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What Is Phantom Energy? It Could Be Costing You Over $300/Year

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If you’re a frequent user of electronics in your home like I am, you’ve probably noticed the high fees that appear on your energy bill.

Not to mention how unfair it feels when utility providers actually increase the rates during certain parts of the year, like the summer.

So, you’re using more energy because it’s summer and you’re home more on vacation, during holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day.

Then, it’s hot, so you’re running your air conditioner constantly.

The icing on top is that your utility bill is higher.

You’re using utilities more, sure.

And, rates are higher during the summer.

But, there’s another reason why your bill is higher than it needs to be.

A hidden reason: phantom energy.

What most people realize is that a lot of these costs come from when these appliances are not in use.

Phantom energy is the term that describes energy drained from your outlets when appliances aren’t in use.

This article is going to share how you’re using phantom energy and how it’s costing you hundreds of dollars every year.

Bookmark this post to come back to it later.

Let’s go.

Table of Contents

What Exactly Is Phantom Energy?

Let’s break it down, shall we?

What is phantom energy, anyway?

As long as your appliance or electronic device is turned in, it has the potential to continually withdraw electrical energy from your outlets.

While this energy won’t be as much as when the device is in use, it still can add up to quite a bit.

The best example of this is your refrigerator.

It’s rarely in use, but that constant humming sound that it makes let’s us know that it’s using up at least some type of power to keep your food cold.

Most electronics won’t be as obvious in their power consumption since they display “phantom-like” behavior when it comes to draining energy, emitting no sound or light.

Your TV, cable box, game consoles or even our iPhone charger will continue to drain power long after they’re not in use.

Let’s not forget all of the other things we might not think of, such as your garage door, dishwasher or your washing machine.

As long as they’re plugged in, your energy use will still be in use, thus increasing your utility bill. How much they actually consume is another question entirely.

How Much Energy & Money Is Wasted Through Phantom Energy?

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) conducted a survey that showing that the average household contains 40 products that are continually draining power.

The devices that are turned off but are continually plugged in take up as much as 10% of energy use, and ever since the study was conducted in 1996, this number has only grown.

The devices that take up the most power are usually ones that use a remote control (TV), a continuous display (alarm clock) or some type of charger.

Older devices generally don’t draw as much energy in standby mode since they aren’t expected to do anything.

This includes appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines without any digital clocks that use manual dials.


Many newer television sets are expected to meet energy consumption standards and draw in less energy, but it’s always difficult to determine how much energy an appliance is actually draining without a Kill-A-Watt Electric Usage Monitor.

These cost around $25, so is it worth it to actually buy one?

Let’s Do An Example

Just to get a basic understanding, each time a device uses 1 watt of energy per day translates into about 9 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year.

Let’s take the example of a VCR.

These are usually left on 24 hours a day with some type of digital clock displayed on the front.

On average they drain 13 watts a day.

Multiply the two numbers mentioned (9 kWh x 13 watts per day) and we conclude that a VCR uses up about 117 kWh per year.

After researching various costs from different utility companies, I found that on average it costs 11 cents per every kWh used, making the total cost of using your VCR $12.87 per year.

What’s the Conclusion?

Looking at this number, I’m led to the conclusion that it isn’t a great deal of money, even taking into account how frugal I am.

It’s when I calculate the other 20-30 devices that are left on standby in my house that I really start to be concerned.

Assuming I had just 20 devices that are constantly plugged-in draining only half of the power consumed by the VCR, I’m still spending around an extra $120 per year.

What if you had 30, 40, or even 50 devices left plugged-in?

It can definitely add up, and some devices will drain more power than others. I counted up all of the devices in my house, and I found out that there’s a total of around 70 (I have a lot of housemates).

This means I could be spending $300 – $400 per year in phantom energy.

Energy Star estimates that the average household spends a little over $100 per year on this so-called phantom energy.

While it may not seem like much, it’s always best to get an accurate reading by using a kill-a-watt energy meter or by unplugging a device when not in use.

I’m very set on saving money, but what I detest is saving money when it eats up a lot of your time.

That’s why we’re going to mention a few quick and easy ways to reduce your electric bill without a lot of effort.

If you want to figure out the exact amount of power that your appliances are drawing, Standy Power created a summary table that lists commonly-used devices and their power consumption.

How Can You Fight Phantom Energy

Now that you see phantom energy can be a big waste of energy and waste of your money, here are some things you can do to reduce your use of phantom energy:

  • Unplugging appliances when not in use
  • Using power strips
  • Try Sleep Mode
  • Use energy-efficient products

Unplugging Your Appliances

Keep phantom energy on top of mind and make changes to lower your usage.

It all starts by unplugging.

If you’re not using it, unplug it.

This is a behavioral change where you will adjust your mindset.

