Pull the Plug on Home 'Energy Vampire' Appliances and Electronics to Stop Standby Power Use

VIDEO: With this summer's heat wave, here's some clever ways to conserve electricity.

How high is your monthly electricity bill? With the kind of summer we've had, your power consumption has probably gone through the roof if you've kept the fan and air conditioner on to keep you cool during the ongoing wave of oppressive heat.

There are ways that you can cut back, though. Did you know that certain appliances and electronics will continue to use power even when they're switched off? It's estimated that 10 percent of the average home electricity bill comes from the energy used by these products, which are popularly called "energy vampires."

In fact, a typical family spends $120 dollars per year on the so-called "vampire appliances," from cable and DVR boxes to cordless phone chargers, microwave ovens and video game consoles.

The only way to completely prevent such appliances from using standby power – that is, drawing on the energy supply even after they're turned off -- is to unplug them.

But an aggressive campaign, armed with knowledge about which products draw standby, can cut total standby by as much as a third, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Here are a few more tips, taken from the Berkeley Lab, to help you cut standby power:

Identify Energy Vampires
Identify products that draw standby power. Products with one or more of the following features typically have standby power use: remote control , external power supply, digital display, LED status light, or digital clock, a battery charger or a soft-touch key-pad.

Invest in a "Kill A Watt" device ($25-50) to determine which appliances are energy hogs, even when they're turned off. Just plug your appliances into the "Kill A Watt" plug and it will assess how efficient they really are, so you know whether it's worth keeping them plugged in.

Other products that may not have these features also can have standby power. Most homes will typically have 20 such devices. The only way to be certain which devices in your home have standby power is to measure them with a meter.

Ask to join your local power company's "Smart Meter" program, now available in the majority of states. Smart Meters beam your energy usage to the power company, and to you, in real-time so you can see exactly how much power you are using, and what it's costing. Then take advantage of the program's two-tiered pricing system that allows you to pay more during peak hours, but get a discount on your energy costs at lower-usage times.

Pull the Plug
Unplug appliances or electronic items that aren't used often. The best example is the television and DVD player in the second guest room.

Use a power strip with a switch to control clusters of products. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's website, the most likely targets are computer clusters (PC, display, printer, scanner, speakers, wireless transmitter, etc.), video clusters (TV, DVD player, powered speakers, game consoles, etc.), audio clusters (receiver, amplifier, CD players, etc.). Be sure to keep the set-top box and modem on a separate circuit to avoid loss of connection.

Limit the time you charge your cell phone. Cell phones only take about one hour to fully charge, so the rest of the time you have your phone plugged in is wasted energy. Try charging your cell phone while you eat dinner instead of overnight while you sleep -- a shorter time frame.

More "Vampire Appliance" Tips
Buy low-standby products. Few products list their standby power use, but most Energy Star-rated items have lower standby use.

Pre-cool your house by turning on the air-conditioning before the 2:00 p.m. peak hour begins.

Turn off the air conditioner completely during peak electricity hours and rely on good, old-fashioned ceiling fans to cool your home.

Save chores like laundry and running the dishwasher until after 7:00 p.m.

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