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Vampire power: How our electrical devices are sucking energy at night

It’s scary how much energy our dormant electronics can waste.
It’s scary how much energy our dormant electronics can waste.   -   Copyright  Dmitry Mayer/Getty
By Lottie Limb

As energy prices soar across Europe, getting a handle on ‘vampire power’ could help you save money and fight climate change. Sleeping devices are responsible for around a quarter of our electricity bills, according to one US study.

In environmental terms, household electronics produce up to 60kg CO2 emissions each year, says renewable energy company Bulb - around the same amount of carbon as three trees would absorb over that time.

As solar, wind and hydro experts point out, until 100 per cent of our electricity comes from renewable sources, whatever uses electricity also produces carbon emissions.

Making the shift from climate-wrecking fossil fuels to renewables is the defining movement of the 21st century. Unplugging our appliances might seem like a tiny thing in comparison, but it does have a sizeable impact over time.

Hence the spooky nickname: ‘vampire power’ describes how devices suck up energy even when they’re switched off or in standby mode.

What is the impact on our bills?

Phantom load electricity represents nearly 23 per cent of household electricity consumption, according to a study of Californian homes by the US Natural Resources Defense Council.

A recent report by one of the UK’s biggest energy suppliers shows that vampire power is a serious drain on our wallets, with 16 per cent of an average electricity bill, £75 (or €89), coming from ‘phantom loads’.

One in five people said they were unaware of the phenomenon - which costs Britain £1.6 billion (€1.9bn) annually - according to research by Centrica, the parent company of British Gas.

So with energy prices soaring across Europe, taking control of our sockets is one simple way to keep costs down.

How to defeat vampire power

Getty/kanawa_studio
Remember to turn electrical appliances like microwaves off after use.Getty/kanawa_studio

Unlike with light switches, it’s easy to forget to turn things off at the plug. But with the financial and climate cost in mind, it’s worth building unplugging into your nightly check-list until it becomes a habit.

Microwaves, televisions, computers, game consoles, satellite receivers and internet routers are some of the thirstiest items. Printers and mobile phone chargers are also commonly left on.

Zapping vampire power depends where you are in the world. While UK sockets have a switch that does the trick, most EU countries don’t and so your devices need to be fully unplugged.

Getting an extension lead might help simplify things, as then there’s only one socket to consider. A ‘smart plug’ - like the Hive Active Plug - is another possible tech fix, working like an adapter that you can turn off with a tap of the App.

Being aware of ‘vampire power’ and tackling it at source is key. And 100 per cent more effective than scattering cloves of garlic around your cables.