Time To Scare Away Those Phantom Loads

Phantom loads

You may be wondering just what phantom loads are, so maybe we'd better start off with a definition so we can do our best to scare them away.

Is There A Ghost In The House?

A phantom load is an electronic device that is "switched off", but which is still drawing power, and, thus, using up electricity and increasing your energy bill. See how evil they are?!!??! They can really haunt your home and result in a REALLY scary energy bill!

You Can't Do That!

So, now you know just how "dangerous" these little devils are, you can't just leave them plugged in if you want to make your home as energy-efficient as possible.

Beware the phantom loads!

As stated previously, the first thing to do when considering installing a solar power system is to ensure that you have reduced your electricity bill to the bare minimum. That means eliminating the needless electrical consumption of devices and appliances that operate in standby mode (phantom loads) as much as possible.

The Dis-Honour Roll! We Name The Phantoms....

Here's a list of the Top 10 most common culprits, from worst to least offenders:

  1. Security system
  2. Cable TV box
  3. Dishwasher
  4. VCR/DVD
  5. TV
  6. Microwave oven
  7. Answering machine
  8. Cordless phone
  9. Clock radio
  10. Video game

For Example

Here's an example of just how dastardly these little phantom load demons can be. One particular model DVD player has some frightening extremes of energy usage depending on how it's being used. If you're watching a movie, it draws 11 watts; with no movie playing and only the LCD display working, it draws around 9 watts, and, when turned off, it still consumes 3 watts.

Let's look at the DVD player's energy usage over a 24 hour period. If you're really into watching movies and watch one 2-hour DVD per night, the player consumes 22 watt-hours during the movie (2 hours x 11 watts), and another 66 watt-hours over the course of the next 22 hours (22 hours x 3 watts), that's provided you turn it off. So, even just watching 1 2-hour movie per night, your DVD player consumes 88 WH (watt-hours).

Now, consider the next night, when you watch your 2-hour DVD but then fall asleep, forgetting to turn the player off, which you don't realize until the next night when you come to load in your next movie!

AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!! You've practically committed the equivalent of energy suicide! The player consumes its 22 WH during the movie, but - and here's the REALLY SCARY part - over the course of the next 22 hours it will draw 198 watt-hours (22 hours x 9 watts). And all because you forgot to turn the player off.


So, if we look at what can happen over a 24-hour period, with you watching only 1 2-hour movie during that time, your DVD player draws 3 times as much energy when turned off as opposed to when it's playing, and 9 times the amount of energy if you happen to forget to turn it off.

And if that doesn't scare you, nothing will!

Ghost Hunt

So, how do you go about tracking these phantom loads down? One of the problems with most households is that they have a combination of newer, more energy efficient appliances and devices, and older, less efficient ones. Not only that, but most appliances don't provide standby (or phantom load) losses.

At present, the only way to measure a home's standby losses is by hand, using a digital power meter (there are several inexpensive ones around, such as P3's Kill A Watt EZ). So, armed with a power meter, a pencil, a notepad and a calculator, you can go through your house testing all your appliances and devices to find out which ones are causing the most damage to your energy bill and reducing or eliminating your phantom loads.

Time To Exorcise Those Demons

It's one thing to have found which appliances are using the most energy, but it's another thing knowing how to do something about it. Some phantom loads you may just have to live with; for example, a cordless phone (although you could always replace that with an old-fashioned phone with a cord). But, for the rest, the best remedies are to either unplug them until you need to use them again, or plug them into a power strip or switched circuit.

Keeping The Phantoms At Bay

Once you've optimized the appliances and devices in your house for maximum energy efficiency, don't let your guard down. Stay on top of your energy usage, and make sure to check any new appliances or devices you bring into your home and make them part of your battle plan to keep your energy usage to a minimum. It's a never-ending battle, but you've now done your part to put yourself in a position to win.

What's Next?

Now you've got your energy usage down as far as you can, and exorcised those evil phantom loads, this would be a good time to take a serious look at installing a solar energy system in your home or business.

If you're ready, we're here to help you every step of the way, so you may want to start by looking at the complete solar power systems we offer. Whatever your needs, we can customize a system to fit them.

If you have any questions or need any help or advice, please don't hesitate to contact us.

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