Energy vampires: Is it worth it to unplug your electronics?
(Photo: Getty Images)It's common knowledge that appliances continue to draw a small amount of power when they're switched off but still plugged in. One solution is to unplug electronics and chargers when you aren't using them. Or you can plug cords into a power strip and switch it off whenever you want to cut off all power to appliances. But many consumers wonder if it's worth the hassle to unplug electronics they aren't using. The answer, of course, depends on your objectives. While it's true that an "informed and aggressive approach can reduce standby use by about 30 percent," according to scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, "There are more productive ways to save energy with an investment of an hour." The upshot? If it's easy for you to unplug chargers and other electronics when you aren't using them, then go for it. And no-one says you have to unplug everything. You might want to choose the biggest energy hogs or items that are easily unplugged. But don't fret if you find the job too tedious or hard to remember. The following actions are all easy and, in some cases, save you more money with much less effort than stamping out energy vampires. Pick and choose what works best for you from this list, or try everything for an estimated annual savings of $275.
- Activating the power-save function on your computer is a super-easy way to shave up to $90 a year off your utility bills. Exactly how much you save depends on whether you use a laptop or a CPU and a monitor and how long you currently leave your computer on for.Low power mode also helps equipment run cooler so it lasts longer. Get into the habit of turning off your monitor when you walk away for 20 minutes and your computer when you leave your desk for more than two hours, and you'll rack up even more savings.
- Reduce the brightness setting of your television. Select the "home" mode because the "retail" or "vivid" mode (the default setting for most TVs) uses up to 25 percent more power, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.While you're at it, activate the energy- and power-saving modes on your TV and other appliances and save around $43.04 a year.
- Video game consoles, such as the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, use nearly the same amount of power when they are turned on and left idle as they do when you are actively playing a game or watching a movie.Save more than $100 a year by remembering to turn off your gaming system whenever you're not using it.
- Switching off unneeded lights will save you $21.04 a year. Does it make sense to turn off the light when you leave a room for a few minutes? Yes for incandescent bulbs. Fifteen minutes is a good rule of thumb for compact fluorescent light bulbs.Speaking of CFLs, Consumer Reports' tests found that each CFL will save you around $5 a year in electricity costs over a regular bulb.
- Wash your clothes in cold water. You'll reduce your bill by around $18.58 a year and it's better for your clothes.Even just switching your temperature setting from hot to warm water can cut a load's energy use by half, according to the Department of Energy.