Phantom Loads

Many devices in your home consume electricity even when they appear to be off. These phantom energy wasters include instant-on TVs, microwave clocks, VCR displays, telephones, and computer peripherals. Phantom loads add up to a huge waste of electricity in the U.S. that costs consumers more than a billion dollars per year and many billions of kilowatt-hours of increasingly precious electricity. The total phantom load in most American homes varies from 1.5 to 4 kilowatt-hours per day, or several dollars per month for most families.

One way you can eliminate phantom loads like TVs, stereos, VCRs, and computer externals like printers is by plugging them into a plug strip that is equipped with its own power switch. Simply switch the power strip on and off when you need to use the appliance. For appliances that have remote controls, this method will disable the unit’s remote control until you turn the power on, though it will operate normally after you turn the power on. Note also that any appliance that has a cube-shaped transformer on the end of its cord is creating a phantom load. That’s why these transformers feel warm even when the device is off.

In July of 2001, President Bush signed an executive order directing federal agencies to buy appliances that consume less than one watt of standby power. In doing so, the federal government hopes to stimulate manufacturers to produce appliances with minimal phantom loads. Consumers can benefit from these low-consumption appliances by always looking for the Energy Star® label when buying appliances.

Typical Phantom Loads in U.S Households How Many Type of Appliance Phantom Load (Watts) Consumption (Watt-hours per day One Instant-on TV 28 672 One Video Cassette Recorder 14 336 One Microwave Oven with Clock 8 192 Two Wall Cube Power Supply 5 240 One Stereo with Remote Control 8 192 One Stove with Electronic Ignition 14 336  Total 77 1968 watthours (1.9 kilowatt hours) Courtesy of Home Power Magazine
SeeThe Homeowners Handbook to Energy Efficiency for simple practical energy-efficiency ideas