Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vanquishing Phantom Power

As October is Energy Awareness Month, I thought I'd post some tips on how to save energy (and money!). While there can be a lot of buzz around the latest green or energy saving product--and don't get me wrong, some of these are plenty nifty--there are several things you can do to save energy without spending a dime. Eliminating unnecessary phantom power is a simple and effective introduction to a more energy efficient lifestyle.

Phantom power, or standby power, is defined by the EPA as "the power consumed by an appliance when switched off or not performing its primary functions." The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory estimates that the average American household contains around forty items that continuously draw electricity from the grid (regardless of whether they are being used); these items account for nearly 10% of residential electricity use.
Sometimes phantom power has a legitimate use. DVRs, for example, operate at a minimal level of power when not in use so as to keep track of which programs to record. Other instances of phantom power, however, are simply wasted electricity. Cell phone chargers use nearly as much electricity when plugged into the wall by themselves as they do when actively charging your cell phone. If all SPU students living on campus left their cell phone chargers plugged in 24/7, the chargers would consume the same amount of electricity annually as three houses.

The best way to vanquish phantom power? Unplug electronics when you aren't using them.

To avoid the inconvenience of digging around under your desk or behind the TV, group your electronics by use and plug them into power strips, which can be placed in easy-to-reach locations and turned off with the flick of a switch. For example, your TV, cable box, and any gaming consoles can all be plugged into one power strip, while your computer, printer, monitor, and peripherals can be plugged into another.

Happy conserving!

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