No, I don't mean one of those cheesy '80s vampires in "Lost Boys" (sorry, Kiefer), or any of those hormonally angst-ridden teenage vampires of the Cullen-variety a la Twilight. These vampires are even scarier because they suck money right out of your wallet when you least expect it -- and unfortunately, there is no Buffy to save you.
But before you go out and buy garlic and holy water in bulk, these vampires can be stopped by simply flipping a switch, or unplugging a cord. Meet the energy vampire, which usually takes shape in the eerie glow of all those little "standby" lights on your electric devices and appliances. Because these devices receive signals at all times, they silently suck energy even when they are turned “off.”
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, energy vampires add up to an estimated 65 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. This extra electricity costs consumers more than $5.8 billion annually and sends more than 87 billion pounds of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. (Yay for global warming?) According to Best Buy, 40% of all electricity used to power electronics and appliances in the average American home is consumed while the devices are turned off. Not only that, each of those homes has about 20 to 40 electronics plugged in that abuse vampire power. How much does it cost? This vampire energy adds up to between 5% and 8% of a single family home's total electricity use per year, according to the Department of Energy. That's the equivalent of about one month's electricity bill.
The UCS says that some of the biggest energy wasters in most homes are the adapters that come with rechargeable battery-powered cordless phones, cell phones, digital cameras, music players and power tools. Most draw power whenever they’re plugged into an outlet, they say, regardless of whether the device battery is fully charged—or even connected. Other culprits include appliances or electronic equipment with standby capability (such as televisions and computer monitors), a remote control, and/or a digital clock display (such as microwaves, DVD players, and stereo systems).
So how do you become a vampire slayer?
- Unplug appliances directly from the wall when you're not using them. If you have several in one area (such as a computer, printer and myriad iPod/cell phone chargers) attach them to a single power strip and turn off the power switch when they aren't in use.
- If you won't be using your computer for a while, but you don't want to shut it down, turn off the monitor. This will save much more energy than using a screensaver (screensavers alone can cost you up to $100 a year).
- Reduce the brightness on your TV and computer screens by half. This can reduce their energy usage by 30 percent.
Turn off lights whenever you're not using them (which we all do anyway, right?), and use natural light as much as possible during the day.
When purchasing appliances like a refrigerator or dishwasher, look for the EnergyStar label. These appliances can sometimes use half as much energy as other appliances.
Take stock of your appliances. Has that extra TV in your guest room been used in the past few months? When is the last time you watched anything on your vintage VCR, which has remained plugged in and collecting dust for the last four years?