Phantom Electricity Loads


As you sleep, when you’re on vacation, when you’re at home, and when you’re not, appliances around your house are secretly using small amounts of energy even though they have been turned off. This power usage is referred to as “phantom electricity loads.” Depending on how many electric gadgets you have around the house, phantom electricity loads can be costing you quite a bit.

Phantom Electricity Loads

The origin of the phantom electricity load problem dates back about 30 years to the mid-1970s. Before that, when you turn off an appliance, it was truly off. Today when you “turn off” an appliance, it’s a bit misleading because it really isn’t turned off. In reality, it’s sleeping so that it can instantly be ready to work when it’s called for duty. While in this “sleep” state, each appliance uses tiny amounts of energy.

While a single appliance by itself would not be a big deal, when you add up all the different appliances and systems you have, the phantom electricity load will reach about $20 a year in most homes and can even reach $100 and more in houses that have a lot of electronics.

To put it into perspective, the average TV’s phantom electricity load costs about $5 – $10 a year. If you use your microwave oven an average of 7 minutes a day or less, the clock on the microwave oven will actually use more energy during the year than the microwave itself!

When you start adding in the stereo systems, VCRs, DVD players, answering machines, fax machines, electric razors, electric toothbrushes, computers, printers, scanners, modems, routers, and kitchen appliances, the energy used becomes more significant. In fact, TVs and VCRs alone cost Americans $1 billion a year in electric bills while not in use.

The first step to figuring out how much energy may be wasted in phantom electricity is to take a stroll around your house. See what is plugged into all of your electrical outlets. If it’s an appliance that you don’t use regularly, consider simply unplugging it. If it’s an appliance that is used regularly, consider placing all the appliances in that general area onto a power strip that can be switched on and off easily. By taking these steps, you can save some money on your electricity bill and cut down on electricity waste at the same time with little effort on your part.