Do You Have Energy Vampires Lurking in Your Home?

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated April 5, 2022
Power strip colorful plugs
Photo: Elenathewise / Adobe Stock


  • Homeowners can potentially reduce energy vampire use by 30%.

  • Appliances in standby mode can increase your electric bill by 10%.

  • Standby energy consumption is responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Taking action against energy vampires could save $8 billion in yearly utility bills in the U.S.

  • Unplug big culprits, conduct an energy audit, and use smart power strips to save energy.

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Leaving your computer in sleep mode while you’re not using it or falling asleep to the soothing sounds of your TV might seem harmless, but these electronics could be stealthily sucking away at your energy use. While not as dramatic as Dracula drawing sustenance from a human victim, “energy vampires” in your home suck power and money from your wallet—but they don’t have to. By identifying culprits and trying out a few of these tricks, you can slay energy vampires in your house and lower your energy costs.

What Are Energy Vampires in the Home?

Energy vampires are appliances or electronics that use electricity, even when not in use. This phenomenon is called standby power, and many electronics continue to have active electrical circuits despite the appearance of being turned off. 

Berkeley Lab, a multiprogram science lab backed by the U.S. Department of Energy, created a standby power chart that lets homeowners better identify the biggest energy vampire culprits. A few of the most common energy hogs include:

  • Computers

  • Modems and routers

  • TVs

  • Surround sound systems

  • TV boxes

  • Electric clocks

  • Chargers

  • Video game consoles

  • Remote-control devices

How Much Do Energy Vampires Cost You?

The number of appliances in standby mode for the average homeowner can spike your electric bill by upward of 10%, according to the Department of Energy. Estimates suggest that standby consumption from these appliances contributes to 15% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.—and that’s just for U.S. homes!

If all homeowners were to take action against energy vampires in the home, it could save a collective total of $8 billion in yearly utility bills and 4.6% of electricity-induced C02 emissions

Despite these major savings, the energy depletion goes unnoticed for most homeowners. After all, who really thinks about energy consumption when they plug in their phones before bed or close their laptops without shutting them off for that quick startup in the morning? These actions can lead to energy vampires adding that extra 10% to your energy bills.

How To Drive a Stake Through Energy Vampires

Coffee pot countertop wall plug
Photo: Cavan Images / Getty Images

Even a simple glance around your living room can be enough to make you question just how many appliances you have plugged in throughout your home. So we understand if finding ways to tackle your energy bills feels overwhelming.

Knowing where to start can make all the difference. Some research suggests that ambitious homeowners can reduce their appliances’ standby use by up to 30%. With this in mind, here are seven energy-saving tips for reducing standby energy in the home.

1. Unplug Continuous Displays

Every continuous interface—be it your clock, coffee maker, microwave, or more—drains away at the electricity in your home. This means you can go into that guest room and unplug that long-forgotten clock and forget about correcting it the next time the power goes out! 

2. Ditch the Sleep Mode

We all know how convenient it is to simply tap the keyboard and have a PC ready where we left off. But leaving your PC, TV, game console, or laptop on sleep mode sucks energy. Instead, fully power down those devices when they’re not in use. 

3. Tackle Remote-Operated Electronics

Though it may seem like remotes magically conjure your electronics into action, remotes don’t actually wake up appliances from a dead sleep. Items like cable boxes or TVs are always awake, pulling power, and waiting for your remote signal to turn them on. 

In fact, according to a National Resources Defense Council study, set-top cable and satellite boxes operate at near full power even when not in use, costing Americans $2 billion annually. To reduce the drain of those and other entertainment center items, plug them all into the same power strip, and switch it off when you go to bed or aren’t using them.

4. Invest in Smart Power Strips

Take your power strip to the next level by opting for smart power strips. These power strips put the power in your hand (literally). By connecting with a smartphone, you can set personalized schedules and timers and even shut them off from another country! This is on top of their automatic sensors that turn your energy vampire devices off when not in use.

5. Shop for Low Standby Products

Energy Star-certified products are a safe bet for anyone hoping to invest in updated, energy-efficient appliances. However, don’t be fooled by the Energy Star logo. While new Energy Star cable boxes are 25% more efficient than older models, the hard-drive propelled, continually-recording DVR remains an unmatched power-sucking beast. So, you should still make sure that the products you buy are both energy-efficient and low standby.

6. Measure Your Home’s Devices

Get your inspector gadget on with an affordable watt-meter. A watt-meter checks the appliances in your house to see if energy is sneakily slipping away to appliances that would otherwise appear off. This can help you assess which appliances need to go, need an energy-efficient upgrade, or need a smart power strip.

7. Have an Energy Audit

If walking around your home yearly to inspect your devices sounds like a chore, one way to step up your energy game without lifting a finger is to call in a local energy auditor to inspect your home and make sure it’s energy vampire-proof. An energy auditor will not only conduct tests to check for energy culprits, but they will also look at other ways in which your home is costing you energy, such as through leaks in your doorways or windows.

Know Your Own Stakes

Desktop computer screen on
Photo: Bulgac / Getty Images

Shutting off power-sucking appliances comes with a price. You’ve seen your cable or satellite channel guide reset after a power outage, and turning off the strip has the same effect, so you’ll have to wait for it to reload. That can take up time, making it not worth your while. 

Computers are an easy fix—just unplug them when not in use. Modems, however, are a bit tricky because they also take a while to achieve full functionality after power-up.

For a less-troublesome yet beneficial tactic, disconnect infrequently used TVs and boxes in other rooms of your home or switch to smart outlets, which have built-in features like timers and sensors to prevent unnecessary standby power.

The Takeaway

Only you can decide whether the savings are worth the inconvenience in defanging the worst energy vampires around the home. If you take such cost-cutting measures, you’re already part of a small minority of homeowners who take extra steps towards a more energy-conscious future.

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