Does Unplugging Things Really Save Electricity?

do appliances use electricity when plugged in but turned off

Unplugging appliances to save energy is an effective way to slash energy vampires. As it goes, most of your appliances keep using energy even when they are off. To save money and reduce how much energy you use every month, read on, as we will learn how to save electricity without compromising the quality of your life. 

First things first, most appliances around your home use energy even when they are not in use. Do you know that small LED diode that keeps blinking even when your TV is off? Well, this is a signal that your TV is not fully off. Rather in the standby mode, a special mode that allows it to turn on quickly, usually seconds within the press of the power button on your remote. 

That same LED diode means that your TV consumes electricity – even though it may not be technically on. The LED light itself uses some energy, and how much energy it uses is further increased by all additional parts that need some power as well: the diode receiving the signal from the remote, the motherboard, and the power supply all draw energy from your wall socket, increasing your energy usage and increasing your electric bill. 

Does Unplugging Appliances Save Energy?

For these reasons, unplugging appliances save energy. This does not mean that you should unplug every device and every appliance you have around your home, but rather just a few of them. To make things easier, you can purchase smart wall outlets or even energy-efficient power strips. This will significantly reduce how much energy your energy vampires draw, and you pay, month after month. 

In fact, some estimates say that vampire energy can account for up to 10% of your total power use in an average month. For an average US household, that would mean that unplugging your appliances could save 90 kWh a month, or 1,100 kWh a year. At an assumed average electric rate of $0.20 per kilowatt hour, that translates to $220 a year. Not bad, right? That smart meter just paid itself off. 

Appliances & Electronics You Should Unplug

Since you should not unplug all your appliances, let’s check out which appliances use standby power and add them to your electricity bill. Once identified, unplug appliances from the list and reduce your energy costs. Your energy bills could be much lower, and unplugging your appliances is the easiest (and free) way to do so. 

Firstly, major appliances should not be turned off. Rather, they usually come with their timers and may be used only when needed. Considering that your HVAC, for example, only uses energy when you need to cool down or heat your home, you are much better at lowering the thermostat in the winter and upping it in the summer. This alone can save around 10% of your energy bill. 

Your water heater, especially if coming with a tank, is another major appliance that you can use in an eco-friendly way and reduce wasted electricity and money. Running your electric water heater only during off-peak tariffs is a sure way to save money. As these devices usually do not have complex circuitry, they do not have any vampire load that you should worry about. 

On the other hand, other appliances and devices around your home draw energy even when they are off. Unplugging appliances such as these is a sure way to reduce energy use and increase your savings. Here are some devices around your home that draw power even when turned off: 

  • Laptops and computers, 
  • TVs, 
  • Gaming Systems, 
  • Small kitchen appliances, 
  • Phone chargers, and 
  • Lamps and lights. 

Laptops & Computers

Laptops and computers generally do not draw a lot of power, even when on stand-by mode. However, as with all other devices, you should be aware that these devices stay plugged in 24/7 in most cases. If you want to save electricity, unplugging appliances such as computers and laptops is the best thing to do. In most cases, you can also send them to hibernation mode and bring down the energy they use to zero. If you use the hibernation mode, your devices will boot up equally as fast. 

TV and Gaming Systems

Your TV and gaming systems are next on the line to cutting electricity usage. The best thing to do here is to purchase one or more smart power strips and have them do the job for you. These strips can sense when the energy consumption of each appliance is reduced (such as when on standby mode) and can help you slash phantom energy use by cutting the current to the electrical devices attached to it. 

However, as smart power strips can be a bit pricey and you may not be sure if this is your preferred way to reduce energy use, you may want to consider regular power strips. They are much cheaper and allow you to plug multiple devices in. They are perfect for a media center setup and allow you to unplug appliances attached to them with a single button. Just consider that your TV and gaming system draw standby power 24 hours a day, but are usually watched for less than 4 hours, mostly in the evenings. 

Small Kitchen Appliances

With power strips, slashing your energy usage and saving electricity is just a single switch away even in your kitchen. The thing is that your microwave oven and other small appliances also draw vampire load when they are off. As these appliances are usually used just periodically, it goes without saying that you should be unplugging devices and appliances in your kitchen whenever they are not in use. 

In addition to this, whenever you replace a device or an appliance in your home, you should understand that Energy-Star Ratings can help save energy as it is. Not only are these appliances cheaper to run, but they also use less energy when on standby mode. Never forget that how much electricity you can save depends on how many devices you have, and an average US home has quite a few. 

Phone Chargers

Your phone charger is next on the list of devices that draw phantom power even when not in use. However, the thing with phone chargers is that they: 

  • Use the least amount of power when plugged in, but the phone is not attached, 
  • Use more power when the phone is left connected despite the battery being full, 
  • Use the most power when charging your phone. 

