How to Fight Vampire Power
There is a vampire lurking around. Whether you are tucked into bed at night, at work or out of town, this vampire is taking a bite out of your wallet and harming the environment.
The villain in question is vampire power, also known as standby power, phantom power and ghost load. It refers to devices that use power just by being plugged in even if they are turned off or inactive. Even scarier, these vampires don’t need the cover of the night to do their dirty work, and silently driving up your electricity bill 24/7.
After all, what do you think your cellphone charger does all day while plugged into the wall outlet? The charger continues to suck a small current even when it has nothing to charge. Over time, DVD and Blu-Ray players actually consume more electricity during the hours when they are not in use than the times that you are actually using them. Any device that works with a wireless remote control will constantly draw a small amount of power. Even before you pick up your remote control, your TV is already using electricity to power the sensor that will receive the signal.
In some cases, this power usage is justified. For instance, your refrigerator need power to monitor the temperature level in order to power up at appropriate times. However, when it comes to your printer and speaker which is connected to the computer, it is not as easy to justify a constant power drain while waiting to receive signals from computer networks. To put that in perspective, the United States consumes 26 percent of the world’s energy, and of that energy, approximately 5 percent is vampire power. That is between 200 to 400 terawatt hours which is roughly as much electricity as the entire country of Italy consumes in a year.
All this energy use will effect our environment. Coal-burning power plants will produce carbon dioxide which will lead to global climate change. That is why reduced vampire power translates to lower carbon emission.
How do we slay these vampires?
For things as commonplace as battery chargers, the simple solution is obviously to pull the plug out of the wall outlet. A simple multiplug power strip would be easier as you can slay multiple vampires with a single tug. Belkin came out with an ingenious device called the Conserve Power Switch ($9.75) which plugs into a standard wall outlet with a simple toggle on-off switch, and will draw zero power when switched off. Instead of pulling the plug, you just flip the switch and the juice stops flowing.
When unplugging is not practical
Unplugging your phone charger when not in use is a simple practice to adapt, but shutting down your entire home entertainment setup or computer system is clearly not practical, particularly since the power strip is often hidden away out of reach.
Fortunately, there are devices to handle this as well. Another product from Belkin, the Conserve Switch Surge Protector with Remote ($29.28) would be a good choice here. In addition to surge protection to clamp down on stray voltage spikes that can damage your equipment, you get eight outlets and a wireless remote control to manage the system. Two of the outlets are always on, allowing you to leave equipments like router and modem to be available at all times. The other six outlets are laid out widely, and able to accommodate bulky power plugs and linked together electrically. The remote control would be able to slay all the connected vampires, such as the monitor, speakers and printer at once.
A smarter way to slay the vampires
When it comes to the complexity of a home entertainment system, there is an even simpler solution. The Smart Strip Surge Protector Power Strip which is available in a variety of sizes depending on the complexity of your system beginning with the SCG3 model ($23.50) which offer seven outlets. Two of the outlets are always on, good for your cable box for instance, which needs to remain powered up to receive new program listings. There are also four outlets that will switch on and off as needed. The cool trick here is the “as needed” part as there is a master control outlet, which is generally used for the TV set. When you turn off the TV, the system senses a lack of power draw and automatically turn the other outlets off.
All these weapons may seem useless against the billions of dollars worth of vampire power that drains away each year. But if enough people became aware of the problem, and take steps to prevent it, a vast amount of power and natural resources can be better used.