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Reduce phantom and standby energy use to reduce electric bill

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The average American home is brimming with consumer electronics and appliances, such as televisions, DVD players, stereos and kitchen gadgets. These products account for approximately 15 percent of a home's utility usage. What you may not realize is that these modern conveniences can add to the cost of the electric bill when they are turned off but still plugged in.

Products with clock displays, remote controls and other features draw power 24 hours per day. Another way to determine if an appliance is drawing power is to touch the plug. If it is warm to the touch, it is drawing power.

Although an individual product draws little standby power by itself -- a few watts up to 40 watts -- a typical American home has about 40 products continuously drawing power. This consumption is called "phantom," "vampire," "leaking energy" or "standby" energy use.

Since altering the energy requirements of existing appliances and electronics is not possible, using them mindfully, or replacing them with energy efficient models, will significantly reduce the amount of energy they require.

Here are several ways to reduce the energy consumption of existing appliances:

* Use a high-quality power strip as a central power supply for clusters of computer, video (TV, DVD, and video games) or audio products (receivers, amplifiers, etc.) so everything can be switched off with one action when the equipment is not in use.

* Do not overload a circuit with too many items plugged in. Most circuits in a home are 15 AMPs, but only use 75 percent, which is about 11 AMPs. Look at the amount of AMPs that each item uses. Heating products use more AMPs than other products. Contact an electrician or your local utility company if you need more information about AMPs.

* Unplug chargers for cell phones and power supplies when equipment is fully charged or not in use.

* Enable power management features on your computer, monitor and other office equipment.

* Avoid using a screen saver on your computer's monitor. Allow the monitor to switch to "sleep" mode, "power-down" function or turn it off when it's not in use.

* Unplug products which are not used frequently, such as the television in the guest bedroom.

When it is time to replace an appliance, look for the ENERGY STAR logo. ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy. Appliances and other household goods, such as light bulbs, with this logo have been designed to meet strict standards for energy efficiency.

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at 620-223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.

Ann Ludlum
FCS Agent, Southwind District
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.