Do You Waste Electricity by Leaving Things Plugged In?

do cell phone chargers use electricity when not in use

A phone charger plugged in is a phone charger that wastes electricity. Phone chargers in general do not use too much electricity but can influence your electricity bill. This is especially true if you have several chargers plugged into the wall sockets around your home. Never forget that many small devices and appliances wasting energy consume energy in considerable amounts. Let’s learn more. 

First of all, we should deal with the notion of vampire energy consumption or background energy. This is the energy that is used by all devices and appliances when they are plugged in, but not in use. Pretty much every device you own uses energy to some extent. This energy is used to power the remote signal sensors, as well as those pretty LED displays and status diodes. 

In fact, you may have well over a dozen such small appliances and devices around your home. Your phone charger is just one of them. If you want to be more energy efficient, you should understand how many energy chargers are plugged in draw, and how you can save energy by unplugging them. Here are just some devices that draw energy whenever plugged in: 

  1. Phone chargers – how many you have depends on how many family members there are. There are 252 million smartphones in the US alone. This adds up to a lot of wasted energy; 
  2. Tablet chargers – although tablets are used and charged more rarely than your smartphone, they draw more power, as bigger screens and more computational power need bigger batteries as well; 
  3. eBook devices; 
  4. External battery/power bank chargers; 
  5. Laptop chargers, 
  6. Desktop computers that are on standby mode, 
  7. Microwaves, 
  8. Ovens with displays or status lights, 
  9. Stoves with displays, status lights, or residual heat indicators, 
  10. Fridges with displays, such as smart fridges that can connect to your WiFi, 
  11. Coffee machines, especially if they come with a coffee pot and keep your coffee warm for hours, 
  12. Motion sensors throughout your home, 
  13. Security cameras and microphones, 
  14. Security lights with motion sensors
  15. EXIT signs, 
  16. Panic lamps, 
  17. Mosquito and fly buzzers, 
  18. Ultrasound insect and rodent repellents, 
  19. Air filters, 
  20. Air humidifiers, 
  21. Air dehumidifiers, 
  22. Other gadgets that you may have throughout your home. 

Although these devices all use a small amount of energy, the sheer number of them shows you just how many devices there are between your home now and an energy-efficient home. Modern chargers use very little energy, but they still use some. You can save money by unplugging chargers, regardless of their age and the technology used. 

Does Leaving Anything Plugged-In Use Electricity?

Most devices we own consume electricity even when not in use. This is also true of energy-efficient, Energy-Star-rated devices such as your laundry machine or even your fridge. In reality, a phone charger uses energy whenever it is plugged in, regardless of whether it charges your phone or not. A phone charger uses different amounts of energy in different scenarios, so leaving it plugged in after your phone has been charged will reduce energy use by 98%, but there will be some consumption at any moment. 

So, with phone chargers, there are four modes of energy use: 

  1. The phone charger is plugged in and your smartphone is connected and charging – the energy use is equal to the energy use labeled on the backside of the charger. 
  2. The phone charger is plugged in and the smartphone is connected, but the battery is full – your charger uses much less energy than when charging your phone. The energy used here goes for running your phone. 
  3. The phone charger is plugged in and no phone is connected – the phone charger uses electricity, around 98% less than it uses when charging your phone. 
  4. The phone charger is not plugged in or is plugged into a smart power strip that keeps it shut off – the energy use is equal to zero. 

Energy Waste

The chargers and other electronic devices around your home use a small amount of energy at all times. This is energy waste, as this energy is not used in any meaningful way and cannot help you do any useful work. AC adapters, chargers, displays, status lights, LED diodes, and different sensors all add up to this energy waste. If you think this is a small amount of electricity in total – you are wrong. 

In fact, an average US household pays around $200 per year for this vampire load. This means that almost 10% of your electric bill goes to power devices that are not working. In the US alone, this vampire energy use costs $26 Billion per year. In the UK, the energy wasted by electrical appliances can fully power 60,000 households. 

Effect on Life Expectancy

Besides increasing your electric bill, this vampire load also decreases the life expectancy of each electronic device you have. As devices use electricity, the power running through them damages sensors, the wiring, and all other parts of devices that are kept ‘live’. The amount of power that a device uses when on standby mode is directly correlated to the decrease in the life expectancy of such a device. 

Safety Concerns

Being able to save energy and expand the life expectancy f your devices is one thing, but the safety concerns are something entirely different. Namely, every device you own that is kept plugged in poses some safety threats. Fire risk, device malfunction or damage due to the power surge are real risks that you should consider, especially if leaving your home for a longer period. 

