Emory Report
October 22, 2007
Volume 60, Number 8

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October 22, 2007
Watt-waster phantom loads steal electricity, pour carbons into air

By kelly gray

There are many phantom electrical loads tapping massive amounts of money from your wallet and releasing tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. A phantom electrical load is the electricity that is consumed by an electronic device or appliance while it is powered off, simply because it is plugged into a wall socket.

The United States consumes 43 billion kilowatt-hours per year due to phantom loads — equivalent to the output of six large nuclear power plants — just to provide power for devices that are not in use. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 75 percent of the electricity used during the lifetime of a typical electronic device is consumed while the unit is powered off.

Phantom loads come in many forms. The following appliances are known as “watt-wasters” and possess phantom loads: VCRs, TVs, computer equipment, cell phone chargers, battery chargers and any appliances or electronics with digital clocks.

What can be done to eliminate phantom loads?

Reducing phantom electrical loads is easy and can be done by using surge protectors, replacing old appliances and unplugging electronics when not in use.

Unplug electronics
To eliminate phantom loads, plug electrical devices into a multi-plug surge protector so the power can be cut off with the flick of one switch.

Replace old appliances
Old and outdated appliances are one of a household’s biggest energy wasters. An old refrigerator consumes over four times more electricity than today’s energy efficient models. This translates into huge savings since refrigerators consume more electricity than any other appliance in a typical residence.

When buying new appliances, look for the Energy Star label. This government rating system gives a special label to energy efficient appliances.