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The Truth About Vampire Loads

A few ‘Green' buzzwords I've been hearing about lately are ‘Vampire Loads', ‘Vampire Power' or ‘Phantom Power'. They all mean the same thing. If you haven't heard about these yet, just wait, you will. Wikipedia defines these terms as "the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode." Simply put, this is power that electronic devices use while they're not really in use, such as cell phone charges, printers, computers, etc. I have a tendency to question the validity of these types of things when I hear about them, and I really started to question this when my wife started unplugging her cell phone charger when not in use to save electricity.

Clamp-on testerAfter I saw a television commercial sponsored by GE Electric where a guy unplugged his toaster to prevent vampire drains, I was fed up.  I didn't believe it for a second.  I knew that computers, monitors, and printers used a fair amount of electricity, but I was skeptical about toasters and cell phone chargers.  I decided to take my electrical tester around my house to measure how much electricity actually gets used by all these so-called ‘Vampires'. I threw in a 60 watt light bulb for comparison. I used an electrical tester that measures as little as 1.1 Watts. Here are the results (click the graph for a bigger picture):

Vampire Graph

The last items on the list used less than 1.1 watts. Any surprises? I was right about the toaster not using anything, but I was surprised at the amount of electricity saved by putting my computer in standby mode. This only saved a couple watts! After doing this test, I'm going to leave my cell phone charger plugged in, and I'm going to start putting my computer in to hibernation mode when I'm not using it.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections - EmailMinnesota Home Inspections

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 10 commentsReuben Saltzman • March 18 2009 06:22AM

Comments

Hey Reuben, I have wondered about battery chargers, now I know. Another item to consider is the satelite receiver and I have three. Those things are constantly downloading info. but you really can't cut power to them or they have to reboot.

Have a great day

Posted by Tad Petersen / Home Inspector, Mpls (Safeguard Home Inspections, Inc.) over 9 years ago

Your findings are consistent with my own tests----it can be a real pain going around unplugging all of these things.  One would think that some of these things would be "required" to go into some kind of sleep mode after a set amount of time:)

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Hi Rueben.  This is the first time I have heard the term "Vampire Load" thanks for the info.

I hear this issue referred to as "trickle currents".   In addition to the cost of the electric power, some of the items you listed are fire hazards.  Several laptop computers, ipods, and cell phone batteries have made the list of fire hazards when left unattended.   I believe all the manufacturers have issued recalls and fixes for the problems, yet I would guess there are still many problem products still in use today.

Your list is very good, there are several other products that also consume trickle current, Televisions, cable boxes, coffee makers, and most every device with a clock inside.  

For all my electronic equipment; computer, printer, scanner, television, etc, I use a surge protection power strip.  I switch off the power strip when this equipment is not in use.

I also use power strips for other appliances but they are not the surge protection type.  I also switch these off before leaving the house.

Great info.

Jim

Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) over 9 years ago

I too had never heard the term Vampire loads. Thanks for the info. Great post

Posted by Jack Feldmann (Clayton Inspection Service, Inc.) over 9 years ago

Tad and Jim - I'll have to check those items next.

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Delivering the Unbiased Truth. (Structure Tech Home Inspections) over 9 years ago

Reuben - I didn't believe in Vampires until I read this!  Great work.  It's all about actually checking for yourself to see the truth and not believing everything you hear.

Posted by League City, TX - Worrell Team, REALTORS, GRI, CNE (RE/MAX 1st Class) over 9 years ago

I use electricity under the theory that if it's on, it's using electricity. However, in today's world, "on" needs to be defined. My toaster is always "on" because the little red light tells me it's on. My clock radio is always "on" because it tells me the time, and when I push the radio button, it immediately turns the radio on.

It's probably all relative, but I suspect that if one has a computer, television, printer, fax machine, etc., in every room of their 15,000-SF house, and all those rooms are in constant use by a family of ten that even then is continuing to overpopulate the world, they might -- just might -- notice a difference in their electrical bill if they unplugged some things. Of course, if they can afford a 15,000-SF house and a family of 10, they probably aren't worried about something as silly as the electricity bill and helping to save the environment -- LOL.

Posted by Russel Ray, San Diego Business & Marketing Consultant & Photographer (Russel Ray) over 9 years ago

Good stuff my man. I blogged about this the other day. I didn't believe it when my grandmother brought it to my attention. Did some research of my own and low and behold those appliances suck that electricity all night 

Posted by Winston Westbrook (Westbrook National Real Estate Co) over 9 years ago

The toaster and the phone charger by themselves may take almost negligible charge, but it is when added all together that it actually can really start to add up. Also, different models and makes of appliances or chargers can suck up electricity at different rates and unless you are going to go around and test each individual appliance, it's going to be hard to tell which ones are wasting. Get some power bars to plug everything into and switch them off when not in use. This will save you having to unplug each individual appliance or charger.

Posted by Rebecca Sargent (Century 21 Home Realty Inc. ) over 9 years ago

Great post, thanks for sharing.I am just like you when I hear these crazy claims. Good for you for having the skill and will to put it to the test.

Posted by Anonymous almost 9 years ago

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