Vampire Power Sucking Money From Your Wallet

Over the last year I’ve shared a few ways to create a passive income.  But what about creating passive savings?  That is, ways to save money without much effort.  That’s the idea behind eliminating the pull of dreaded “vampire power” from your household devices.

What Is “Vampire Power?”

The term “Vampire Power” refers to the energy required to power many home electronic devices as long as they are plugged in, even if they are turned “off.”  Unfortunately, that includes just about everything that requires being plugged in.  Here are a few examples of household appliances draining your wallet while you sleep:

  • Cable Box
  • DVD Player
  • Desktop Computer
  • Wireless Router
  • Computer Speakers
  • Inkjet Printers
  • Plasma Televisions (these guys seem to be the worst, according The Department of Energy)

How to Stop Vampire Power?

The silver bullet required to kill vampire power is a smart power strip.  These devices monitor electronic appliances and cut power to them when they entire vampire mode.  Or, you can go old school and simply plug all appliances into a simple power strip or surge protector and flip it off when not in use.  Even older school requires you to simply unplug appliances from the wall outlet when not in use.

One drawback to this method is that devices that need to be on for automation or downloading updates (such as a DVR, router, etc.) may not work properly if manually powered down.  Smart strips offer a solution to this problem by setting aside a couple outlets dedicated to an “always on” setting for devices that do need a constant supply or power.

If you don’t want to run every electronic device through a smart power strip, consider picking up an electricity usage monitor such as the Kill-A-Watt EZ. Here’s a portion of the product description from Amazon.com:

Now you can cut your energy costs and find out what appliances are actually worth keeping plugged in. Simply connect these appliances to the Kill A Watt EZ, and it will assess how efficient they really are. Large LCD display will count consumption by the Kilowatt-hour, same as your local utility. Calculate your cumulative electrical expenses and forecast by the day, week, month, even an entire year.

A friend of mine owns one of these and used it to do a power inventory around his house to find the worst culprits pulling “vampire power.” Then he picked up a few smart power strips and placed them around the outlets with devices pulling the most power.  The reduced energy costs should easily pay him back for the investment of the monitor and power strips in less than a year.

Comments

  1. I have heard of Vampire power and the ways to stop it using a surge strip. Unfortunately, with a small child running around my house, I have to hide all of the power stripes. This makes it a pain in the a$$ to turn off the devices everyday. So I guess I will have to live with it for now ;)

  2. This is really hard to do when your DVD-R needs to be plugged in or else you have to keep re-setting the time on the clock. But I think I would definitely use a power bar / smart power bar for video games and other things that don’t get used all the time (or at least unplug them when not in use).

  3. @John: I’m in the same boat…if you want to invest a little more up front they sell a “wireless” switch that you could toss behind an entertainment center and then control via remote. Then you just have to hide the remote!

  4. Great post!

    I always knew that power was being pulled while things are off, but never wnated to go through the pain of unplugging things all the time. Thanks for the suggestion, I am going to go pick some up.

  5. Well said. I still use the old school power strips with a manual on/off switch, but I keep them in places that are visible or easy to shut off. Lots of people seem to store them under a desk or behind the TV, and simply forget to shut them off. so the “out of sight, out of mind” principle comes into play.

  6. I have most of my electronics (TV, cable box, router, NAS, etc.) hooked up to a UPS which supposedly does a similar thing. I’m surprised that the documentation on the unit doesn’t describe the power benefits, but I have seen write ups that my unit does indeed regulate power.

    I’ve always had it, so I don’t know what my savings have actually been.

    Stupidly Yours,

    Matt

  7. Ditto on resetting the DVD player – so that one I leave plugged in always. But the computer and all its components are on one easy powerstrip – it all comes on/off at once.

    Now if I could just get the neighborhood cats to quit setting off the motion detector lights on the front and back porch all night long…..

  8. I have several smart strips in my home. I’ve had them for about 1.5 years and at the time I bought them they said that they would pay for themselves in about 3-4 months. I loved them so much that I wrote a proposal for my employer to use them as well. I have one in my office and one in my entertainment center.

    I purchased mine from a website called http://www.bitsltd.net. I ordered a case of 12 at a price of about $18 each. I then sold them at cost to coworkers & friends. Saved me money and my friends. Individually they cost much more.

  9. Vampire Power, love that name.

    I use a powerstrip and just turn it off when i’m using none of the items plugged into it. At night when I’m locking up I just shut all the powerstrips off as well.
    Got this habit from MY frugal dad many years ago :)

  10. Great advice as always Frugal Dad! I personally go old school with a power strip and turn off the strip when I am not using the appliances. I think this is not only important for our wallets, but also to conserve energy that we (especially as Americans) so easily waste.

  11. We use old school power strips. We completely power down our two televisions, DVD player, and VCR (yes, we still have a VCR!) and our laptop when they’re not actively in use. We also simply unplug the microwave, toaster oven, and baby monitor. From what I can tell from assessing the past 18ish months of usage and billing, we are saving — are you sitting down for this? — about FORTY DOLLARS A MONTH. I know, it’s a lot and you wouldn’t think it would make that much of a difference, but it has.

  12. Did your friend discover any surprises when he used the usage monitor? How much are we talking about, in energy savings? This past summer my refrigerator stopped working and needed replacing. I ended up getting a small apartment size refrigerator, and I save considerably every month by not having such a large one. Occasionally it’s an inconvenience, but mostly it’s fine. Why waste all that energy if I can manage with so much less?

  13. @ Heather

    I’ve seen cases where an electric bill was decreased 50% (or more) just by cutting vampire power. It works well if you get serious about it.

  14. @Heather,
    We seem to be saving about forty dollars a month, on average, using regular power strips. It has been well, well worth it. Plus I love that we’re simply using fewer resources, aside from the boon to our wallets.
    For example, we used over 500 fewer kWh this January than we did last January. That’s a lot! Our bill this January was about $50 less than last January, even though this January was about 10 degrees colder, on average.

  15. I have an outlet wired to a light switch. I have my powerstrip that powers my entertainment system hooked up to that. I just flip the wall switch. Other than that, I unplug everything: my electric toothbrush, microwave, battery chargers. I only turn off my modem and router if I’ll be gone for a few days.
    There are times when literally the only thing drawing power in my apartment is my fridge.

    I guarantee that over a month all of those little devices add up.

  16. open4energy has just completed an energy study on recharging a BlackBerry.

    In summary:

    Cost of electricity charging the BlackBerry each year: 12.5 cents
    Cost of vampire effect: $1.26

    Our result of 90% wasted energy (or what I call the charger pretending to be a small wall heater) is consistent with the 40% quoted by many articles. In our example the BlackBerry required only one hour for charging, leaving 23 hours for vampire power!

    To see the full study visit the web page: http://open4energy.com/forum/hc/power/blackberry_charging

    There is also a poll on energy awareness, we hope you will participate?

  17. I had the chance to do some detailed measuring of actual power being consumed using a Watts up .NET meter, accurate to 1.5%

    People, we are being duped.

    http://open4energy.com/forum/grn/msr/energy_measuring_watts_up_09071445

    Take a look at the real results! I have two strips thanks to a generous vendor, and am happy to have the clean power. But with regard to the energy you can save, the Kill-a-Watt is not giving you correct readings at this level.

    Do remember that there are 3,600,000 Joules in a Kilowatt Hour, for 11.5 cents.

    We do need to make these savings, but they all require us to change how we use energy. Turn a light off, get out of the shower sooner, set your power settings on the laptop, open the blinds, and be aware!

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