Curbing Your Consumption:
The phantom strikes
By John Ford and David Chernushenko
Find and kill phantom loads!
Many consumers don't realize that there are
dozens of parasites in their house eating up
their electricity every hour of every
day. Many of today's appliances use power
even when you think they are off. It is
estimated that in California the average home
uses 600 kWh per year or 10% of total
consumption powering appliances in 'standby
mode.' This is not an insignificant number!
So, which appliances are suspects? Firstly,
anything with a separate 'power pack' adapter
(radios, some lamps, etc.). These supplies
can use between 5 and 20 watts each, even
when the appliance is off. To make sure these
are off when the appliance is not in use,
plug several of the culprits into a
switchable power bar. Even for a 5 watt loss,
the $6 cost of a power bar can be recovered
in less than one year at 10 cents/kWh.
'Instant On' TVs will use power to keep the
tube warm. That could easily be 25 watts, or
almost $22 a year. They may have a switch for
'holiday mode' which will truly turn them
If your appliance has a clock, it has a
phantom load! Buy a battery powered clock and
unplug the appliance. When you shop for new
appliances, find one without a clock or
That 10-watt clock radio in your bathroom
that you listen to for 10 minutes in the
morning while you blow-dry your hair? Your
1,000 watt hair dryer would be using less
power each day!
If you have a computer, are all of your
devices plugged in all the time? Make sure
you put them on a switched power bar,
including your DSL or cable modem.
One word of warning though: Some appliances
have a special power-down cycle to protect
themselves when they are turned off. Make
sure you turn them off with their own power
switch before switching the power bar
off. For example: inkjet printers park their
heads to prevent drying out and clogging the
Next month: How to reduce your lighting loads.
John Ford is a technology consultant, and
owner of a small energy conservation
business. He has won the Green Party
nomination in Ottawa South for the upcoming
David Chernushenko is a sustainability
advisor to business, governments and
homeowners and the federal Green Party
candidate for Ottawa Centre.