Conservation - Hardened Structures of Georgia



Phantom Loads And Vampires

Many modern appliances remain partially on when they appear to be turned off. That's a phantom load. Any appliance that can be powered up with a button on a remote control must remain partially on and listening to receive the "on" signal. Most TVs and audio gear these days are phantom loads. Anything with a clock VCRs, coffee makers, microwave ovens, or bedside radio-clock uses a small amount of power all the time.

Vampires suck the juice out of your system. Vampires are the heavy black power cube that plugs into an AC socket, and delivers lower voltage power to your answering machine, electric toothbrush, power tool charging stand, or any of the other huge variety of appliances that uses a power cube on the AC socket. These usually run a horrible 60% to 80% inefficiency (which means that for every dime's worth of electricity consumed, they throw away six or eight cents worth.) Most of these nasties always draw power, even if there's no battery, toothbrush, razor, cordless phone present and charging. The appliance might be turned off, but the vampire keeps sucking a few watts. Ever noticed that power cubes are usually warm? That's wasted power being converted to heat. By the way, cute and appropriate as it is, we can't take credit for the vampire name. That's official electric industry terminology.

The problem isn't the power consumed by vampires and phantom loads, it's what is required to deliver those few watts 24 hours per day. When there's no demand for AC power, a full-size inverter will drop into a stand-by mode. Stand-by keeps checking to see if anything is asking for power, but it takes only a tiny amount of energy, usually under 2 watts. If the phantom or vampire load is enough to awaken the inverter from stand-by, it consumes its own load plus the inverter's overhead, which is 6 to 20 watts. The inverter overhead is the real problem. You want to make sure your inverter can drop into stand-by mode whenever thereƕs no real demand for AC power.

The Solution For Clocks Is Battery Power

A wall-mounted clock runs for nearly a year on a single AA rechargeable battery. We have found a wide selection of good-quality battery-powered alarm clocks, and most of the other timekeepers anyone could possibly require, just by looking around. Clocks on house current are ridiculously wasteful. The solution for phantoms and vampires are outlets or power plug strips that is switched off when not in use. The outlets only get switched on when the appliance is actually being used or recharged! If you're aware of the major energy-wasting gizmos we all take for granted, it's easy to avoid or work around them. When you consider the minor inconvenience of having to flip a wall switch before turning on the TV against the yearly cost of the energy waste, it all comes into perspective. A few extra switched outlets during construction looks like a very good investment. If your house is already built, then use switched plug strips.

Other Tips

Nearly every light bulb in your home can be replaced with fluorescent bulbs, with the exception of dimmer lights and some track lighting. These fluorescent bulbs run at about 14 watts rather than 60, not to mention they last as long as 7 years. The initial cost is higher, but the utility payback and longer life make it well worth the switch.

Many laser printers are equipped with SCRs, which cause the problems detailed above. Laser printers are a very poor choice for renewable energy systems anyway due to their high standby power use keeping the heater warm. Lower cost inkjet printers can do almost anything a laser printer can do while only using 25 to 30 watts instead of 900 to 1,500 watts.