15:54 PM

All About Taming 'Vampire Energy'

The month of October may be my favorite. Fall is in the air. Days in Georgia are still relatively warm, but nights are cool. Leaves change colors, producing free roadside art at every turn. And, of course, there’s Halloween, the spookiest day of the year.

As someone who’s worked in communication with electric cooperatives for 25 years, I’ve come to recognize this time of year as the prime time for reminding members about energy vampires. I’m not referring to the person whose excessive neediness drains you of your own energy — or the pint-sized monsters who knock at your door Oct. 31 begging for candy.

I’m talking about electricity vampires, those things that suck electricity from your appliances when you’re not using them, adding a small amount of money to your power bill.

These spooky vampires include computers and coffee pots or any other electronic device or appliance that’s plugged in when the device or appliance is turned off. Even though the item it’s supposed to be energizing is not operating, energy continues to be consumed when it’s left plugged in.

This vampire energy includes “wall warts,” such as cellphone chargers that have large plugs, and “bricks,” the large black box attached to cords used to supply energy to laptop computers, cable TV equipment and televisions. Even when cellphones aren’t attached to chargers or when TVs are off, the wall warts and bricks attached to them continue to consume energy if they’re plugged in.

Have you pulled an empty wall wart out of the socket and found it warm to the touch? While you and your cellphone were away from the house, its charger was consuming energy.

If you don’t watch much TV but leave it plugged in 24/7, you could be paying more to power it when it’s off than when you’re enjoying your favorite shows.

Utility experts estimate that these pesky energy absorbers are responsible for anywhere from 5 to 20% of an average household’s power bill. That’s a nice chunk of change to spend on wasted energy.

Vampire energy costs American consumers more than $3 billion a year, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Don’t wait for Halloween to put an end to energy vampires. Start by taking a few simple steps:

Unplug what you’re not using. Of course, it’s not expedient to unplug everything, but it’s a cinch to unplug what you can, like the coffee maker, toaster and the extra TV in a guest bedroom that’s hardly used.

Use power strips or surge protectors. Plug your wall warts and bricks into power strips or surge protectors and turn off the strip when you’re not using the electronics. Smart power strips automatically turn off these items when they’re not in use.

Ease up on idle time. Use sleep mode on your computer to cut energy loss when it’s not being used.

Here’s hoping your October is cool and comfortable — and free from energy vampires.