It might take some practice but if you keep at it, you can turn these changes into habit and then it’ll become routine.

Make it a habit to do things like turning off the computer when you’re not using it, or unplugging your toaster after you make your morning toast.

Easy changes that can save you a lot every year.

Here are some examples of devices and appliances to unplug in your home, including those shared above:

  • Microwave
  • TV
  • Gaming console
  • DVD player
  • MP4 player
  • Fax machine
  • Shredder
  • Printer
  • Lamps
  • Lights
  • Essential oil diffuser
  • Small kitchen appliances like toasters, blenders, coffee maker, electric tea kettle, etc.

A smarter way and faster way to unplug is just to use power strips.

This is the next way you can lower your use of phantom energy.

Use Power Strips

I highly recommend plugging in a set of devices into a power strip. ‘

This way, when you go to unplug each device, you can simply power off the power strip or unplug it instead of having to unplug each one individually.

In your office, plug in your computer, printer, shredder, and fax machine into a power strip.

In your bedroom, plug in your cable box, internet modem, television, DVD player and gaming console.

For your kitchen, plug in your toaster, bread maker, panini machine, coffee maker and microwave.

These are just a handful of examples of how power strips can be used throughout your home.

How Do Power Strips Work?

Power strips are designed not to draw any power when not in use.

You can even get one for as little as $6 on Amazon.

For those wanting to be lazier yet willing to spend a bit more, there also exist smart power strips that can set a “master device,” in which power is automatically shut off to peripheral devices not in use (e.g. speakers, keyboard, monitor etc.) while still giving power to your master device (e.g. computer).

Of course certain devices need to be left on, such as your refrigerator, but the least you can do is turn off the ones that are most obvious.

Usually this includes ones that having some type of light or digital clock display.

Sleep Mode

If your device has a sleep mode, use it.

For example, to avoid falling asleep with the TV on and having your television run all night long, set your sleep timer.

Most TV’s have this but a lot of people rarely use this feature.

When you sleep with the TV off, you’ll get a more restful night’s sleep and you save energy and save money by not having your television on.

Use your remote control (or the TV control panel) to navigate to the sleep function.

Set your sleep timer and you’re done.

If you’re tired and you think you’ll be asleep in an hour, set it for an hour.

If you want the TV off sooner, just adjust the sleep timer to whatever time you wish.


Energy-Efficient Products

Go for products with an Energy Star label.

They use up to 50% less energy than less-efficient brands, while delivering the same great performance.

This could be for your upcoming TV purchase, washer and dryer, or other appliances or electronics.

Give this a try.

7 Products to Help You Save Energy

Other than forming good money-saving habits to reduce your use of phantom energy, you should consider investing in these 7 products which can help you save energy on autopilot.

1. Smart Power Strip

This one was covered a bit above so I won’t rehash it.

Bottom line, it’s the top easiest way to control your energy expenditure, which can save you tons of money.

This smart power strip from Amazon comes with voice control with Alexa and Google Home, plus 4 USB ports, under $27.

They even have cube power strips that sit atop your desk, like this one for $25.99.

It rotates and lets you control the power for each section in the cube.

Plug in your laptop power cord, cell phone, printer, tablet, everything you need right at your fingertips.

It’s sits on your desk or table, making it super easy to access cords.

Super convenient for your home office or work space.

2. Energy-efficient Light Bulbs

Jump on the bandwagon.

Energy-efficient light bulbs have been around for years.

Do you use them?

This 3-pack comes in at around $10 and helps you save nearly 80% in energy savings, compared to similar bulbs.

It has 10,000 hours of life and top rated for energy efficiency, longevity, and brightness.

3. Smart Plug

Ever wonder if you could control the lighting in your room with your voice?

Well, now you can, with smart plugs!

How do smart plugs work?

These things are the coolest ever.

They work with Alexa and Google Home, no hub required.

Use voice command to control from anywhere.

These are not only great for turning lights on and off without manually doing it, but you can also control:

  • Home appliances
  • Lamps
  • Christmas lights
  • Coffee maker
  • And, more!

It’s super easy to install and safe to use.

Do not wait until your birthday or the holidays to treat yourself to this.

Get these smart plugs on Amazon, in a pack of 4 for under $27!

4. Smart Charging Station

The way a smart charging station works is, it actually cuts the power to your device once it’s fully charged.

This is great for your utility bill and also great for your device.

Did you know that when cell phones continue to charge even after they reach 100%, it actually puts your phone in a high stress state, wearing down on it?

Go for a smart charging station so you don’t have to worry about keeping an eye on your device when it gets fully charged and save on energy.

This smart charging station comes with 10 USB ports, non-slip padding and LED ambient light.

It is super sleek, stylish and of course, functional.

Check it out, at under $50.

