Yes, Halloween is just around the corner, but we’re not talking about the types of vampires or phantoms that frequent late night television programming or beaming computer screens in dark living rooms. What we are talking about can be just as frightening — the technology, that portrays those eerie figures, itself. Vampire or phantom loads refer to the appliances and electronics that draw electricity from your outlets, even when they are turned off.
The incessant leaching of idle electricity drains your electrical system and adds up on the electricity bill. So what can we do to protect ourselves against these types of loads, become more energy efficient and save money on our electric bills?
The answer is not garlic, a wooden stake, catching up on Scooby Doo, or even going around and unplugging every device. (ZOIKS!) It’s much simpler than battling the ghastly forces of evil that pervade the various rooms of your home.
The exterminators of these phantom plug loads are none other than power strips, ADVANCED power strips (APS).
An advanced Power Strip is a power strip with an energy saving feature. There are several different varieties, but one of the most popular is a “Master-Control” APS. For these systems, when you turn off your TV or computer (the “master”), it automatically cuts power to the other devices plugged into it, such as a DVD player, game console, printer, speakers, etc. There are also APS that have timers or motion sensors for those who tend to fall asleep or lumber out of the room with a TV still on. There are even APS that just focus on the vampire load, possessing a programmed sixth sense to discern when the device is off but still sipping away on electricity; if the device is off, these APS have the same effect of physically unplugging the “off” electronics.
Try matching your electricity consuming needs to the most suitable advanced power strip. Need help? The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has developed a very helpful graphic to figure out what APS device could work best for your needs:
Since these devices are advanced, they are slightly more expensive than typical surge protectors, however many of the efficiency programs in the Northeast offer rebates on these items. If you live in MA, NH, NY, RI, or VT, your local utility should be able to direct you to some great deals on APS that will save you money in the long-run. You may be able to order the APS online or go to a local electronics store, but since this is a pretty new technology, it may not be everywhere. Using NREL’s guide and the “what to look for” information will help direct you to an appropriate product if there isn't a sales associate to help.
NEEP has also been working to help push APS into the market. We recently released an APS Test Protocol that ensures products function properly and are easy to use; this can help efficiency programs ensure that poor products are not included in their programs.
So don’t be spooked about vampires, phantoms and wasted energy through plug loads anymore. The vampires will hang up their capes, the phantoms will go back to languishing within their other-worldly existences, and you'll be munching on leftover Halloween candy, relishing in the comfort of your newly equipped home.
Additionally, NEEP is convening an APS Working Group that will look deeply into this plug load management space (including Tier 2 or more advanced APS as well as Home Energy Management Systems). To get involved with this effort, contact Claire Miziolek, NEEP’s Residential Program Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org). We welcome efficiency programs, thought leaders, members of industry, government, retailers, and testing facilities to be a part of this effort.