Spooky Specters that Increase Your Electric Bills and Waste Power

Last year we first reported on “Vampire Loads,” the energy sucked in by household electronic gadgets and appliances even when they are turned off. Never ones to let a good metaphor go to waste, this year we introduce a companion for these dastardly electronic iterations of Nosferatu and rename the same concept “Phantom Power.” These scary apparitions possess many of your household appliances like cable boxes and video game consoles.

Not scared yet? What if I told you that these ghastly phantoms plucked $100 out of your wallet last year? Furthermore, the NRDC estimates that if you are a technophile, $425 could have been spooked out of our bank accounts in the same time frame by those phantasmagoric spirits. Cable boxes alone cost Americans over $3 billion in 2010.

Cable boxes were a focus for NRDC this year after the group issued a report on the topic in June. According to NRDC, power used in the United States for cable boxes alone was “equivalent to the annual electricity use of the entire state of Maryland.” Two-thirds of that energy was used when the household was not watching or recording anything. That means we need the equivalent of nine coal burning power plants to satisfy the energy needs of a device that we do not use all the time. Scary stuff indeed.

The good news is that there is something we can do about it. And if you are ready to become the energy version of Venkman, Egon, Raymond or even Winston, take the NRDC’s Household Savings Calculator to locate your phantoms and vampires and use power strips with off switches to bust those ghosts. (If you want to take the super high-tech route, there is this and this.)

Happy Halloween!