Vampire Electricity Devices

Identify and stop vampire energy devices.

Most homes bleed a constant stream of electricity to vampire electricity devices (VEDs). Often these electricity vampires feed all night and all day, 365 days a year. The US Department of Energy estimates that the average household spends over $130 a year feeding these vampires.

The usual culprits are computers, battery packs for power tools, video gaming systems, etc. While newer devices aren't as big a problem, you should always test to make sure.

The easiest test is to put your hand on the device and see if it's warm. If it is, you've found a vampire electricity device—that heat is wasted energy. If you are unsure, you can get an inexpensive electricity power meter (such as a Kill-a-Watt) for about $20. This will let you know how much electricity that device is using over a period of time.

I tested a number of devices in my home with a Kill-a-Watt meter to get a general idea of electricity usage. I'm assuming a rate of $0.10 per KWH for simplicty. You can check your own state (or your electric bill) to see your cost per kilowatt hour.

Vampire Electricity Device KWH/day Cost per Year
Small Laser Printer 0.13 $4.75
Drill Battery (Black & Decker) 0.12 $4.38
Desktop Computer
-Off But Plugged In
-Standby Mode
-On

0.24
0.27
4.15

$8.76
$9.86
$149.65
Stereo System
(stereo, TV, DVD, Speakers)
0.73 $26.65
Power Supply (phone) 0.025 $0.91
Cordless Phone 0.05 $1.87
Xbox 360
-with DVD in system
-without DVD

2.14
0.45

$78.11
$4.53

In general, lighting and many appliances aren't vampire electricity devices. The table below provides a few examples of what to watch for.

Vampire Electrical Devices Usually NOT VEDs
Notebook Computers
Printers, Scanners, Copiers
Battery Chargers
Battery-Powered Vacuums
Power Supplies
Lights
Vacuum Cleaners
Toaster Ovens
Blenders

How Can We Stop the Vampires?

The easiest way is through common sense and the use of power strips. Plug all of the devices into a power strip. When you're done, just turn off the power strip. It does take a bit of planning and a while for it to become habitual. For example:

  • If you don't use your rechargeable power tools often, unplug the charger.
  • Use a power strip for your entertainment center, especially if you have gaming systems. One power strip works for the entire system. Get a separate power strip for components that need to stay on (like a DVR).

There are a number of advanced power strips to make life easier. Some have two outlets that are always on while others have switches for each outlet on the power strip. Perhaps the easiest thing to do is buy two inexpensive power strips and use one for "always on" devices.

Good News

The good news is that there is now an effort to produce products that don't waste electricity when not in use. Hopefully, over time, vampire electricity devices won't be an issue. But for now, identify the vampires and cut off their food supply.

It's easy and satisfying to stop vampire electricity devices. You'll also want to take on some of the bigger bigger energy wasters as well. See our home energy checklist for a prioritized list of ways to save energy in your home.