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Phantom Power Draw

For Release: Oct. 19, 2011

Contact: Kyla Kruse, 217-546-6815


You Are Being Stolen from Right Now!

Stop Phantom Power Draw

(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) — If someone stole your wallet on the street, you would yell “Thief!” If your home was broken into, you would call the cops. If you got taken in a Ponzi scheme, you would be dialing a lawyer in short order. If you think you would react similarly in those situations, you might be shocked to learn that you are the victim of theft right now, and you are an accessory to the crime! To add insult to injury, the thieves are probably the items that entertain you the most. They are things like your TVs, DVRs, and stereos. They are stealing from you through “phantom power draw."

Energy Education Council Executive Director Molly Hall explains, “Phantom power draw is sometimes called vampire power, standby power, or leaking electricity. Many electronics don’t actually shut off when the off button is pushed. Instead, they go into “standby mode,” which uses electricity for features like clicks and remote controls.”

According to Energy Star, roughly 8 percent of the electricity usage in the average home is used to power electronics when the devices are off. The amount of power used by some common household electronics might surprise you.

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found the following electronics use the listed average wattage:

  • Set-top cable box with DVR (off by remote) – 43.46

  • DVD/VCR (on, not playing) – 14.5

  • Subwoofer (not playing) – 10.7

  • Rear projection TV (off by remote) – 6.97

  • Notebook computer (power supply only) – 4.42

  • Microwave oven (door closed) – 3.08

  • Portable stereo (off)  – 1.66

  • Multifunction inkjet printer (off)  – 1.26

What can you do to keep the phantom power draw from wasting money in your home? Unplug products that are rarely used, like a TV or DVD player in a guest room. Use a power strip with a switch to control clusters of products. Buy low-standby products. Most Energy Star endorsed products have lower phantom power draws. Hall adds, “Be aware of what you unplug. Keep in mind that most re-chargeable products will lose their charge over time, and you might find yourself trying to use a re-chargeable drill with a dead battery.”

When shopping for new electronics, here are some telltale signs that the device might boost your power bill with phantom power draw:

  • It has a remote control.

  • It has an external power supply.

  • It has a digital display, LED status light or digital clock.

  • It contains a battery charger.

  • It has a soft-touch key-pad.

To find out how much phantom power draw your electronics are using, plug a watt meter into an outlet and the appliance into the watt meter. Turn the device on and note the watts used. Then turn the device off to see how much phantom power it uses.

Visit your local library to see if they have a watt meter you can borrow, and go to EfficiencyResource.org for more information on phantom power draw.

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The Energy Education Council is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting electrical safety and energy efficiency. Established in 1952, the Council is headquartered within the University of Illinois Extension, and serves as a forum for diverse utility and energy organizations to collaborate on the mutually vital issues of efficiency and safety. Learn more at www.EnergyEdCouncil.org.