We have vampires and wall warts in our houses

Most people assume that when they turn off the television set, it stops drawing power, but that is not how most televisions and other electronic devices work.

Most people assume that when they turn off the television set, it stops drawing power, but that is not how most televisions and other electronic devices work.

by Joanne Henning Tedesco —

Households across the world are now infested with vampires. That is what energy experts call those things with two sharp teeth that dig into a wall socket and suck juice, every hour of the year.

Most people assume that when they turn off the television set, it stops drawing power, but that is not how most televisions and other electronic devices work. They remain in standby mode, silently sipping energy to the tune of 1,000 kilowatt hours a year per household as they await your signal to power up. In the United States, that is about $1 billion a year to power our TVs and DVD players while they are turned “off.”

There are billions of vampires, drawing more than enough current in the typical house to light a 100-watt light bulb 24/7, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, a research arm of the U.S. Energy Department.

These silent energy users include the chargers for devices that run on batteries, like cell phones, iPods, personal digital assistants and any device around the house that has an adapter, like an answering machine. Some have both batteries and steady power use, like cordless phones. Experts call all of these adapters “wall warts.” Many deliver only half as much energy in direct current as they suck out of the wall; the rest is wasted.

Among the worst vampires are big-screen televisions, mainly because of satellite and cable boxes, which can draw up to 30 watts when turned off, experts say. The words “off” and “on” no longer seem to apply; a better word might be “idle.”

Vampires and wall warts are only part of the problem. DSL or cable modems, among other things, are increasingly likely to be left on around the clock. A computer left on continuously can draw nearly as much power as an efficient refrigerator — 70 to 250 watts, depending on the model and how it is used.

Look around your home and see what you can do to save energy.

 

Joanne Henning Tedesco is editor of AzNetNews

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 6, December 2005/January 2006.

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