5. Smart Appliances

If you have the budget to upgrade your appliances, you will save so much money!

Smart fridges and kitchen appliances come in energy-efficient varieties, which is what we recommend.

Smart refrigerators work by using less power during peak times.

Utility companies are in favor of smart fridges and oth er smart appliances because they put less stress on the grid.

If you’ve got one of these, reach out to your utility provider to see if you can get an incentive payment!

And, look at earning some free cash with the company Ohmconnect.

You get paid an incentive payment to reduce your energy use during peak times.

It’s really neat how it all works but in a nutshell, save energy, save money on your utility bill and make money from Ohmconnect.

Here’s our full Ohmconnect review so you can learn more.

6. Smart Thermostat

Shared above, smart thermostat systems like Nest have so many cool features which make it fun to use and of course, you save money too!

  • Auto-schedule
  • Wi-Fi Thermostat
  • Home/Away Assist which can turn itself down when you’re away
  • Amazon Alexa compatible
  • Energy-saving

Top rated for it’s ease of use, easy installation, temperature control, and Alexa integration.

Grab this one on Amazon for around $225.

7. Energy Saving Apps

Yes, there are energy saving apps to help you optimize your home’s energy.

Answer a few questions about your lifestyle and get a report on how to improve your efficiency, with the app Homeselfe.

Other apps/tools that can help you save on energy:

  • Arcadia Power-Get a free account and get matched with clean energy alternatives like wind and solar
  • Billshark-Take a picture of your bill, like your utility bill and get help negotiating it down. They have an 85% success rate.

Other Ways to Save on Electricity Costs

Other than investing in smart tools and products to help you use less energy, there are some simple tactics you can employ to save more money on your utility bill.

Try one or more of these ideas:

  • Time water use
  • Switch to a programmable thermostat
  • Embrace low flow fixtures
  • Use window coverings in your home
  • Call your utility company

Timing Your Water Use

First, your water consumption is a big part of the cost of utilities.

Your water bill can add up big time.

And even something which may feel small like having a broken toilet, can cost you tons in extra water usage.

Pro Tip: If you have a broken toilet, get it fixed ASAP. The cost of a plumber will be far lower than your water bill, trust me.

Here are some ways to time water use:

  • Time showers
  • Brush your teeth to a timer
  • Don’t run the water continuously when washing dishes, brushing teeth, etc.
  • Have set days for washing your clothes

Use a timer.

Monitor water use.

These tricks do work.

Try them and see what you think.

Using a Programmable Thermostat

This device is the coolest thing ever.

You can program your thermostat.

Instead of leaving your thermostat to one temperature all day long.

You can set it to a warmer temperature during the day, while you’re at work.

And, have it switch over to a cooler temperature upon your arrival home.

This way you’re not paying for the expense of cooling your home all day, when you’re not there to take advantage of it.

Low Cost Low Flow Fixtures

Low flow fixtures reduce the amount of water you use.

You can install a low flow shower head, for example, which will output less water and save you money on your water bill.

This low flow shower head on Amazon is under $30 and is super easy to install, according to the reviews.

Easy to install, easy to remove, low maintenance and great value for the money.

You can’t beat that.

Examples of low flow fixtures you can install in your home:

  • Shower head
  • Urinal
  • Toilets
  • Faucets

Window Coverings Are a Must

Window coverings are a big money saver.

You’d be surprised how many people don’t have simple curtains in their home.

Besides the design aesthetic, they serve a purpose.

They help keep your home insulated.

In the summer you want your home cool.

Curtains or blinds can keep the A/C in your home and keep the warm sunshine out.

And, in the winter when you want your home insulated and warm, window coverings are your solution.

Hit up your local general goods or discount store to invest in window coverings that will not only make your home look amazing but also keep your utility bill down.

Call Your Utility Provider

Last but not least, pick up the phone and call your utility provider.

There are so many opportunities for untapped savings available just by reaching out to your provider.

You never know if you could score a deal on a promotion, get free energy-saving supplies or more.

Try this with all your bill providers, to be honest.

You can snag deals on cable, internet, your cell phone bill and more.

You are missing out if you’re not proactive and speak out.

Final Thoughts

Overall, you’re not going to save a lot of money by unplugging devices not in use, but it could cut your energy bill by as much as 10 – 15% without a lot of work.

I highly recommend using power strips so that you can unplug and plug back in a set of devices all at once without having to do so individually.

Plus, all smart devices are really cool to use and help automate your life, saving you time and money.

You do have the power to reduce your utility bill and keep phantom power at bay.

What do you think?

Are you going to make some of these changes to reduce your use of phantom energy?

Are there any devices that you’ve noticed that use up phantom energy that aren’t so common?

Let us know in the comments below so that we can unplug them too.

Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!

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