Energy Adviser: Vampires suck your energy, money



When we “treat” ourselves to new electronics, entertainment devices, gaming consoles or computers, we often bring home unwelcome “tricks” masked as convenience features that really add cost. These energy-sucking ghouls, which often take the shape of standby settings, quick-start modes or unused chargers, can drain energy and take a bite out of monthly budgets.

Most of these energy vampires are easy to find but often not so easy to scare off. To start, pick a night and turn off all your lights. Then look for the tell-tale signs of red, white, blue or orange dots peering out through the darkness. Usual suspects include computers, cable boxes, TVs and unused chargers. These lights are a clue that “off” doesn’t really mean off and these devices are drawing a trickle of energy all the time.

Here are a few suggestions to stake the e-vampires, banish electric phantoms, and behead energy zombies for good.

How many smartphones are in your home? Four? Six? Tablets? Laptops? Chromebooks? If the chargers are left in the wall, even when not plugged into a device, energy leaks from the outlet in a slow trickle. While minimal, these energy wasters can add up over time, so unplug them when not in use. Also, disconnect your gadgets when they’re fully charged, so they don’t needlessly gulp power.

Various “screen” chargers aren’t the biggest electronic boogeymen, though. These days, the average home supports about 25 electrical consumer gadgets. Newer models will be much more efficient than older versions of the same device, and many now come with energy-saving modes. So when you’re ready to replace electronics, start with the biggest energy wasters first.

Nearly everything in computing, Android, Apple, Linux or Windows, falls back to standby, or sleep mode when off, but unless you’ve completely powered them down and unplugged them, they’re often still using energy. Plug PCs and laptops (and accessories like printers and scanners) into smart-power strips to easily cut off the flow of phantom energy use. Smart strips can cut power by shutting accessories down when the main device is turned off. Turning off wake-up or quick-start features can help cut energy waste as well. The trade-off might be that your device takes a bit longer to turn on, or reach maximum brightness, but if it’s not something you use consistently, it’s worth it to reduce the wasted energy.

Of course, you can do your best to exterminate energy waste, but some appliances require power to keep clocks on or to be ready in an emergency. Examples include routers, cable boxes, doorbells, microwaves, cordless phones, and anything cooling food. Still, as you replace old devices, look for energy-efficient models and the savings can add up.

Given our appetite for adopting new gadgets and plugging in the various accessories and chargers that come with them, some energy vampires will always lurk in the shadows. Many new technologies, like smart appliances and Wi-Fi-enabled homes, can add to the number of devices using energy in the home. But these new inventions are also often more energy-efficient than their less advanced predecessors. Make sure to take a look at the Energy Guide when comparing options, and watch for the Energy Star label when shopping as a good place to start.

Not sure which upgrades will make a bigger difference in monthly energy costs? Try the free online energy calculators at, or call an energy counselor during business hours at 360-992-3355.

With a few tricks of your own, you can enjoy your electronics and vanquish the energy vampires. The sweet treat? Reduced energy waste and lower electric bills over time.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.