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identify energy vampires.Phantom loads and energy vampires can be scary all year round.

Energy vampires are devices that are plugged in and continually use electricity even when not in use. Phantom load is a term that we use to describe the energy used by the energy vampires (or devices). Together, these two haunt electricity bills all year round.

Don’t be too scared, though. In most homes the cost of these energy vampires is not enough to make a significant impact, but when you look at the entire year these small energy sucks can add up. According to Cornell University, phantom load in the average American home can be $200 per year!

The good news is that we have ways to defeat these scary sounding creatures. The first step is understanding the concept, and the second is identifying the sources.

For example, televisions have evolved greatly over the past three decades. Back in the day the television tube was either on or off. If it wasn’t on, it wasn’t using electricity. However, today, televisions use electricity whether they are on or off due to standby mode and often times being connected to wireless networks. Standby mode does consume a smaller amount of energy while off, but there is still energy being consumed. There are more devices than just televisions that work that way. Devices that maintain temperatures, timers, charging or continuous displays can all use energy even when in the off position.

Take a look around your home and identify devices that use standby or are connected to your wireless network. Satellite or cable boxes can be the biggest offenders, but game consoles, audio components, and computers can also sneak up on you. These types of energy vampires can range from $20 to $40 per year even if they are turned off — but still plugged in.

Other vampires you may identify are your network’s modem, garage door opener, and power tools being charged. They can all add $5 to $10 per year to your bill. And, night lights, surge protectors, phone chargers and clocks can add another $1 to $3 per year. Separately, it may seem like no big deal, but when you add up multiple devices it may be a bigger scare than you anticipated!

When you have identified the phantoms and vampires in your home, plan to exercise the unwanted ones that can be unplugged. If you can group computers or home entertainment devices onto one power strip that can be shut off at one time when you are away for longer periods of time, that may help those energy suckers disappear. Granted, televisions or satellite and cable boxes aren’t meant to be unplugged, but if you will be gone for more than just a few days consider unplugging them.

In short, if it doesn’t need to be plugged in, just unplug it when you aren’t using it. It’s up to each family to decide what’s best for their needs. And, if you need to replace an appliance, always look for the Energy-Star logo. These appliances and devices have been rated to consume less energy.

Understanding how your habits impact your bill, and ways you can combat these phantoms and vampires ensures they won’t be haunting your bill this October.