Some electronic devices may prove to be riskier in certain situations. Here are the things that increase the chances of a fire breaking out: 

  • Living in a damp climate,
  • Living in a home with moisture issues
  • Mold and mildew presence can indicate high air moisture and high fire hazard risk, 
  • The vicinity of water and or / sinks, 
  • The vicinity of water/sewer lines running through your house, 
  • The vicinity of easily flammable materials, such as bedding, different covers or furniture, 
  • Damaged wall outlets or wiring, 
  • Damaged chargers, electronic units, or the wires supplying them with power, 
  • Rodent presence – inspect the house, the attic, and the basement at least once a year – if you suspect the presence of rodents, check all wiring and cables, as rodents may bite through the isolating layer and significantly increase the risk of a fire breaking out. 

Other Huge Consumers of Electricity in Your Home

Of course, most chargers will not use up a major amount of electricity in your home, unless you are using a home Tesla charger. In fact, most of your energy bill and energy use around the house comes from a few devices which gulp electricity but provide you with many benefits. Some of the largest energy users around the house are: 

  • The heating system, 
  • The laundry appliances, such as the washer and the dryer, 
  • The cooking appliances, such as your stove and oven, and 
  • Different household equipment, such as water heaters, mechanical ventilation, hot tub, etc. 

Heating System

Your heating system is by far the biggest energy user in your home. In fact, most of your electricity bills in the wintertime come from the heating system itself. Depending on how well-insulated your home is and what your heating habits are, you can save money on your electric heating. Here are some low-cost solutions that can help you save on your heating bill this winter

  • Use the good old blanket – the first autumn days do not mean that you need to crank up your heating. Use blankets instead, 
  • Use the sunshine – using the sunshine to heat your home is perfectly safe and results in lower electricity bills. Just open your curtains and let the sunshine in, 
  • The way you air your home can also help you save on your electricity bills – open the windows in the morning and the evening instead of leaving a single window ajar all day long. A single window that leaks warm air outside can double your energy use, 
  • Place aluminum foil behind heating bodies, such as radiators – this will help reflect the heat to the room, where you need it, 
  • Use a smaller electric heater to heat only a portion of your house, instead of heating the whole thing, 
  • Caulk your window and door frames – to prevent any draft and warm air from escaping, 
  • Insulate your basement and your attic as most heat is lost here, 
  • Keep air ducts free – any blockage will slow down air movement and increase your energy use, 
  • Forget about switching the heating on and off all day long. Instead, set a single temperature and let the HVAC system do its magic, 
  • Reverse the blow direction of your ceiling fans, etc. 

Laundry Appliances

Your laundry appliances, such as the laundry machine and dryer use a lot of energy as well. Although they are used only occasionally, these appliances use a lot of power. Many people worry about the electricity use with these appliances, as they draw on a lot of power, but there are ways to save electricity when doing your laundry: 

  • Use a good laundry detergent meant for washing at low temperatures. This way, you can avoid the hot cycle with most of your clothes, linen, and towels, 
  • Only use the hot cycle for fabrics that can handle it and that need that extra-strength cleaning. Common examples would include underwear, white cotton bed sheets, white cotton towels, 
  • Wash your clothes in cold water and transfer them to a dryer right away, 
  • Only wash full loads, and 
  • Purchase an energy-efficient laundry machine/washer, as they use electricity more reasonably. 

Tips on saving electricity when drying your clothes: 

  • Always dry full loads, 
  • Always purchase pairs of washers and dryers, as they best work in tandem, 
  • As dryers use electricity for longer (and a bigger amount of it) than washers, run them during off-peak tariffs, 
  • Use dryer balls to help the dryer dry clothes faster, 
  • Clean the air filter regularly, 
  • Use electricity wisely: if the weather is sunny and warm, take the clothes out to dry and only use the dryer during winter months, 
  • Use a clothesline in your basement to dry clothes – paired with an air dehumidifier, it is a great way to dry clothes with very little electricity, 
  • Purchase condenser dryers and save a lot on electricity. Older models use exhausts and cost a fortune to run, 
  • Purchase an energy-efficient clothes dryer. 

