Ghostly Energy Suckers

Best Ways to Exorcise the Fastest Growing Energy Consumers From Your Home

March 24, 2016

You’ve plugged all your house’s holes and insulated it up to the rafters. You got a new efficient furnace and water heater. But your electricity bill is staying stubbornly high. What gives?

If you’re like most people today, it could be your growing plug load and phantom power loss.

Plug load? Phantom power loss?

While heating, cooling and lighting are often are biggest energy loads in our homes, plug loads, or the combined number of devices and appliances we plug in, are growing at a very fast rate.

Along with the increased amount of power being used by our increasing number of electronics is the resulting loss from standby or phantom power. Many electric devices are designed to be ready to turn on instantly for our convenience and to do this use a small amount electricity even when they’re shut off.

When I first started doing energy conservation workshops in 2013, phantom power was estimated to make up approximately 10% of an average Canadian’s household energy consumption. But with growing trends in home offices, media rooms and specialty devices, it’s now estimated to be in the 15% range.

If appliances are included our plug load, some believe they should be considered separately, it can quickly become one the top energy draws in our home. Compared to the 1970’s when people usually only had a TV, radio, coffee maker, fridge and stove, and sometimes their own washer and dryer… today we often have a TV in every room, along with all their supporting devices, a gaming console or two (which can suck up a lot of energy and phantom power), alarm clocks, rechargeable phones, cell phone chargers, laptops, modems, blenders, microwaves, electric toothbrushes, shavers, wireless rechargeable speakers, and I’m guessing you can think of more devices to add to this list.

More often than not, these new devices are cranked out quickly by manufacturers without energy conservation in mind and are rarely Energy Star tested or rated. A big cheap Boxing Day television might actually cost you a lot more in electricity than if you bought a more expensive E-Star rated TV considering their vastly differing energy consumption levels when both on and off.

Adding to the pile of gadgets is the growing number of cheap specialty appliances being marketed to us at the end of every aisle. Need a wine or beverage cooler? Your own snow cone or kettle corn popper?

So what can we do to reduce our plug loads and phantom power loss? Become choosy in what we bring into our homes. Ask ourselves, do I really need this? Do my kids really need this? Do I really need to buy such a big refrigerator or television? Also look to see if the device or appliance you’re about to buy is E-star rated.

Make turning off devices and unplugging them easier. Look for power bars that allow you cut power to devices all at once, and that have timers. Do a scan of your house to see if there are devices you can unplug and put away until you need them. Is your wall air conditioner still plugged in? Take out your wall chargers when your device is fully charged. Ask yourself, is there a lower energy way to do what I want to do? Using your game console, for example, to watch a movie uses a lot more energy than using other devices such as Apple TV or your cable box.

While our growing devices seem harmless enough for our power bill, they can quickly add up. And if phantom power loss makes up 15% our annual consumption, that’s easily a $150 a year for the average person. Good luck on keeping this growing energy load in check, and if you have any comments or question feel free to leave them below.