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Can You Save Money by Unplugging Appliances When Not in Use?

Chances are you have a vampire in your home. An energy vampire.

But don't worry, energy vampires aren't ghoulish creatures of Transylvanian myth – they're appliances and devices that continually draw electricity even when not in use. Most televisions and electronic devices fall into this category, and the costs they incur can add up quickly.

Identifying Energy Vampires

How Stuff Works identifies some of the most common culprits in the average home:

  • Dishwasher
  • Microwave
  • Television
  • Gaming consoles
  • Desktop computers
  • Computer peripherals
  • Mobile device chargers

Most of these devices do not actually need to be plugged in when not in use, yet continually draw power. Basically any new appliance with a bright, illuminated user interface or any kind of remote capability needs to draw electricity 24/7. Older products that feature manual dials tend not to be energy vampires, but they often use more electricity once activated.

There are some energy vampires you won't want to unplug. Your refrigerator is a good example, as well as anything that features a clock or alarm functionality. Also, while your television doesn't need to be plugged in all the time, most cable boxes take a very long time to reboot, so you can scratch that off the list.

Computer peripherals and mobile phone chargers are one of the most common culprits in this example. Leaving peripherals in standby mode lets them continually draw a small amount of power in order to remain ready – your desktop screensaver is costing you money. Mobile device chargers also bleed a small amount of energy constantly, even when not plugged into anything.

How Much Money Can You Save?

A typical 13-watt DVR consumes about 115 kilowatt-hours per year. At 11 cents per kilowatt-hour, you're looking at an annual cost of $12.65 – not much, certainly. However, keep in mind that this is a single device in a home with as many as 20 or 30 similar ones. If every device costs you $1 per month to not use, why not unplug?

Energy.gov states that standby power costs the average U.S. homeowner $100 per year. You're not going to get rich by addressing your energy vampires, but it won't hurt.

Use Power Strips With Interrupters

You don't actually need to physically remove devices from your wall socket – that's too much work. The simplest thing to do is to plug your most significant energy consuming appliances into power strips with interrupters. The interrupter mechanically separates the circuit, cutting off power for good. Use one in your home office, kitchen, or living room and you'll notice a result on your monthly bill.


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