No, this does not involve Salt or a Crucifix like the movies you grew up watching. Just a handy electrical tool.
Vampire or Phantom loads, simply put are electricity leaks that suck away power without you even realizing it. Every home has this problem, and most common contributor are devices that run on stand by mode. The more obvious ones are devices that are left in standby mode deliberately such as your laptop or desktop, and the less obvious are devices that you power off using a remote control. It’s important to know that in some cases the standby mode uses almost the same amount of energy as when the device is active.
If you’re looking to reduce your energy consumption, whether its to manage your bills or to help reduce the electricity deficit in your city, reducing your phantom load is a good place to start. Here are some energy saving tips for your home.
We took some standard industry benchmarks (Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory on Standby Power) and cross referenced them with average electricity rates for an urban home in India which has a mid-high level of electricity consumption. According to our calculation, you can save 30 kilo watts per month, or 360 KwH per year simply by being more mindful (see table below). The monetary saving may not seem much (around INR 3500 per year), but you could do other things with that money, such as pay your annual Tata Sky subscription or fill 10 days worth of fuel in your car. Remember that’s only with a basic load, if you have more than one TV or computing device the numbers could increase.
How to identify the main culprits
According to the Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory on Standby Power devices controlled by remotes are the first ones to look at. These devices need to be constantly ‘on alert’. Your DTH box (Tata Sky, Dish TV etc.) is a big one. TV’s, stereo systems, gaming consoles are other examples. Non remote but always on devices such as modems, microwaves, water heaters and laptops / desktops and printers are the others.
Finally there are devices that you wouldn’t even think of. These include a Cell Phone charger (even when a phone isn’t actually plugged into the charger), a plugged in laptop which isn’t charging (is switched off), or even an air conditioner. You can get a full list here.
What should you do?
Follow your mother’s advice. Turn off switches as you leave a room, and unplug devices too. This really is the simplest and most effective thing to do. To make things easy, you can put a power strip in each room and connect different devices to this. That way, all you need to do is to turn off one switch, and you’re done.
Managing your Phantom load is by no means the silver bullet to reducing energy consumption in your home. If you use energy efficient appliances then the load itself may be very small, and there are other things you can do such as use renewable sources of energy. But, managing this is a simple way of making a small difference.
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