Phantom Loads Draw More Current Than You Think


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When an appliance is turned off, many people think it is not using energy, but many appliances continue to draw power even after they have been turned off. This is called a phantom load. Features such as remote controls, clocks, timers, memories, microprocessors, and instant-on features are indicators that an appliance will continue to use power even when it has been turned off. Basically all the features that make them more accessible and “ready" for us to use at a moments notice.

Televisions and VCR's have the biggest draws of phantom loads. Electricity use in televisions that are turned “off” costs the U. S. millions of dollars each year. The electricity is used to maintain the instant-on features, and to keep the filaments in the picture tube warm 24 hours a day. That is huge.

Protecting Yourself Phantom Loads

  • If possible, choose an appliance that has no built-in clock or timer. This is enough energy to run a compact fluorescent light bulb for 12 hours.

  • Avoid leaving appliances with small transformers plugged in while not in use. Also, consider purchasing all-in-one appliances, such as a phone with built-in answering machine and caller id display. This will reduce the number of small transformers plugged in. Small transformers are power supplies in plastic boxes that plug into a standard wall outlet.

  • Unplugging the appliance when it is not in use is one way of avoiding phantom loads. An easy way to do this is to have a power strip and switch it off when the appliance is not in use. This is a great thing to do anyway when you leave for more than a week, to protect your equipment from surges and electrical spikes.

    Just a few thoughts as you look for ideas for you as you try to save energy. it is pretty simple if it is on, turn it off or better yet unplug it.

    Denton Lesslie is the president of and a consultant for Department of Energy's Building America Division for the last 6 years. There are many articles about your href="">appliances.

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