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Are There Phantoms in Your Home?

What would you say if your Missouri Electric Cooperatives told you that there’s a phantom load in your home that’s stealing energy from your outlets and money from your pockets? While it may sound a bit exaggerated, the truth is that there are devices and appliances in your home that cost your family energy and money every single year. We call that cost a “phantom load.”

The “Take Control and Save” website describes a phantom load as, “any device that consumes electricity when turned off but still plugged into an outlet (source),” and Energy.gov says that phantom loads cost the average U.S. household about $100 every year (source).

Examples of phantom load include the power from televisions, computers, and appliances that use energy when they’re plugged into the wall — even if they’re powered down.

Leaving your printer plugged in when you aren’t using it? That creates phantom load. The same goes when you leave your coffee maker, audio system, or even your cell phone charger plugged in when it’s not in use.

If you’re ready to reduce the phantom load in your home, Energy.gov offers three helpful tips: Unplug your electronics when they aren’t in use, shop for ENERGY STAR® appliances, and use power strips (surge bars) that have an on/off switch.

Unplug and Save

Unplugging your electronics when they aren’t in use is the cheapest and most effective way for to reduce their phantom load, but it’s also the least convenient. From resetting digital clocks to reminding your kids to unplug the microwave after each use, the reality is that unplugging might not be a viable option for many Missouri Electric Cooperative Member-Owners. 

Reduce Phantom Load with ENERGY STAR® Appliances

Another way to reduce phantom load is to invest in ENERGY STAR® products: products that are third-party certified for their energy efficiency, and include everything from washers and dryers to office equipment like printers and copying machines.

ENERGY STAR® products are designed to reduce energy waste when they’re idle, producing a lower overall energy output than comparable products. You can find out more about ENERGY STAR products including appliances, lighting, building products, office equipment, and more right here.

Use Power Strips with On/Off Switches

If unplugging is inconvenient and buying new electronics is too expensive, your Missouri Electric Cooperative recommends a happy middle ground: replacing your family’s traditional surge bars and power strips with ones that have an on/off switch.

When you plug all of our devices in a certain area of the home into the same power strip or surge bar, you can easily power them all down at once, saving your family significant energy and money.

Take your home entertainment center for example. If you have a 50’ LCD TV, a cable box, a DVR, and a game console, “Take Control and Save” estimates that you’re generating $42.41/year in phantom load in your living room, alone. By plugging those devices into a single power strip with an on/off switch that you power down when it’s not in use, you can safe more than $40 per year!

Another good example is your home office. If you plug your PC, monitor, and printer into a power strip that you can turn off, you can save about $10 per year in phantom electrical expenses. At that rate, a new six-outlet surge bar with an on/off switch will pay for itself in less than a year.

Your Missouri Electric Cooperatives want to help you save the energy — and the money — that phantom load is costing you every single year. Visit “Take Control and Save’s” Phantom Load Calculator to estimate your home’s phantom load, and consider unplugging or upgrading your appliances and using on/off power strips and surge protectors to save money on your electric bill.

Learn more about Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives, and how we work to provide safe, efficient energy to rural Missouri by following us on Facebook , Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

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