Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Of wall warts and phantom loads

While you're away from your house, electricity is slowly being sucked out through the many seemingly harmless appliances you left plugged in. Actually, the appliance itself doesn't even need to be plugged in: if you left your charger plugged in when you grabbed your cell phone this morning, it's still draining some juice from the outlet.

While one charger may not use much energy, think about all of the appliances in your home that are “off” — except that is, for the LCD clock on the front. It's not off, it's running day and night.

The power these items pull is called “phantom load,” or more derisively “wall warts.”

Before you panic and start unplugging all your appliances, Grist magazine has some helpful suggestions for lightening the phantom load:

Many of us solve this environmental and financial problem by plugging the offenders into a power strip with an on/off switch. When we are through using the appliances on a strip, we turn off the strip, which cuts the electricity to the appliances. Power strips control the electricity coming from the wall, and when they are off, the power is off to the attached equipment. Then, though the evil appliances wish to continue sucking power from the grid, they are thwarted. Trolling on the web will bring you persuasive testimonials from people who shrank their power use this way.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, around 75 percent of the energy used by our home appliances is drawn while we think they are "off." Typical offenders include microwaves, stereo equipment, televisions, chargers for cell phones or iPods and co., and all the computer equipment.
As the price of gas approaches $4 per gallon, investing in a power strip might not be such a bad idea ....

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