Phantom energy loads

smart power strip

Even when electrical devices are off or on standby, they still draw electricity, a wasteful practice indeed. We need smarter devices that truly turn themselves off.

Jetson Green runs the numbers, showing how much energy is wasted. One example

-It’s estimated that only 5% of the power drawn by cell phone chargers is actually used to charge phones, so the other 95% is waste when left plugged in.

So, only charge when needed, turn computers and monitors off when not being used, and turn power strips off after turning the computers off, else they’d still be draining power.

Yes, that’s right. Computers and many other devices will draw power even when turned off. But they can’t if the power strip is off.

Happily, power strips are getting smarter (see image)

Plug your PC into the main socket, and then plug your printer, scanner, monitor etc into the other sockets. When you turn off your computer, the smart unit shuts the power off to the other sockets. Saves power from constantly-on transformers, saves the environment, and saves lives from electrical fires caused by overheated DC adaptors.

Yeah, what is it with power adaptors that generate heat even if the device isn’t plugged into them? That is so last-century. Ditto for a different adaptor for each device. Seems to me that standardized chargers could be made for a class of devices, like cell phones, thus simplifying recharging and cutting down of the number used (and left plugged into the wall, draining energy)


  1. I have heard about whole-house systems where there is a master switch by the door that shuts off all of the power except for the critical appliances. Great idea, but it is bound to be pricey.

    This power strip is a great, cheaper alternative. Thanks for the tip!

  2. Don’t forget about TVs and VCR/DVD players. And paper shredders, bread machines– even microwaves with clocks and timers in them. )Most people I know don’t use the clock on their microwave. Who schedules a microwave to cook hours in advance?)

    Based on a little research and lots of anecdotal evidence, I believe 30-50% of the electricity we use is unnecessary– wasted by unused appliances or used by inefficient items like incandescent light bulbs and old refrigerators. That’s energy we can save without changing our lifestyles much, without spending more than the changes save us, and without losing any sleep over how diffocult it may be.

  3. I have been wondering about dual circuitry in houses, where a simple, cheap photovoltaic on the roof can supply the electricity needed for ghost power use. This would reduce the fossil-fueled power generation and bring home-power generation down to a price affordable by most people. Yes, I know that a dual system is more expensive, but this is just the first iteration of the idea. It may be possible to figure out how to incorporate the home-generated electricity into existing circuitry.

  4. I’m curous as to why you’d want to do that? Rather than create a second system of wiring and install an expensive PV to power it, why not just eliminate ghost usage?

    BTW, our PV system does have two sets of wiring, though probably not the way you envisioned: since power comes into the house as 2-phase 240 volts and all of our usage is 120 volts, half the circuits run on one phase and half on the other. Our solar with battery backup (inverted to 120 volts) helps power the critical systems, which are isolated on one phase: fridge & freezer, computers, pumphouse, etc. Whatever power the PV generates goes first to charging batteries, second toward whatever is being used on those circuits, and whatever’s left over feeds back into the meter. If the utility goes down, the critical circuits will still work (to the extent of the power available in the battery).

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