Vampire Power is Sucking Your Wallet Dry

Vampire power can be described as that little bit of juice your electronics need to be able to turn on when you click your remote, or the power required to keep you satellite data on the receiver.  Whenever you turn off your TV, your blue ray, and your cable box, they go into more of a standby mode than truly off.  That little bit of power being pulled by just about every appliance you own can add up.  Computers can also be a huge drain on your electric bill whether they are on or off, but even more so when they are on.

My Crusade Against the Vampire

In January and February I was almost anal about making sure everything in the house was off, not just off but disabled at the power strip.  The only true way to ensure you aren’t pulling “vampire power” is to physically disrupt the flow of electrons.  The easiest way to manage this is to turn off the power strip your appliances are plugged into or just straight up unplug them.  With it unplugged that little meter outside your house spins a little slower, do it to a lot of stuff and it spins noticeably slower.  I went into my crusade expecting very little, what I got was actually eye opening.  I run two desktop style PC’s one operates as my main PC the other operates as a firewall, IPS, caching web proxy, DHCP server, and virus filter.  I ran two separate power strips under my desk, one for the printers, monitors, and desktop PC and the other for the firewall and wireless router. Before I go to bed at night I turn off my PC and switch off the powerstrip. I additionally switch off the power strip attached to my TV and cable box.  Looking at the below chart tracking electric usage you will see the February point is the lowest on the graph, the March point shot up.

electric_kwhI can’t come up with a good reason for why my usage spiked again after February other than my lackadaisical attitude towards curbing vampire power.  I have both a gas furnace, and gas hot water heater and the AC has not been turned on since the end of last season. I am going to try to get back to curbing my consumption and will provide an update if I can get usable data, with summer approaching the AC is going to have to come on and that will muddy the results.

The Downsides of Saving

Certain items need to remain on. For instance my Tivo, if I turn it off it takes 10 minutes or more to boot up, then it needs to pull program information over the wireless Internet.  The Internet in my house is completely dependent on my firewall, so I leave it running. I also leave the wifi running so I can get on with my laptop.  Certain other appliances, including PC’s, may not be well suited to constant power cycling and could actually cause harm to the appliance.

There is a plethora of tools that purport to assist you in this entire process, like smart power strips that only turn off specific outlets and the Kill-o-Watt meter or whatever that you can plug in to see the actual power usage of your specific appliances.  Out of all of the tools I have seen out there I think the best, and downright coolest, are the actual electric meter monitors. You can strap an optical reader onto you meter which will read the spinning dial to tell you how much you are spending on electricity in real time. For more information you can visit http://www.powercostmonitor.com.

If you are a real green nut, or just want to make statement and save an hours worth of electricity, participate in Earth Hour 2009. For more information on Earth Hour Check out http://www.earthhour.org/home/

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