| Special to USA TODAY
For all the modern conveniences technology brings to the home – Wi-Fi-enabled washing machines, powerful gaming systems and enormous smart televisions – one of the downsides is paying to power it all.
In fact, home utility costs are continuing to spike for many parts of the country, with 2021 electricity prices rising at the fastest rate since 2008, says the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) – already hitting Americans facing skyrocketing inflation, resulting in higher costs for many goods and services.
Not only does the average household have dozens of consumer electronics products plugged into power outlets at any given time, most consume electricity when not in use. “Vampire power” – also referred to as “phantom power” or “standby power” – can account for as much as 10% of a household’s electricity bill, says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
This can really add up.
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Large appliances are often the main electricity “vampires” that still suck electricity when you’re not using them, but there are other common culprits like televisions, sound systems, cable boxes, video game consoles, security cameras, printers, pool pumps and desktop computers.
The good news is there are several ways to help fight back on your electricity bills.
Not including solar solutions – which is another approach altogether and one we’ll revisit in this space shortly – the following are simple ways to reduce power consumption (and thus, costs) in the home.
Unplug when not in use
While inconvenient, the easiest thing to do is simply unplug gadgets from the wall when you’re not using them or when your devices have finished charging up.
After all, your smartphone’s battery is probably fully charged after, say, 45 minutes, so why do you leave it plugged in overnight, for 7 hours or more?
Manually unplugging devices is the cheapest way to handle “vampires,” but requires you to stay on top of it. If you have a guest room in the home, for example, unplug a television, lamp, fan, space heater or anything else you don’t need more than a few times a year.
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Be aware, a television can be unplugged but a cable box, with a DVR/TiVo that archives your shows for you, will need to stay plugged in, of course. And from the “duh” department, you need many appliances to be plugged in all the time, like fridges and chest freezers, but look for the Energy Star logo (see below).
Video game consoles can also be unplugged when not in use, but there’s a small trade-off: many consoles, when always plugged into the wall and connected to the internet, …….