How to Eliminate Vampire Energy (With Smart Plugs)

Did you know that you’re paying to power devices when you’re not using them and they’re not really doing anything useful? It’s true. Some devices, when they’re plugged in but turned off, still draw power. This is called vampire energy (or vampire power, phantom power, or standby mode), and the costs can add up. By some estimates, 10%-20% of your bill goes to vampire power. And another thing to think about: vampire energy contributes to our warming planet, since we’re powering devices we’re not even using (although, important caveat: industrial users are far bigger culprits than residential users).

So withal that in mind, here’s a quick guide on what vampire energy is, what it isn’t, and how you can easily cut down on it to save some cash.

What Is Vampire Energy & Why Does It Exist?

Certain devices, when they’re plugged in but not powered on, still draw power. Typically, these are devices with internal clocks, with adaptors that are converting AC to DC, or devices that need to maintain internal temperatures. As you can guess, this isn’t always a bad thing. A water cooler, for example, doesn’t just cool your water when you go get some, it needs to keep a certain amount cool all the time so it’s ready for you.

Many smart devices use a bit of energy even when they’re “off” so they can run internal updates and so they can be ready to go at the touch of a button without booting up.

What Vampire Energy Isn’t

Not all devices plugged in and drawing power while you’re not using them are guilty of having vampire energy. You’d never unplug a fridge, for example, to save energy (unless the fridge was empty, obviously). There are just some devices, such as fridges, garage door openers, and routers that always need to be plugged in.

Which Devices Are the Biggest Vampire Energy Culprits

Cable boxes, satellite boxes, other OTT boxes, TVs, gaming consoles, sound systems, speakers, PCs, laptops, printers, scanners, keyboards, kitchen appliances, battery chargers (for everything from power tools to hedge trimmers to little AA rechargeable batteries), electric toothbrushes, and hairdryers are some of the biggest vampire energy culprits. In general, newer devices are better than older ones, but his isn’t always the case.

Can I Avoid Vampire Energy?

Some manufacturers are making a point of cutting down the amount of vampire energy their devices use. You can start looking at devices power usage when they’re in standby mode (manufacturers won’t use the phrase vampire energy, so look for standby mode). Often, manufacturers who are trying to make their devices more energy efficient when they’re in use are trying to do the same when they’re in standby mode.

Can I Measure Vampire Energy?

Aside from googling the make and model of your devices, the only real way to find out how much energy your device is using when it’s powered down is to use an electricity usage monitor. Basically, you plug the usage monitor into the wall, you then plug your device into the monitor, then the display of the monitor tells you how much power it’s drawing. You can turn your device on and off to do a little comparison. Do note, though, that is a very dorky solution.

Can I Eliminate Vampire Energy?

The simplest way to avoid vampire energy is to unplug the device in question after use. But while that may be practical for a hair drier, it’s considerably more annoying to unplug your TV (and all the devices that go along with it).

Here’s where smart plugs come in. A smart plug is a smart device that can be either put on your network and operated via Wi-Fi or comes with Bluetooth and can be operated that way. Either way, you can use your phone to power a smart plug on and off. Put a smart plug in between your device with big energy vampire needs and the wall, then start powering it down remotely with your phone. Do this for a month and start seeing what you save.

A word of caution though: be sure you properly turn off electronics before you cut their power. Don’t just put your PS4 in rest mode, power it down. And a protip: turn off a bunch of stuff at once. Let’s say you have a bunch of devices at an entertainment centre. By way of example, here’s ours: a TV, a speaker system, a Wii, a PS4, a Switch, a printer, a cable box, a modem, and a router. We’ve plugged out modem and router into a power strip that connects directly to the wall, since we don’t want it powering on and off. The rest, we’ve plugged into a power strip (with built in surge protector, because we’re responsible), and between that power strip and the wall there’s a smart plug. When we power our entertainment down for the night, we cut power to all those other devices with the smart plug. Boom, no more vampire power drain.