It’s (Still) Alive!

Beware of Energy-Sucking ‘Vampire’ Appliances

During this Halloween season, residents should not only be aware of the sneaky creatures creeping outside on All Hallow’s Eve but the ones lurking inside their homes as well. Even though vampire appliances won’t put the bite on you or invite you to dinner at the Cullen’s, they do suck money right out of your pocket.

“Vampire” appliances plug into the wall to operate and use small amounts of electricity even when they’re not being used. For example, if a television or blow dryer is plugged into the wall but is switched off, or if a cell phone charger is plugged into the wall but there is no phone attached to the other end, each still uses electricity.

Richard Stephens, former AP Environmental Science teacher at Lincoln High School, describes it this way: “When you turn off a light switch in your home, that’s off. It breaks the circuit. When you turn off your television, it’s not off, dead. It’s designed so that it consumes tiny amounts of electricity, but it’s still energy. It still took a fossil fuel, or a nuclear power plant, or a dam, or a windmill to generate the electricity.”

Aside from helping the environment by conserving energy, unplugging vampire appliances when they are not in use can also save money for individual households. Annually, a household will probably only save about $10. Relatively insignificant when considered individually, but if calculated nationwide, it would conserve a tremendous amount of money and energy. “If you took all the homes collectively over the country, it would equal something like the power generated by six coal-power plants, typically,” Stephens explained.

Companies such as Brookstone have created a solution called the Smart Strip Automatic Power Controller, which only uses energy when the power strip is turned on, even if it’s plugged in. It also accommodates appliances that have their own on/off switch, so that if the individual appliance is turned off, it immediately stops sucking electricity even while the strip is turned on. The best way to get in the habit of conserving money and energy with the Smart Strip is by switching it off immediately after the user is finished with the appliances.

Residents who are electric customers of the City of Tallahassee Utilities can also schedule a free energy audit, where a representative checks the energy usage in a home and offers tips to conserve. The city offers rebate programs for purchasing certain Energy Star plug-in appliances, such as a $75 rebate for a refrigerator or $100 for a washing machine. “Anybody with a 10 or 15-year-old refrigerator should definitely take advantage of these rebate programs,” Stephens said. “Just don’t take the old one and put it in the garage and plug it back in … then you have two refrigerators. You’re using more energy.”

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