Welcome to Green Boot Camp

Welcome to Green Boot Camp blog, a 52-week program to help you become a greener you in 2008. This is the companion blog to The Lean Green Family (formerly Suddenly Frugal).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Week Six--Phantom Energy Suckers

Think about the phrase "phantom energy suckers" or "power vampires." It doesn't take much to understand exactly what these mean: hidden or hard to see electronics that are taking energy from your home, especially in the overnight period

I'm not talking about a flashlight charger hidden away in some closet somewhere that you forgot about. I'm talking about plugged-in appliances and other electronics that stay hooked up to the juice 24/7--even when you're not actively using them--and therefore are drawing energy (and running up your electricity bill ) 24/7.

Of course, there are some electronics that have to remain plugged in or your life would become a living hell. Primarily, I'm thinking about your refrigerator. Who would want to shuffle into the kitchen in the morning for some breakfast, only to find a puddle of defrosted water on the floor and rancid food inside? (For me I could never turn my Tivo off at night, or I'd miss all of my favorite shows. I never watch live TV anymore.) No, these aforementioned appliances should stay plugged in. Instead, I'm talking about things like your computer or cell phone charger. Do these really need to stay plugged in all time time?

A Kiplinger's article said that the average company that leaves its computers on overnight wastes $165,000 a year on unnecessary electricity costs. Of course, your single computer in your home isn't using hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of energy, but it does adds up.

One of the best ways to save money on your vampire electronics is by plugging them into a power strip—and then turning the strip off at night or when you’re not using it. Really, a power strip should become your best green friend, as Oprah said on her recent "go green" episode.

In our house, we've set up a charging station that's connected to a power strip. This charging station includes the power cords for our laptops, cell phones and digital cameras. When nothing needs to be charged, that power strip is off. Elsewhere in the house, we have desktop computers and room lamps plugged into power strips, so that when we leave the room and turn off the lights, we're turning everything off!

Have you considered setting up a similar kind of charging station in your home? If not, then make that this week's green habit change. Get thee a power strip and a central location in your home where you can put it, and plug all of your charging cords into it. Keep the power strip turned off until you need to charge something. When you're done, turn the strip back off. Soon enough this, too, will become second nature.


Shash said...

Leah, quick question - if the power strip is plugged in but not on and lightning hits, won't that compromise the electronics plugged into it? I have thought about doing this, but I live in Florida where lightning is plentiful and I don't want to lose my electronics if I don't have to. Thoughts?

Leah Ingram said...

That's a great question, and I'm glad that you asked.

It seems that the way to protect your electronics in lightning-prone areas like Florida is to use power strips that are also surge protectors--and to use one plugged into another. This article here explains things a bit better: http://www.aroundcentralflorida.com/features/lightning/

So sorry, Florida folks, but it seems like you need to invest in twice as many power strips/surge protectors if you want to stomp out phantom energy suckers AND protect yourself from lightning strikes.

Daisy said...

I like the idea of a power strip for the chargers. My husband and daughter are both prone to leaving their chargers plugged in after they remove the cell phones. And the "energy nazi" at school always nags us for leaving computers on over the weekend. I do my best to turn off my pod every Friday, but if the kids are wild...my priorities are there.

Debbie said...

Please note that this is week Six. After you fix this, feel free to delete my comment. Also, if I am wrong about this, please delete my comment!

*carrie* said...


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