Top Stealth Home Energy Hogs

William Pentland

The relentless rise of electricity prices over the past decade has made many consumers more conscientious about how they use electric power. Many of those conscientious people may find it frustrating — to put it mildly — that their daily or even hourly efforts to turn off devices they're not using hasn't delivered the results they'd expected.

The blame belongs to the growing number of "vampire" or "phantom" electronic products that populate today's typical home. An alarmingly large number of electrical products cannot be truly turned off without being unplugged. These 'vampire' products draw power 24 hours a day whether "on" or "off."

These devices draw so-called standby power when they are off, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), which has recently completed a large survey that measured the "standby power" in hundreds of products.

So what is "standby power"?

...standby power is electricity used by appliances and equipment while they are switched off or not performing their primary function. That power is consumed by power supplies (the black cubes—sometimes called "vampires"—converting AC into DC), the circuits and sensors needed to receive a remote signal, soft keypads and displays including miscellaneous LED status lights. Standby power use is also caused by circuits that continue to be energized even when the device is "off."

Based on LBNL's those results, Clean Beta created the following list of 26 electrical products that consume the most juice while they're "off." More specifically, the list ranks the most profligate electrical products based on the average number of watts they consume in "off" mode.

A watt is a measure of power — Joules/second — analogous to speed — miles/hour. So, to calculate watts, power must be converted into energy (like speed into distance). Here's an example: if a device draws 1 watt constantly for a year, then its energy consumption was 9 kWh. That corresponds to about $1.00.

While a single device consumes very little in annual electricity use, when multiplied by several dozen products, you're no longer talking about chump change.

An individual product draws relatively little standby power, but a typical U.S. home has forty products constantly drawing power. Together these amount to almost 10% of residential electricity use. Altogether, standby power use is roughly responsible for 1% of global CO2 emissions.

What can you do? It is not easy to reduce the amount of standby power many devices use, but it is possible. In fact, research has found that an aggressive effort can reduce standby use by about 30%.

Here are a few strategies:

Use a switchable power strip to pull the plug on clusters of computer or video products.

Buy low standby products if you can find them. Don't ask a salesperson though because they probably won't know. Better to look for ENERGY STAR products, which are tested for profligate reliance on standby power.

Buy a low-cost watt-meter, measure the devices in your home and take targeted action.

If all else fails, pull the plug, but be careful not to get electrocuted in the process.

Here are the top 10 energy that consume the most energy.

Photo: Business Wire

No. 1: Set-Top Box*
Average Watts While Off: 28.286
Average Watts While On: 30.198
*Average includes DVR, digital cable, digital cable with DVR, satellite, satellite with DVR.

No. 2: Notebook Computer
Average Watts While Off: 8.90
Average Watts While On: 29.48

Photo: Wikipedia

No. 3: Inkjet/Multifunction Fax
Average Watts While Off: 5.31/5.26
Average Watts While On: 6.22/9.16

No. 4: DVD/VCR
Average Watts While Off: 5.04
Average Watts While On: 13.51

Photo: Wikipedia

No. 5: VCR
Average Watts While Off: 4.68
Average Watts While On: 7.77

No. 6: Central Heating Furnace
Average Watts While Off: 4.21
Average Watts While On: 339.71

Photo: Wikipedia

No. 7: Cable Modem
Average Watts While Off: 3.84
Average Watts While On: 6.25

No. 8: Multi-Function Laser Device
Average Watts While Off: 3.12
Average Watts While On: 46.98

Photo: AP

No. 9: Cordless Phone With Answering Machine
Average Watts While Off: 2.92
Average Watts While On: 3.53

No. 10: Desktop Computer
Average Watts While Off: 2.84
Average Watts While On: 73.97

Click Here to See the Full List of the Top 26 Home Energy Hogs


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