Sometimes it feels like you have to make some sacrifices to have an energy-efficient home. Turning down the thermostat can mean you’re chillier than normal; reading under a compact fluorescent light bulb may mean your book is not as well lit as if it came from the overhead light; or taking a warm, quick shower isn’t quite as relaxing as taking a long, hot one. Well, what if there was a way to save energy and money without changing your lifestyle one bit? There is, and it’s easy. Simply eliminate phantom load from your house.

“Phantom load,” often called “standby power,” refers to the electricity sucked out by electronic devices, even when they’re turned off. Things like TVs, computers, DVD players, coffee makers and video game consoles all suck energy through their plug-ins, even when they’re not running. It’s estimated that households spend 5 to 10 percent of their electricity on phantom load alone. To put it in perspective, the Natural Resources Defense Council has found that 40 percent of American households have at least one video game console. The amount of time that those devices spend idling and functioning inefficiently costs $1 billion a year.

One of the most common offenders is the charger. People often leave their cell phone or laptop chargers plugged into the wall, even when there’s no phone or computer on the other end. That’s an easy way to throw money away on your electrical bills.

Thankfully, phantom load is an incredibly easy problem to fix, and unlike turning down the thermostat or taking a cooler shower, you won’t notice a thing. Generally speaking, devices susceptible to phantom load have an on/off switch or an internal clock. So, if you see one of those things on your electronic devices, simply unplug it. In your entertainment areas, where there are many plugs, simply put your TV, DVD player, stereo, internet router, etc. on a power strip. Instead of having to unplug each device, just flip the switch. The flick of a finger could save you 10 percent on your monthly electrical bill.

Posted 12/21/2011