Last week, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu posted information about slaying energy vampires on his Facebook page. (He also posted a picture of himself as a zombie, which is also is very scary!)

Energy vampires are appliances that even when turned off utilize a small amount of electricity, called phantom loads. According to this YouTube video posted by GOOD, Americans waste approximately one month's electricity bill each year on vampire energy.

Some estimates suggest that Americans have anywhere between 20–40 vampire devices throughout their homes. I recently surveyed my apartment and found numerous appliances using phantom loads, including my coffee maker and grinder, cell phone, GPS, headset chargers, laptop computer, lamps, a rechargeable toothbrush, and a printer.

Phantom loads, also called standby power, can be avoided by unplugging appliances, using a power strips and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance, or using smart energy strips. I use a smart energy strip at work, which automatically stops using electricity when my mobile phone is fully charged.

Other ways you can save money and energy at home by "slaying energy vampires" include:

  • Look for energy-saving ENERGY STAR-labeled home electronics. For example, an ENERGY STAR-labeled computer uses 70% less electricity than computers without this designation. If left inactive, ENERGY STAR-labeled desktop computers enter a sleep mode and use 4 watts or less. Spending a large portion of time in low-power mode not only saves energy, but helps equipment run cooler and last longer.
  • Check out Energy Savers' tips on home office and home electronics.
  • See the tips to cut standby power from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to learn more about identifying products that use standby power and reducing your stand-by energy use.

Chris Stewart is a senior communicator at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assists EERE in providing technical content for many of its Web sites.