For the next week I am going to make a few small changes in my lifestyle to try and reduce unnecessary energy usage. One source of waste is merely leaving on lights and electronics that I am not using. Another source is phantom energy. This term refers to energy used by electronics and appliances that draw energy from a power outlet even when they are turned off. Some of the biggest uses of phantom energy are TV’s, electronics chargers, and game consoles. The best way to prevent yourself from using phantom energy is to unplug these things when they are not being used.
After doing some research about phantom power I began to think about and locate things in my apartment that might be culprits. I have a TV in my living room and my bedroom that are always plugged in, which is two big sources already. I have a game console and an Apple TV that are usually plugged in. I am extremely guilty of leaving 3 chargers plugged into a power strip next to my bed: phone, laptop, and handheld console chargers. In the kitchen there are two Keurig machines and a toaster that are always plugged in. Things like the stove, microwave, and refrigerator are not realistic to unplug when not in use and are Energy Star certified to be more energy efficient.
I also noticed some things that I might need to do some more research on their potential for phantom energy. I have a desktop computer that is always plugged in, but I try and leave off during the day when not in use. The hair dryer in my bathroom is always left plugged in. These are all things I need to try and remember to unplug when I am done using them. Many of these things like the hair dryer, coffee machine, and even the TV don’t get used every day here. When I am done using these things or I see them plugged in but are not in use I try to unplug them.
I have also been paying much more attention to what lights I leave on lately. I noticed that I was somewhat careless with leaving lights on before this. I would leave kitchen, living, room, bathroom, and hallway lights on carelessly without being in those rooms. I have begun trying to turn off lights in rooms when I leave and also try and use natural light by opening up blinds during the day when possible.
After spending a week trying to remember to unplug things, I began to realize that it’s difficult to remember to unplug everything and it’s also a little frustrating to go to use something and realize it’s not plugged in. Doing this isn’t really time efficient, so I began to research other options. I found the Belkin Conserve Smart AV Protector for $30. This device helps you save energy by turning off TV peripherals when you turn off your TV. This prevents things like consoles, DVD players, etc. from using phantom energy. The device also has two outlets that aren’t controlled for things that need to be kept on like cable boxes and routers. This device could also be used with desktop computers. The computer would be plugged into the master outlet, and when the computer is shutdown the power strip would also cut off power to other devices like printers, monitors, and speakers.
While this can help reduce a lot of phantom energy use, this device doesn’t really work for things like laptop and phone chargers that are left plugged in as well as kitchen appliances. One options for electronic chargers is to get a regular power strip that has a switch to control the entire power strip. That way instead of unplugging all the things when you are not using them, you can simply turn off the power strip when you’re not charging anything.
One thing to look at when purchasing new electronics is the Energy Star rating for standby power. Buying more efficient models can help reduce phantom energy use as well. Doing these things can help reduce 5 to 10 percent of your electric bill and while this may not seem like huge savings for the individual, imagine if what 5% of everyone’s energy savings could add up to.
After a week of trying to conserve energy I find myself realizing two important things. The first is that there is absolutely energy waste happening in my apartment and even if it is small, I can make a difference by working to reduce it. Change will not happen until everyone works to make small changes in their lives. I also realized that it isn’t exactly time efficient to try and unplug everything all the time. But I did find several solutions that can help simplify the process of reducing energy waste, which is primarily phantom energy. This holiday season I am hoping to add two smart surge protectors to my TV and computer setup to help reduce my phantom energy usage. In addition, I will work to switch off my power strip that houses electronic chargers when I am not using them. This experiment was a great way to look at how I use energy and devices and should be attempted by anyone looking to reduce their energy costs.