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“Vampire power” could be to blame for your high electric bill

Turning your electronics off when you’re not using them seems like a simple way to cut down on your power bill. But that won’t stop “standby power,” a.k.a. vampire power.

Think about your toaster, coffee maker, televisions, desktop computers and DVRs. You may leave these devices off for periods of time, but they’re still using energy–just by being plugged in, or performing functions like recording your favorite shows, auto-updating, etc. The same goes for phone chargers, which often stay plugged into the same outlets in our homes.

“Standby power” doesn’t just waste electricity. It wastes your money. The U.S. Department of Energy says 10 percent of your bill can be chalked up to devices not in use, but plugged-in and running. That can cost you $100 a year!

Stopping the vampires

Unplugging is the simplest way to reduce your electricity waste, but that’s not always practical with certain electronics, particularly entertainment systems. But if you want to take it a step further, invest in some helpful devices.

  • Power strips. The convenient on/off switch on a standard power strip allows you to “unplug” many devices that are connected to it. But smart power strips are even better. They’re equipped with special outlets that automatically shut off certain devices when not in use. Other devices that you may not want to shut off, like a cable box, can be plugged into special “always on” outlets. Check out the one for under $25 that ComEd talks about on its Marketplace page. (See CUB’s video on smart power strips.)
  • Programmable outlets. Similar to the smart power strips, these outlets plug into your existing outlets. You can schedule shut off times for your devices. Smart outlets run anywhere from $25 to $80.
  • “Non-vampire” electronics. Maybe it’s time to swap out appliances. Sometimes, TVs and older appliances use up more standby power because they aren’t as energy efficient.

For more energy efficiency tips, visit our fact sheets for Ameren and ComEd customers.