Heather N. Kolich, ANR Agent, UGA Extension Forsyth County

Two cell phones laying on a surface, attached to charging cords.
If plugged into an outlet, cell phone chargers draw energy even when they aren’t charging a phone. Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash.com

Ghouls, witches, and vampires are sprouting from lawns all around my neighborhood. It’s seasonal good fun, but what if the vampires were inside the house, sucking up $200 every year?

Believe it or not, most households have vampires greedily drinking energy and driving up electric bills. They may look small and harmless, like that little light on the cordless tool battery recharger or the idling computer waiting to be stirred to life. But collectively, energy vampires can increase monthly household electric bills by a monstrous 20 percent.

Energy vampires are appliances and devices that draw electricity even when they’re turned off or idle. Culprits include things that we leave plugged in for convenience, like the cell phone recharging cord. While that cord is connected to the electrical outlet, it drinks in energy (around 20 kilowatt-hours per year), even when it’s not recharging a phone. Other vampires include the clock on the microwave (27 kWh per year), the game console on standby (205 kWh per year), and the idling desktop computer (648 kWh per year).

While it’s not practical to unplug the microwave after each use, it’s quite easy to put the computer into sleep mode or shut it down. We can defang other energy vampires room-by-room.

Survey walls for plugs sticking out of outlets and equipment with that chunky box connecting cords. If the plug count includes devices that don’t need to be on all the time, try to cluster the plugs in a power strip with an on-off switch. Leave the power strip turned off until you need to use a connected device. Inspect equipment such as cable boxes, DVRs, DVD players, and printers. Older units use more energy than newer versions. It may be time for an update.

Now that nights are cooler, it’s tempting to turn on a space heater. For night-time warmth, however, an electric blanket uses 90 percent less energy than a space heater. For best efficiency and safety, turn on the electric blanket a couple of hours before bedtime to warm the bed, then turn it off when you climb under the covers. Plug the blanket, the bedside lamp, and the cell phone charger into a power strip that’s switched off during the day to save even more.

Sawnee EMC has a nifty online tool that calculates, device by household device, how much money energy vampires could be costing you (https://www.sawnee.com/vampires). Try vanquishing a few vampires this fall and take a bite out of your energy costs.