Phantom Power

February 24, 2020

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Phantom power is when appliances and electronics continue to draw power even when they are turned off, but still plugged into a power outlet. According to BC Hydro, this adds up to about 10% of an average BC household’s annual electricity. This does not include appliances that need constant power such as the fridge, freezer, furnace or AC. In most households, this can add up to hundreds of dollars of wasted electricity over the course of a year.

The following are some of the biggest consumers of phantom power:

  • Devices with remote controls – TV, PVR, Blu-ray/DVD player & garage door opener
  • External power supply for a router, printer or cable modem
  • Chargers for a mobile phone, tablet, laptop, GPS & handheld gaming device
  • Anything with a continuous display – alarm clock, oven, microwave, toaster oven, coffeemaker with a digital clock, cordless phones connected to base, digital thermostats
  • Electronic components such as computers in sleep mode, not fully turned off, electrical toothbrush on charger

*Many PVR/DVRs use almost as much power when turned off or in standby mode as when they are used with the TV on.

How to Reduce Phantom Power

Although there may be benefits to keeping some electronic components on sleep or standby mode, there are ways to reduce phantom power:

  • unplug appliances & electronics that are not used very often
  • chargers and charging stations should be unplugged as soon as the battery is fully charged
  • use a power bar with an on/off switch or a timer
  • when purchasing appliances & electronics, look for the Energy Star label
  • use sleep mode on your computer instead of using a screen saver which uses twice as much energy.

BC Hydro reports that the average Canadian home has 25 or more devices that use standby power.

To power home electronics in average home:                                                                                      1970’s – 290 kilowatt hours per year.                                                                                                          1990’s – 485 kwh per year.                                                                                                                            2013 – 960 kwh per year.                                                                                                                        2020 – Estimated 1500 kwh per year, based on this trend.

Over time homeowners accumulate more sophisticated electronic devices and consumption of phantom power increases.

Homeowners need to weigh the difference between what is practical and realistic versus what is wasteful and costing them unnecessary expense.

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