Watch Out for Energy Vampires this Halloween Season


You might expect to see a big impact on your electricity bill when you become more conscientious about turning appliances off when they’re not in use. You may also be genuinely disappointed when the savings you think your new efforts deserve don’t show up. 

Unfortunately, that’s been the experience for a lot of people. It’s primarily because they’ve invited vampires into their homes without realizing it — energy vampires, that is.

 What is an energy vampire?

An energy vampire is an appliance that sucks energy even when it’s turned off. Thousands of appliances draw standby power, converting AC into DC so your appliance will be ready to switch on quickly when you press a button or a timer clicks it on.

Each appliance in standby doesn’t draw a lot of power on its own, but the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory estimates that the average home has at least 40 appliances using standby power and sucking energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, accounting for almost 10 percent of a household’s total energy use.

The biggest vampires are the ones that draw close to the same amount of power when they’re on as when they’re “off.”

Most-aggressive vampires

The Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory studied hundreds of appliances and ranked the most aggressive energy suckers.

  1. Digital video recorders: The top three energy suckers are various forms of digital video recorders — all using 28 to 45 watts of electricity when they’re “off.”
  2. Digital cable and satellite boxes: These use 15 to 20 watts of electricity when they’re in standby mode.
  3. Laptop computers use about 12 watts of electricity when off.
  4. Inkjet printers consume 5 watts
  5. DVD players and VCRs also use about 5 watts.

What can you do to ward off vampires?

If you get an inexpensive voltage meter, you can use it to find out how much power different appliances are drawing when they’re turned off. Just investigating this could help you cut your Colorado utility bill. If you find you have inefficient old televisions and VCRs plugged in that you haven’t used in years, disconnect for good and give them away.

However, a lot of other devices are more complicated. You might want your DVR on standby so it can switch on to record the shows you want. You could buy a power strip and set a timer to turn it and all of your television equipment on at certain set times.

Power strips are a good solution in general. You can bundle appliances that work together, like your computer and printers and turn them off and on together with the strip.

Getting professional help

The Energy Resource Center provides home energy audits for households in El Paso, Teller, Fremont, Elbert, Douglas, Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Saguache and Rio Grande counties. The audit will help you identify ways you can save energy in-home ranging from your vampire appliances to wall insulation.

Our services are free for income-qualified homeowners or renters. We also offer fee services, with fees supporting our nonprofit efforts to help Colorado families save energy and stay warm and safe through the Colorado winter.