Vampire Electronics: Sucking Away Your Dollars

You’ll likely see kids outside dressed as vampires on Halloween. Did you know that you actually have vampires in your home? Not Dracula type vampires that suck blood while you sleep (at least I hope not), but electronic vampires that suck electricity while you sleep. These vampires don’t leave bites on necks, but they do take bites out of wallets, and getting rid of them will help in saving money.

Vampire Electronics Definition

“Vampire Electronics” are electronics and other plug-in household appliances and devices that continue to use electricity even when they are turned “off.”

Many people think that once something is turned off, that’s the end of the power it consumes. However, turning off the gadget doesn’t equate to turning off the electrical current. In fact, about 40 percent of electricity being used to power your home electronics is being used to power your home electronics when they are in standby mode.

Types of Vampire Electronics

Vampire electronics include items that need to be plugged-in in order to work, as well as gadgets that need to be recharged.

This includes: Computers (plus routers, modems, printers), CD players and sound-system components (such as powered subwoofers), DVD players, mp3 players, TVs, washers and dryers, microwaves, coffee makers, cell phones, PDAs, electric toothbrushes, among many others.

Vampire Electronics Costs Households $130 Per Year

The average U.S. household spends about $130 per year to power devices while they are off. If you have multiple computers and a plasma TV (which seems to be the biggest home energy vampire), your total is likely more than the average.

All energy vampires are not created equal. You can get the most savings for the least effort by concentrating on slaying the biggest energy vampires, which include plasma TVs ($165 per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy), computers ($70 when in sleep mode) and sound-system equipment such as subwoofers.

Vampire Electronics Cost the U.S. $4 Billion Per Year

On a national level, approximately 5 percent of electricity consumed goes to standby power, amounting to $4 billion a year.

However, this estimate by the U.S. Department of Energy is several years old and a current estimate was not readily available. It’s probably safe to say that the current figure is higher as the types of electronics continue to grow, as does the number of people possessing them.

International Energy Vampires

Dracula may dwell in Transylvania, but energy vampires are an international phenomenon. The international estimates (percentage of each country’s total energy consumption consumed by vampire electronics) make the magnitude of this issue even more clear:

  • Japan: 12 percent
  • Australia: 11 percent
  • Germany & the Netherlands: 10 percent each
  • France: 7 percent
  • U.S.: 5 percent

Given the estimates available, it’s likely that most other developed countries (Canada, England, Ireland, etc.) have figures in the 5-10 percent range. The total international cost is surely in the tens of billions of dollars.

Tips to Easily Save Electricity and Money

  • Chargers:  Lithium-ion powered chargers should automatically halt the flow of current when not in use. If you’re unsure if yours does, unplug when not in use.
  • Computer systems:  Hook up your system, including accessories like printers and scanners, to a single power strip and switch the power off when not in use. Another tip: Watch out for screen savers–the graphic-intense ones waste power. If you need a screen saver, choose something simple.
  • Other items:  When possible, unplug when not in use. This might be too inconvenient for some items (such as items with clocks like microwaves), but easier for many items. You may want to plug some items into a power strip, especially a “smart” power strip.
  • Appliances:  Purchase new appliances that are energy-efficient and endorsed by the Energy Star Program. Look for items with the Energy Star approval sticker, which indicates they draw significantly less power than do comparable non-Energy Star products when they’re not in use–as much as 60 percent less.

Power Strips are getting Smarter

Conventional power strips may work for some uses, but not all. Many of us have some items that we use together and can all be turned on and off at the same time (such as a computer and related accessories), but other items that we may not want turned off when our computer is off. An example might be a light near our computer, DVRs or routers, which would lose functionality if turned off.

There is no need to go through the hassle of unplugging some items from a power strip and not others. Many smart power strips and related devices offer at least two “always on” outlets. Two such devices include:

  • Bits Limited’s Smart Strip ($30 to $50, depending upon features) can monitor electricity use and automatically cut power to devices in standby mode.
  • Belkin Conserve Surge Protector ($40 to $50) lets you cut off power to devices using a wireless controller.

Environmental Costs

Not only are these vampire electronics costly to consumers and to nations, they’re costly to the environment. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “if only 1 of 10 U.S. homes used only appliances backed by the Energy Star program, it would reduce carbon emissions the same amount as by planting 1.7 million acres of trees.”

If you’d like more information on saving electricity, and energy in general, you might want to check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERG) site specifically devoted to saving energy at

Happy Halloween and may you successfully slay your energy vampires!