The One Hour Project: Kill The Electricity Phantom

A week ago, one of the One Hour Projects suggested

making your home more energy efficient. Those steps reduce the energy that the devices you already have are using, but there’s another major step you can take to reduce your energy use:

Eliminating Phantom Power Usage

What is “Phantom Usage”?

Whenever you leave a device plugged into a wall socket, it continues to constantly draw a small amount of energy, without cease. Usually, this is on the order of 1 to 5 watts, which means that it would take 200 to 1,000 hours for a single device to even use a single kilowatt hour, which costs $0.10.

Big deal, you think? Consider how many devices are plugged in all the time needlessly in your home. The toaster. The cell phone chargers. The power cord for your printer and scanner. All of the stuff on your entertainment center. Let’s say you can find fifteen such devices in your house, and they use an average of 3 watts. That’s 45 watts around the clock – more than a kilowatt hour each day. Three bucks, every single month, without fail, and that’s assuming your devices are minimally draining. For example, my laptop charger uses 30-40 watts all the time when it’s plugged in.

How to Prevent Phantom Usage

First, regularly go through your home and unplug as much as is reasonable. Unplug the toaster, the cell phone charger, and so on. Any electrical devices that aren’t required to be on or extremely difficult to reach should be unplugged. I do this once every few days.

stripWhat about items that are hard to reach? I include the plugins for all the items in the entertainment center in this group, as I have no items there that must remain plugged in. I also include all my computer equipment in this group. For those, I get a SmartStrip LCG3. For about $40, this provides a power strip for a large number of devices. Even better, one of the devices serves as a full switch for it!

So, let’s say that I hook this up with my computer setup, plugging my printer and scanner and monitor and such all into it. Then, I include my tower as the “master” device. When I turn off my computer, the electricity is switched off to all of the devices, allowing no phantom drain. When I turn on my computer, the juice is restored to all devices. The same thing can be done for pieces of your entertainment center, using either your television or your surround sound as the master. It only takes a few months for this strip to pay for itself, but the setup might take some time.

If this seems like a bit much for you, a power strip with a switch on it provides the same effect. Flipping the switch not only powers off all of the devices, but it kills the phantom drain from the devices.

If you do nothing else, just take a minute or two once a week to unplug any devices in your house that don’t need to be plugged in, like a toaster or a cell phone charger or a laptop adapter that’s not in use. This will save you significant money that’s currently being eaten by the phantom monster.