No, we’re not talking about that micro-managing boss or your reason-resistant teenager – although they certainly are experts at draining your energy. Here, we’re going to identify those household appliances that – if left plugged in while turned off — can make paying your electric bill more painful than a bite in the neck.
Okay, maybe not. But higher bills can sneak up on you, so below are some tips on identifying, and neutralizing, your energy vampires.
First, Some Facts
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration:
- The three major fossil fuels – petroleum, natural gas and coal – have dominated the U.S. energy mix for more than 100 years.
- Total renewable energy production and consumption both reached record highs in 2016.
- Total energy consumption per person in the U.S. is about 310 million British thermal units (Btu) compared to the world’s per person consumption of about 75 million Btu.
So, good news is that more of our energy is coming from renewable sources. Not-so-great news, the average U.S. citizen uses a LOT more energy than do people in the rest of the world. To do our part to counter that, we can start by looking for several large – and small — ways to use less energy in our homes.
The biggest bill busters are HVAC, water heaters, lighting and washer/dryer. Things like smart thermometers, shorter not-quite-so-hot showers, LED bulbs and washing in cold water can help with those.
However, the real “vampires” here are what we need to curtail, because approximately 75% of the electricity used in most American homes happens while the product is not being used.
The Most Vicious Energy Vampires
The top energy vampires in your home are:
- Set-top boxes – cable or satellite
- Desktop and laptop computers, and laptops use more energy.
- Printers — inkjet and multi-use use the most.
- DVD players
- Routers & modems
- Gaming consoles
- Televisions — the larger the screen, the more energy used.
- Tablets and cell phone chargers
Look at that list, and how many of those things in your house stay plugged in 24/7. Experts calculate that, with all the appliances and electronics that are plugged in and not in use, the average household adds an extra 10 percent to their monthly utility bill.
Make higher bills disappear.
While it takes a stake in the heart to get rid of real vampires (or so they say), knocking down expensive energy bills is a lot easier than you might think. Below are some tips and tricks to help.
Of course, you can’t unplug everything every day. Your cable box is most likely used every day, morning and night, and if you’re like the typical household, your wireless router is in constant use. That DVR you rarely use, however, could be unplugged, as well as that guest room TV. A quick look around the house with a discerning eye will probably turn up several other opportunities to cut back.
Use Power Strips.
Plug several devices into one power strip, then turn them all off and on with a simple flip of one switch. If you’re going on vacation, or even just away for the weekend, toggle those strips off and the vampires melt away. There are even advanced power strips that prevent what’s plugged into them from drawing power when off or not being used. These would be a great investment in a home office. Plug in the computer, the printer, the fax machine (if you still have one). Then when you power down, your electronics aren’t still fired up and using energy.
No Bad Hair Days…
But after you’re through blow drying and flat-ironing, unplug those gadgets before leaving the bathroom.
Call Your Cable Guy.
Ask them about the newer, much more efficient cable boxes that the industry has developed that can save you from one of the biggest vampires in your house – your old set-top cable box.
Cook Up Some Savings.
Look around your kitchen. While it doesn’t make sense to unplug your oven or disconnect your dishwasher, you can find plenty of other electronics and devices that – once the plug is pulled – can help save you money. Coffee makers, smoothie blenders, big, fat bagel toasters, hot pots and more. Or put some of those – along with your energy-sucking microwave – on a power strip. When breakfast is over, flip the switch and save the money.
Wish on an Energy Star.
If you don’t have Energy Star appliances yet, think about switching soon. They use less when plugged in and not in use – heck, they use less energy, period.
Yes, these sound like small things, but take a walk around your house and you’ll likely notice how many “small things” you have that could be adding big bucks to your annual energy bill.
Save it for the weekend!
After you tour your home and unplug the appliances that you use less frequently, it may be time for you to consider switching to an electricity plan will more hours of free electricity! Yes, you read that right – Direct Energy offers Free Power Weekends to all Texas customers. This plan does exactly what it says, you won’t be charged for the electricity supply you use from Friday at 6pm to 11:59pm on Sunday. That’s more than 100 days of free electricity, making it the energy plan with the most FREE weekend hours in Texas*! With Direct Energy’s Free Power Weekends plan, customers who have high energy usage activities have the greatest potential to see real savings if they simply shift their activity to the weekend.
To find even more savings, use this calculator from energy.gov to estimate how much energy it takes to power your electronics and appliances throughout the year.
*Most free hours weekend electricity claim as of June 19, 2017 when compared to other retail electric providers offers listed on the powertochoose.org website. Subject to change.