Cooking Appliances

Cooking appliances also use a lot of electricity. Some of the most powerful electric appliances are in your kitchen. Your oven and your stove use as much electricity when run on max as does your HVAC system. As they use so much, you may want to consider some perfectly safe, energy-saving methods of running them: 

  • Use both levels of your oven – this way, you can prepare two meals at the same time. Make sure you do not mix meals such as fish and vegetables, as the smells will mix, and you may end up tossing the food down the drain. Preparing larger quantities of the same meal works very well. 
  • If you need to use the oven to prepare different meals on the same day, cook one meal after another. This way, the hot oven will use almost no electricity to preheat for the next meal. 
  • Match the pot and the burner size – this way you will save electricity, as any other combo is wasteful. 
  • Always use lids when cooking in pots – this way, you circulate the heat instead of letting it escape. This way, you save money with each meal you prepare. 
  • Use the microwave to reheat food leftovers, 
  • Use an electric kettle to heat larger quantities of water, as they are much more efficient than pots on stovetops. 

Household Equipment

All other household equipment can use a lot of energy and pose a risk of an electrical fire, especially if the wiring is damaged, cables are pinched, or the equipment is in a damp area. To save money, energy and time, follow the next low-cost tips for saving energy around your home: 

  • Always unplug chargers when your devices are full, 
  • Always unplug all equipment you’re not using
  • Aerate the rooms on your own, rather than relying on mechanical ventilation to do it for you, 
  • Stop any draft – caulk window and door frames, 
  • Use natural light as much as possible and save money on your lighting, 
  • Only purchase energy-saving electronics. Electronics do not use much electricity, but putting too many of them on a single meter will skyrocket your energy bill, 
  • Unplug the coffee maker when not in use, 
  • Be mindful of how you use your devices – laptops, desktop computers, chargers, and all other equipment draw a lot of power from your electrical outlet, boosting your energy bill and kicking money out of your pocket – unplug them when not in use

Other equipment that draws a lot of power even when not in use. The TV may be in use for just a few hours a day, but the sensors and status lights run 24/7, 365 days a year. This is a lot of electricity. You can purchase a high-quality smart strip, connect all your media devices to it, and shut them off completely with the press of a single button. 

Energy Saving Tips

Besides these, there are more tips on how to save energy. The rule of thumb: think about how grandparents lived – they were frugal, relied on electricity very little and they lived a happy life. The power that powers your electronics costs a lot, so being less reliant on it saves a lot. Here are some more energy-saving tips

  • Take short showers and try to limit the time spent in the shower, 
  • Always turn off the tap when shaving/brushing your teeth, 
  • Use the hot tub only periodically, 
  • Use a hot tub cover, 
  • Do not take a bath unless absolutely necessary, 
  • Use lower settings on your dishwasher, 
  • Use lower temperatures to wash your clothes and dry them, 
  • Be mindful of the clothes you buy – while cotton lasts longer, polyester is easier to wash and you can do so in cold water, 
  • Always use low-temp-certified laundry detergent, 
  • Only run full loads on any machine in your home, 
  • Dry your clothes outside, on a line, rather than in a dryer, 
  • Unplug appliances you’re not using, 
  • Turn off the lights when leaving the room, 
  • Always use appliances when you are around only and plug them out when they finish, 
  • Always use matching-size pots and burners, and 
  • Cook multiple meals at the same time. 


What Can I Turn Off to Save Electricity?

There are many electronics and appliances that you can turn off to save electricity: 

• Lights, 
• Chargers, 
• Mechanical ventilation, 
• Coffee maker, 
• Toaster, 
• Any device with a display or a status light, 
• Your TV, 
• Your multimedia center, etc…

How Much Does it Cost to Leave Lights on All Night?

Leaving your lights on all night can cost you a lot of money. An average US home has around 40 light bulbs. Normally, they use around $200 worth of electricity. Leaving them on all night will easily double, if not even triple, this number. For this reason, it is best to always turn off the lights when you’re not in the room. 

What Appliances Use the Most Electricity when Turned Off?

Many appliances use electricity when turned off. Any appliance that has a display that shows time or has a status LED or a sensor uses electricity. Television, chargers, computers, microwaves, and coffee makers all use the most electricity when turned off. Unplugging them can save up to $200 per year. 

What Can I Unplug to Save Electricity?

Unplugging your TV, chargers, media set, coffee maker, microwave, gadgets, and lamps will help you save electricity when they are not in use. Some appliances, such as freezers, and fridges have to be kept plugged in all day long. Some other appliances, such as stoves and ovens with no displays do not need to be plugged out, as they use no electricity when not in use. 


Slashing vampire energy is the key to a lower energy bill. Each charger in your home uses a lot of electricity, and a simple switch on your smart strip may unplug them all, saving you significant amounts of money. Some other appliances that have no chargers, displays, or sensors of different kinds do not need to be plugged out, as they use no electricity when not in use. A simple electricity meter can help you test the devices and appliances around your house and see who the worst offenders are. 

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