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In an ongoing effort to encourage its customers to conserve on electricity and become more aware of where their energy dollars are going, Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) offers the following information on “phantom energy,” an interesting electrical phenomena about today’s electronics.
Appliances such as personal computers, answering machines, electric razors, modems, microwave ovens, hair dryers, TVs and phone and IPOD chargers left plugged in are using electricity unnecessarily when not in use.
It used to be that when an appliance was turned off, it was really off. Back in the ’70s, TV manufacturers offered an “instant on” feature so the picture and sound came on immediately, which used a small bit of electricity to maintain this ever-ready state.
Then came remote controls. TVs and stereos equipped with a remote needed to be ready to heed the press of the remote 'on' button. And that meant that they, too, used a tiny amount of power. Then came the VCR with a digital timer. It used a little current to remember what time it was.
Before long these features were a part of many different appliances. Today any household appliance that has a clock, timer, memory or remote is consuming electricity even when it’s not in use.
One way to identify which appliances create phantom loads is to look for the features mentioned above. Another way is to think about which appliances you need to re-set or re-program after a power outage.
How much is phantom load costing us? According to Gary Forman who edits The Dollar Stretcher website, one energy consultant, Michael Lamb, found that his 27 inch TV used about 100 kilowatt hours a year due to phantom load. RMLD customers pay about $.13 per kWh (kilowatt hour), so that TV would add about $13 per year to the electric bill even if it was never turned on. That's not a huge amount, but compare it to a frost-free 22 cubic foot refrigerator that consumes about 700 kWh in a year. Clearly you get more for your money with the refrigerator.
Nationally, phantom loads make up about 6% of our entire residential electricity consumption. A decrease of only 1% in industrial energy use would save the equivalent of about 55 million barrels of oil per year, worth about $1 billion.
When you add up the phantom loads in everyone's home it does consume a significant amount of electricity – one U. S. study estimates the phantom load from TVs in the U. S. alone is equal to the output of a 4,000 megawatt power plant.
You’re not going to want to unplug your refrigerator, but you may want to unplug your coffee maker and your toaster. How can you control phantom load on those appliances you do not use 24/7 when you don’t unplug? Plug the TV, computer or other appliances into a switchable outlet. Choose an outlet that's controlled by a wall switch or purchase a power strip that has an on/off switch. But remember that when you turn on your TV it might need to re-learn which channels are available in your area. And that could take 30 seconds or so. You also won't be able to turn on the TV using your remote. The remote will work fine after the TV is on, but not until then.
Is it worth it? You'll need to decide that for yourself. Some of us are very grateful that the coffeemaker remembers when we get up and already has the coffee brewed. Others will prefer to save the money and environment. But now that you have some facts, you can make a decision that is right for your situation.
This information is from The Dollar Stretcher website. Please visit their website for the full article.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters.