms of their primary function. When you turn off your TV, it seems pretty sensible to assume it’s not using power. But the truth is that almost all electronics also operate in secondary and standby modes.

For instance, in order for you to be able to switch on your television with a remote control, it has to keep an active sensor to receive signals at all times. Another good example is your laptop—even while asleep, it consumes power to maintain status lights, charge its battery, and perform other minor functions.

As long as these devices are plugged in, it’s safe to assume they’re using some amount of energy. One easy fix? Plug them into a power strip instead of the wall—then switch the strip off when your electronics aren’t in use.

The Main Offenders
Keep in mind here that when we say “main offenders” we’re still talking about some pretty negligible numbers in most cases. For instance, an electronic device with a status light is still probably using less than a single watt per day (and even less if the light is an LED).

But there are a few things to watch out for. The most infamous are cable TV boxes and DVRs. While they’ve gotten a lot better since 2013, older models could use up a lot of juice. Combined, these devices use about 50 watts of power around the clock—an awful lot of electricity for something not actively in use. If you have these devices at home, it’s worth checking to see how old they are. If they’re pre-2013 and they aren’t ENERGY STAR, you might be losing money.

Other devices, such as televisions, DVD-players, and computers, don’t use nearly that much electricity while in standby mode, but it still doesn’t hurt to unplug them when not in use.

Your Phone Charger is Not a Problem
While phone chargers tend to be the one device people fret over the most, the truth is that chargers use very, very little energy even when your phone is charging. We’ll certainly never discourage anybody from unplugging devices that aren’t in use, but this is one that even the most diligent energy-saver can probably afford to let slide.

Two Cheers for Manufacturers
What’s the best news about energy vampires? Manufacturers are doing a lot more to combat them. As the problem of energy-draining standby modes became better understood, more and more manufacturers figured out ways to be competitive by producing electronics that use less electricity while switched off.

As you take a look at the electronics in your own home, pay special attention to the oldest ones—they’re the most likely to be costing you a little money. Newer models—especially those approved by ENERGY STAR—will be a lot more efficient.


Being mindful of the energy vampires in your home might help you save a little on electricity, but if you’d like to really save? Contact your Energy Advisor today.