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The Truth about Phantom Loads

It’s possible that you might be paying for extra electricity without knowing it. You may have already cut back on your energy consumption in the typical ways, replacing light bulbs and purchasing energy-efficient appliances. Test your knowledge of home energy efficiency at the Energy Efficiency Game Show from 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm on Saturday April 24th at Cambridge Public Library, 449 Broadway, as part of the Science Carnival at the Cambridge Science Festival.

So is it possible that you might still be paying more for electricity than you actually use? Imagine this scenario: settling down on the sofa during a calm winter evening, you turn on your energy efficient floor lamp to begin peacefully reading,

Green Your Home All-In-One: For Dummies.

Just as you get to an exciting section on combination compost/recycling units, an intrusively loud noise erupts from the neighbor’s open window ripping into your thoughts. You look with disgust at their wide-screen television (150 watts) playing on full volume while their gas fireplace (1,500 watts) sends heat into the room and straight out the open window. Every light inside the house is on, not to mention they

are using incandescent bulbs (1,000 watts). The microwave (1,000 watts)

is heating some leftovers that you assume have been in the refrigerator (100 watts) for at least a week

while their

• cell phones charge (20 watts)

• their computers compute (100 watts)

• the DVD system plays (20 watts)

• the printer prints (50 watts)

• and the dishwasher washes (1200 watts)


5,140 watts is the power you’d use to do 17 pushups per second. That’s 1000 pushups per minute! If they had to power their own house by doing pushups, at least they’d be in shape.

Your neighbor is wasting so much electricity, yet you manage a measly total of 10 watts just for your reading light. (You are wearing a parka because you don’t use heating anymore, and you gave also up refrigerated foods.) When you turn out the lights to call it a night, you think you’re using no power at all. Think again! It turns out the devices you have plugged in are using electricity without your knowing it. Your television and your microwave are off and yet they are leaking power from the outlets. They are acting as phantom loads.

Phantom Loads

Phantom Loads, also known as standby power, leaking electricity or vampire power, is the power that leaks into electronic appliances even when they are in the off or standby mode. Most electronics operate in standby mode the majority of the time, yet are still using power. A desktop computer for example uses 21 watts in sleep mode. When it is completely powered off, it still uses about 3 watts. You’d have to unplug the computer completely to stop this leakage! Take a look at this website for leakage rates of some typical household appliances.

Living in a house without heat or refrigeration, as in the scenario above, might be unreasonable. However, adding up the leaking power from some common appliances give surprising results.

These phantom loads total up to 23 watts with all appliance completely off. Sleep mode can add another 15 watts to a computer or 10 watts to a DVD player. The average US house uses around 1000 watts which means phantom loads account for more than 2% of the energy used by households. By some estimates (http://www.aceee.org/pubs/a981.htm), phantom loads comprised 5% of the entire US household power consumption amounting to a total of $3.5 billion dollars annually spent on wasted power. If the quantity of wasted power isn’t shocking enough, the amount of wasted money should be.

How the phantoms be stopped?

Surge protectors help. Plugging appliances into surge protectors and then shutting these off at night will eliminate phantom loads. Alternatively, unplugging the appliance would do the trick. Also, shutting electronic gadgets off completely rather than leaving them on sleep or standby cuts power consumption enormously. Again, replacing appliances with energy-efficient versions is a good way to contribute to energy conservation and to save $$.

This website tells you how you can check whether your home has phantom loads


Check out these websites for more information on phantom loads:




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