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Always-On Devices and How They’re Costing You Money

May 25, 2018
by dmirza

always-on devicesIf you happened to find $19 billion, what would you do with it? Improve infrastructure of your state? Help the less fortunate? Invest in alternative energy? If we as Americans would cut back on the energy wasted by the vampire effect and always-on devices, we could save $19 billion every year. Our own energy bill would drop by $165 to $440 each year. It would reduce 500 MW of energy used in the country.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has researched the impact of always-on devices in homes that constantly draw electricity. When a device is turned off, it still draws power, often called the phantom load or vampire effect. Even things like phone chargers draw electricity when the phone isn’t connected to them. Some of these devices fall under regulations restricting them to about half a watt of energy use while in standby, but always-on devices don’t fall under this regulation. Always-on devices that are inactive account for about 23% of household energy use in California.

An always-on device often has a digital display that is always operational in some capacity. Appliances like coffee makers and Wi-Fi enabled refrigerators or washers may have a display that is always functioning. Other devices like DVRs and set-top boxes are considered always on because they are constantly receiving information and we rarely, if ever, shut them off. Blu-ray players and smart TVs also constantly receive data whether for updates or ready access.

The best way to combat this energy waste is by unplugging unused devices. For devices like DVRs and set top boxes, we can’t shut them off when we record television shows, so we could invest in smart power strips. These strips have three always powered ports and several unpowered ports. One always-on port connects to, say, a TV as a master device. When the TV turns on, the strip detects the change in energy flow and turns on the unpowered ports. In addition, there are usually a couple other always powered ports just for DVRs and set tops so you don’t miss out on recording. Fully shut down computers and unplug them, and change their settings to be more power conserving while they’re in use. Use timers to control lights and program a thermostat to help regulate your home heating and cooling.

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