Computers, vampires, phantoms… oh my!

The average computer left on continuously uses 70 to 250 watts – nearly as much power as an energy efficient refrigerator.

When not in use, shutting down your computer is not enough: power continues to flow to its printer, scanner, modem, speaker and stand-by lights. And, as long as everything is plugged in, whether it’s plugged into a surge protector or wall outlet, electricity continues to be sucked from your home’s grid. This energy loss is known as vampire power or phantom energy. Oh my!

All together, vampire power can account for about 10% of the average American’s home electricity use. Multiply that by all the homes and businesses in the US and we’re talking about billions of dollars spent on electricity lost to vampire power alone. What a waste!

But let’s focus on the computer and all of its peripherals (printer, modem, scanner, etc.). All you need to do is unplug the surge protector its plugged into and you’re good to go.

Oh. I see. You have a hard enough time just remembering to shut off the lights when you leave the room. Not to worry. I believe you can get into the habit of shutting down your computer. Put a post-it note on your computer, another on your bathroom mirror. In time, it will be second nature. But what about the peripherals? You won’t have to worry about unplugging everything if you have an EcoStrip. This surge protector has a USB connector that plugs into your computer, is more energy efficient than a normal power strip and outsmarts that crazy vampire power. When you shut down your computer, the EcoStrip turns off itself and all of the other devices plugged into it. Vampire be gone!

Here are some additional energy conserving tips:

  • Select energy-efficient equipment—personal computers (PCs), monitors, copiers, printers, and fax machines.
  • An ENERGY STAR labeled computer uses 70% less electricity than computers without this designation. If left inactive, ENERGY STAR labeled desktop computers enter a sleep mode and use 4 watts or less. Spending a large portion of time in low-power mode not only saves energy, but helps equipment run cooler and last longer.
  • To maximize savings with a laptop, put the AC adapter on a power strip that can be turned off (or will turn off automatically); the transformer in the AC adapter draws power continuously, even when the laptop is not plugged into the adapter.
  • Common misconceptions sometimes account for the failure to turn off equipment. Many people believe that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. This incorrect perception carries over from the days of older mainframe computers.
  • ENERGY STAR labeled computers and monitors save energy only when the power management features are activated, so make sure power management is activated on your computer.
  • There is a common misconception that screen savers reduce energy use by monitors; they do not. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning monitors off is always the better energy-saving strategy.

Long-Term Savings Tip

  • Consider buying a laptop for your next computer upgrade; they use much less energy than desktop computers.

[Tips courtesy of the US Department of Energy]

Now, if only you could remember to unplug your TV, which loses 25% of its lifetime energy use to vampire power. Ouch.

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