Phantom Load

what is Phantom Load?

Phantom load is the draw you pull from your electrical service. “Phantom” is the hidden draw – all those things that draw electricity behind the scenes. It refers to any appliance or electronic equipment that uses energy, even when turned off.

According to the Department of Energy, the typical home in the United States has 20 such appliances that can add up to $200 to your annual energy bill. That’s because today’s “off” button doesn’t really mean “off” –  it means “standby”. In fact, your TV with remote control likely uses more energy during the 20 hours a day that it’s turned off and in “standby power” mode than it does during the hours you are watching television!

So how do you identify the phantom culprits? They can be those appliances with remote controls, such as TVs, DVD players, and audio equipment. They often feature a continuous digital display (or indicator lights) – such as the clocks on your stove, the clock radio sitting next to your bed, the microwave oven, or your coffee maker. It could include your stereo, your garage-door opener, or your inkjet printer. Anything that is waiting in “ready mode”.

Yes, even chargers for cell phones and MP3 players siphon energy when plugged in. If it’s warm when you get home from work, then it’s been using electricity, even if it’s had nothing to charge!

It is estimated that this wasted energy accounts for 4 to 7 cents of every dollar you spend on electricity and can take a hefty toll on the environment.

How can you fight against this “phantom” draw of electricity?

  • Unplug rarely used appliances. Same for chargers when they are not in use. Unplug the television, toaster oven and other well-used appliances before you leave on vacation (or more frequently). If it’s not plugged in, it can’t draw electricity.
  • You can also eliminate the potential of phantom load by using a simple power strip, which you can purchase at your local hardware store, home-supply superstore or discount store. Plug all components of your computer or home entertainment system into the power strip. This allows you to turn off the power strip with a single switch. Anything plugged into the strip now is truly turned off.
  • Purchase Energy Star qualified appliances and electronics. These must meet strict energy-efficient standards and are also designed to minimize phantom load.