Is phantom load really a wall wart?

How much electricity is your fridge consuming each month? How much phantom load (idle current, vampire power, wall wart) does your cell phone charger suck out of your wallet each year?

If you leave a cell phone or iPod charger plugged in all the time, it can draw a minute amount of power known as phantom load. Over the course of a year, this wasted power can amount to a lot of wasted money. Or can it? Are sites like TreeHugger wasting our time with these alarmist claims or is there some truth to them?

Moreover, if you are using an older appliance, then it is most likely consuming more energy when not in use. Obviously, the best route to go would be to just go ahead and purchase a new, energy-efficient appliance, but for most of us that may be too expensive. You could always simply replace the old, dilapidated parts in your appliance with newer, more efficient parts. Appliance parts for General Electric, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, and other major brands, are not to hard to find. Even better, replacing older parts with newer ones should not be too hard to do on your own.

Here are some facts:

  • Home Power magazine found the average American household supports 1.45 kilowatt hours of phantom loads per day
  • The US department of Energy states that “75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. This can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip.”
  • The National Energy Board of Canada notes that there is an “increasing phantom load or standby losses per household. This is the energy used by appliances and electronics when they are turned ‘off’. This demand is usually unknown or not thought of by homeowners, hence ‘phantom’.”

Okay, so our microwaves and DVD players use power when they aren’t actually turned on but how much does this really add up to over the course of a year? Is it really worth getting down on your hands and knees and turning a power bar on and off each time you want to watch Heroes?

According to Ideal Bite, in the average home, “40% of all electricity is used to power home appliances while they’re turned off.” Now, if that is true then the notion of phantom load has my full attention.

Another website, says that, “phantom loads make up approx. 2%-8% of your electric costs.” So who should I believe? I think that there has to be some savings to reducing the amount of phantom power in your home.

I think the only way to really find out how much vampire power exists in your home is to measure it yourself. ThinkGeek sells a device called Kill-A-Watt that can tell you how much power a device is consuming in your home.

For $29.95 USD you can find out how much that 50-inch LCD HDTV costs by the hour, day, week, month, or an entire year. Then you can figure out how long it will take to save $29.95 in electricity to pay for this device. I’m considering getting one to see how much hydro I can save in my home.

As a bonus, all of you home theatre enthusiasts with ‘clean’ Monster Power can find out how clean your power really is. The Kill-A-Watt can monitor the quality of your electric power by displaying voltage, line frequency, and power factor.

Posted in Technology at 7:21 PM