Vampire Standby Power & How to Stop It
There is a vampire roaming the country. No, not one of those suave vampires with the chic black silk cape. Nor is it one of the tragically hip vampires that we see in the Twilight movies. This vampire is incredibly subtle, but it is still bleeding us for all we are worth. This vampire has its fangs dug in where it really hurts- our electricity bill! Vampire power (or standby power) loads are designed into some of our electronic and electrical equipment, sometimes as a consumer convenience, and other times simply the result of poor or misunderstood design.
Where standby power comes from
Not all standby loads can be considered vampires; they may be designed into the equipment for functional purposes. Some modern equipment, such as refrigerators and environmental thermostats, are required to remain in stand by condition to respond to temperature fluctuations. If this equipment and its digital controls are of recent manufacture it is very likely that the stand by electrical draw is very low.
Other equipment was designed and built when electricity was significantly less expensive, so the power drawn while in stand by mode was less of a bother. Large CRT televisions often had a keep warm circuit to allow instant operation. Other appliances, which are operated by a remote control, remain powered so that they will respond instantly to the signal from the controller.
Finding and killing the vampire
There are many ways to detect and fight vampire loads. Anything that you leave plugged into your home’s electrical system could be a vampire. If it has any lights or displays showing when not in use, it is drawing electricity. If the device or its adapter is warm to the touch even though the device is not in use, it is a vampire. The charging adapters for cell phones, portable electronics, even emergency flashlights can fall into this category.
The simplest tool for fighting vampire loads is your own fingers. If there is no advantage to leaving the device plugged in, grasp the electrical plug with your fingers and pull it from the wall socket. If it is not plugged in, it cannot draw electricity.
Standby power killers
Several devices have come on the market to combat vampire loads, but the simplest is the electrical strip adapter. Some of these are sold for computer equipment and have a surge-protection feature. What makes them so useful for combating vampire standby loads it the fact that everything plugged into them will be isolated from the household circuit when the strip is shut off.
Lately there has been a campaign promoting standby power controllers (SPCs) or smart switches. Whether these devices are any more effective than simply turning off a power strip or surge protector can be debated. However, the SPCs have the advantage of being automatic. For this reason the government is making provisions to encourage power companies to subsidize the purchase and use of SPCs. Currently, standby power controllers on the open market have an average purchase price of around $90.
Image credit: pareeerica