You’ve heard it all before. Turn the lights out when you leave a room, disconnect electronics when you’re not using them, and unplug phone chargers from the wall. Apparently, failing to do these simple tasks puts a huge drain on both your bank account and the earth’s non-renewable resources. Is this true, or is it just a green myth perpetuated by overenthusiastic doomsday tree-huggers set on micromanaging our lives?
The answer is mostly yes. Just like vampire bats use their razor-sharp fangs to “painlessly” drain their victims’ blood while they sleep, the “vampire energy” consumed by electronics that are plugged in but not in use, is small enough to go undetected on your monthly electricity bill, but can add up to substantial amounts when you calculate the annual cost.
So how much do vampire electrical charges actually cost us and the environment?
Vampire energy costs vary by model and manufacturer, depending on how energy efficient your electronics are and how they are used, but here are some averages that give you a good idea of the actual cost to your family budget.
Your home entertainment system alone can easily cost you $75 a year when you’re not even using it. Of course, with many models this may mean you have to reprogram them every time you reconnect them; but why on earth are you still using cable TV in the first place? Ditch the cable bill and go with internet streaming. The money you’ll save from dropping your overpriced cable bill will dwarf the cost of the electricity used to run your home entertainment system, with or without vampire electrical charges.
Having a desktop computer constantly plugged in will cost you an average of $241 a year, of which $41 is vampire cost if your desktop is set for sleep mode when unused. A laptop sucks $16 a year, a laser printer $12, a plasma TV $160, and a game console $25.
A single mobile charger plugged into the wall will suck an average of 20 kWh of vampire power, which is only $2 a year. However, there are over 310 million mobile phones in the United States, so if we all unplugged our unused mobile chargers the overall energy savings would be huge.
The typical American household “donates” an average of 10% of their electrical bill to vampire power, which costs the American economy an estimated $10 billion a year. That’s enough wasted energy to close down 30 coal plants and enough money to bankroll the combined national budget of Costa Rica and Honduras. This wasted energy produces 50 million tons of CO2 in the United States alone, which is the equivalent of adding 11 million cars on the road.
What’s really annoying is that we are the only ones to blame for this waste. Our own electronics are the ones bleeding us dry, costing us up to $200 a year in vampire power charges.
What can we do?
- Disconnect personal computers, monitors and printers when not in use.
- Unplug chargers and devices when not in use.
- Purchase electronics that meet Energy Star requirements. If every home office product purchased in the United States this year in the United States met Energy Star requirements, the total savings in energy costs would be $100 million in annual energy costs, which would prevent 1.4 billion pounds of greenhouse gases from entering the atmosphere.
- Use smart chargers that switch off when not in use and smart power strips that regulate power flow to devices only when you need them.
The bottom line is that making small and painless changes in our behavior could minimize vampire energy costs and save you hundreds of dollars each year. If the financial incentive doesn’t seem worth the hassle to you, consider the overall cost on our already failing energy grid.
Andrew is the managing editor for SuperMoney and a certified personal finance counselor. He loves to geek out on financial data and translate it into actionable insights everyone can understand. His work is often cited by major publications and institutions, such as Forbes, U.S. News, Fox Business, SFGate, Realtor, Deloitte, and Business Insider.