Energy vampires in the home

Unplugging electronic appliances when not in use can save the average homeowner up to ten percent of their annual electric bill.

While we are just winding down the season of vampires and ghouls, there are some vampires that lurk in your home year round. They are known as energy vampires. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), an energy vampire is any “appliance that continues to use power from electrical outlets, even when turned off or idle”. The average home has 65 devices that use electricity in every room of the house. The vampire appliances and electronics can account for up four to five percent of the home’s annual energy use.

These are some questions to help identify energy vampires in your home:

  • Does it have an external power source?
  • Does it use a remote control?
  • Does it have a continuous display, including LED, such as clock?
  • Does it charge something using batteries?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you have energy vampires lurking in your home.

Michigan State University Extension will do a simple home walk through to help get you started on your own home walk through later on. These are listed in order of potential energy vampires present.

Living Room/Family Room

DVRs and cable boxes can have big energy use with some older models using 25-45 watts of energy when they are “turned off.” While it is probably inconvenient to turn off the cable box, you can hook up the other entertainment devices and game consoles to a power strip that can then turn the whole system off and on at once.

Home Office

Computer, printers, scanners, modems, routers are all necessary to any home office. But they each use energy when not in use. Computers, printers and scanners should be turned off when you are finished using them. Turning off the computer instead of letting it go to idle or sleep mode can save up to $20 alone. When you are in the market for a new computer, consider a laptop over a desk top because they use significantly less energy.


Make a habit of turning off appliances before you leave for the day. The coffee pot may only draw one to three watts while idle, but if you add that to the microwave (display), toaster oven (display), kitchen television (remote and display), stove (display), these can all add up to annual energy savings if shut down.


Most grooming devices, such as shavers, curling irons and blow dryers, have on and off switches. But turning these appliances off does not stop the energy use. Unplug them from the wall when finished using them to eliminate the energy drain and prevent any potential fires from overheated cords or appliances accidentally left on.

Some general tips to consider:

Purchase Energy Star appliances and products. They use less power both when in use and stand by modes.

Ask your cable provider for a newer cable box that has 10-45 percent improved energy efficiency. These are required by 2017 but may be available now.

Look for new “Smart Strip” power strips. These automatically cut the power when devices are turned off, the devices are fully charged or have stopped being used. These run in the $25 range and are good for a number of devices, including speakers, TVs, computers, scanners and printers.

Make convenient tradeoffs. Unplug electronics in rooms that are seldom used to allow for areas that need to have devices plugged in.

For more information on energy efficiency, see the Michigan State University Extension article on Energy Use and the Environment

To estimate your energy vampire costs, visit this website.

They have a calculator with a number of the usual home appliances and devices and you can plug in your numbers to see how much you could be losing annually to energy vampires. 

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