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.
The installation of a standby generator is on everyone’s wish list after last week’s devastating wind storm. The resulting lengthy power outage left many homeowners in the dark. Power outages can happen at any time of year. According to BC Hydro, extreme weather from October to February usually doubles the number of power outages compared to the rest of the year. These outages can last for several hours or even days. A standby generator provides power for important essential loads, such as sump & water pumps, refrigerators and freezers, as well as heat and medical equipment.
It is important to install a correctly sized standby generator to provide power during a power outage. A load calculation, provided by our electrician, will determine the size of generator required. The standby generator must be connected to a proper CSA approved automatic transfer switch to safely provide power to the selected electrical circuits in the home. The electrician will pull the necessary electrical permit and make sure everything is done according to the most recent Canadian Electrical Code. According to BC Hydro, generators that are improperly connected can feed electricity back into the BC Hydro electrical grid. This could result in possible injury or even electrocution to anyone who comes in contact with the cables, including your neighbor or a BC Hydro lineman working on restoring your power.
A standby generator must be located a safe distance from the building entrance, windows that can be opened and vents to avoid exhaust from entering your home. It is also wise to have a working battery-operated CO detector in your home when using a generator.
As with any piece of equipment, standby generators need to be properly maintained. Depending on the usage, oil and air filters will need to be changed regularly. For optimum performance, some manufacturers have incorporated a test cycle into the standby generator. A programmed test cycle runs the machine for 20 – 30 minutes on a weekly basis to keep the motor in peak working condition. Although a standby generator may not always be possible in every situation, a portable generator may be more suitable in some instances. In this case, a manual transfer switch safely powers a few selected essential circuits in the home. For more information about power outage safety and generator safety precautions visit https://www.bchydro.com/safety-outages/power-outages/prepare-for-outages/prepare-your-home.html
To report a power outage, call the BC Hydro Trouble Line at 1-800-224-9376.
If you are considering getting a standby generator, a Blue Crest electrician would be happy to supply and install it for you.
Power outages can happen any time throughout the year. According to BC Hydro, the stormy weather that BC gets from October to February brings a higher risk of damage. The high winds and rain we experience throughout our province usually doubles the number of calls to BC Hydro about power outages compared to the rest of the year. The following are some things to keep in mind during power outages.
Turn off all the light switches except for 1 indoors and 1 outdoors. This way you and the BC Hydro crews working outside will know when the power has been restored. For updated information on local area outages, refer to the following BC Hydro site map.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the temperature. A refrigerator can keep your food cold for about 4 hours, a full freezer can keep food frozen for about 48 hours and a half full freezer can keep food frozen for about 24 hours.
Unplug major electronics like your computer and television and turn the thermostats for your home’s heating system down to low to prevent damage from a power surge when the power is restored.
For cooking and heating purposes, never use charcoal or gas barbeques, fuel burning camping equipment or portable generators indoors as they produce a deadly carbon monoxide gas.
Make sure your home has a working carbon monoxide detector with battery back-up.
During power outages, you may be without running water if you rely on a well pump. For this reason, keep an emergency supply on hand and replenish as needed.
If you only have a cordless phone, you will be left without phone service. Having a corded phone handy and making sure your cell phone is fully charged is a good idea.
To keep yourself informed about the power outages, have a battery powered radio on hand.
Report any fallen trees or downed power lines to BC Hydro at 1-888-769-3766.
If there are downed power lines, stay at least 10 metres (33 feet) away from them.
Power outages can cause damage to your electrical system. Being prepared ahead of time could save you a big headache later. Having your appliances and electronics surge protected could help save them from damage.
Today is the perfect time to remind homeowners that tree branches, which span electrical power lines, can cause serious problems. While a beautifully treed yard may have wonderful curb appeal, trees that are not properly maintained may eventually cause problems during a storm. Over hanging branches can snap from the stress of ice, snow or high winds. From a homeowner’s perspective, this is when a simple power outage can become a potentially dangerous and very expensive electrical repair.
Last night’s fierce wind storm resulted in hundreds of Lower Mainland power outages. Fallen trees took down both power lines and service lines. As the storm continues into today, more outages are being reported throughout the day. Electrical crews scramble to repair one problem after another. Some homeowners will likely be waiting days before power lines are restored. This is more than just an inconvenience to many homeowners. Cold food storages are compromised as fridges and freezers are unable to maintain the required temperature. Idle well pumps means there is no drinking water for humans or animals. Idle sump and sewer pumps brings a whole different set of unpleasant problems.
It is every homeowner’s responsibility to keep trees on their property trimmed away from service wires. We recommend an annual yard assessment of all trees that pose a risk. Often tree pruning may be done by the homeowner. When the next wind storm arrives, you will be glad you took the time to do this on a nice sunny day. For safety reasons, remember to keep yourself, your equipment and all parts of the tree at least 3 meters away from power lines. If this is not possible, hire a professional Certified Arborist who is qualified to work near energized power lines. Your personal safety is well worth the investment.
If the trees are on public property, call BC Hydro to inform them of the potential problem to power lines so this can be dealt with before the next wind storm arrives.
Our recent stormy weather seems to have tripped the GFCI protection in some Lower Mainland homes. This is usually an easy fix and a simple exercise that should be done periodically anyway. On the receptacle, press TEST, then RESET, and correct power should be restored. It’s always a good idea to test and reset GFCI’s after an electrical storm or a power outage.
If the GFCI will not reset or stay reset, it is recommended to call us to investigate the problem. The problem may be elsewhere in the circuit or, like all things, nothing lasts forever and it may be time for a new receptacle.