So, just because the phone is not charging, does not mean that the charger is not using any power. How much power is being drawn by chargers depends on the number of chargers we have at home: 

  • Phone charger, 
  • Laptop charger, 
  • Tablet charger, 
  • Electric toothbrushes and their chargers, 
  • External battery chargers, 
  • And many more. 

Unplugging all of these is sure to save electricity and increase the energy efficiency of your home. 

Lamps/Lighting Fixtures

Saving money on lamps and lighting fixtures is another way to save and reduce your carbon footprint. Unused appliances draw a lot of power, but so do touch-enabled lamps, lamps with wireless charging docs, and lamps and lighting fixtures with motion sensors. The best way to reduce phantom energy use is to keep them all unplugged or switched off using a mechanical switch, rather than a button. 

Benefits of Unplugging Appliances

Unplugging appliances has many benefits. To start with, unplugging appliances saves energy and money. It also reduces your carbon footprint and helps mitigate climate change. Needless to say, as the energy crisis unfolds, unplugging appliances can also help (on a large scale) to limit the effects the crisis has, especially as its effects will be felt for some time to come. There are other benefits of unplugging your appliances as well: 

  • You can reduce your energy usage, 
  • Protect appliances from power surges, 
  • Reduce the risk of electrical fires, and 
  • Extend the life of appliances and devices. 

Reduce Energy Usage

When you unplug your appliance or more of them, you reduce your electricity usage. With rising energy costs, this means that more energy will be kept in the grid, and you will have to pay less for it at the end of the month. Some people even decide to unplug their HVAC system during the transitory periods between seasons, as it is simply too warm for any heating, and just too fresh for air conditioning to be left turned on. 

Protect Appliances from Power Surges

Many parts of the US grid need modernizing to be ready for the transition to renewables. A grid like this necessarily has some fluctuations in current voltage and amperage. When these go through the roof, even for a brief period, your appliances may suffer and get damaged. Appliances plugged into the wall socket are vulnerable to power surges. Those that are not being protected. 

Reduce the Risk of Electrical Fires

With fewer appliances plugged in, there is a lower chance of an electrical fire breaking out. As you leave your appliances plugged in all the time, they will necessarily experience some surges coming from the external power supply. These surges may cause a fire, by heating faulty or old electronics. Unplug appliances when you are away for a longer time, especially to protect your property. 

Extend the life of Appliances & Devices

Unplugging appliances can save more energy than purchasing Energy-Star®-rated appliances. But did you know that it can also help extend their life? Well, as your appliances are not plugged in, no parts work and no circuitry is exposed to the current. As this is the case, the wear and tear on your appliance will be lower, and you can expect the appliance and the device to both last longer and use less energy. 

Appliances that Consume the Most Electricity

Needless to say, around 90% of your energy costs are the kilowatt hours you use. Energy estimates and measuring say that different appliances use a different amount of power and that the energy-star label can only reduce their usage by so much. Before heading onto energy-saving tips, here are the appliances that use the most energy in your home: 

Air Conditioning Units

Your Air Conditioning Units, or AC Units for short, use a lot of power. They use less power than heaters, but still, as they are supposed to circulate, filter, and cool down the air in your entire home, they are likely one of the biggest energy-wasters in your home. This is especially true if you live in hot and humid climates, such as Florida, or hot and dry states such as Texas. 

Heaters

If you live further to the north, your heaters will likely use the most electricity. The thing is that heating takes a lot of power as it is, and leaving the room temperature up too high during cold winter days munches away the precious kilowatt hours you may be trying to save. There are ways to save on both room and water heaters, by substituting conventional heating units for heat pumps. 

Washer & Dryers

Washers and dryers in the US come in different sizes and use different heating bodies to do their work. Your washer may use electricity, natural gas, or a heat pump to heat the water. In any case, using electricity is by far the most expensive choice, but, as the technology is simple, these are often very affordable models. 

On the other hand are the dryers. They too come with powerful heating elements and you can choose to save electricity by purchasing dryers with a digital clock (for a delayed start) or with a heat pump. As heat pumps produce around 6 kWh of heat for every kWh of electricity they use, you can save up to 85% on drying your clothes by simply purchasing a heat pump dryer. 

Ovens & Stoves

Ovens and stoves also use a lot of power. The larger their size, the more power they will draw to do the work. Your stove may be the biggest energy consumer in your household, especially if you have a large family and prefer to cook for them yourself. There are ways to reduce energy costs here as well, especially as you may choose natural gas stoves or induction cooktop stoves. Both use less electricity than conventional stoves. 

Refrigerator

Your refrigerator does not use too much power, especially when compared to other large appliances in your home. However, opening the fridge doors all the time, leaving them ajar for a minute or two, and constantly using the cold water and ice dispensers can significantly increase your energy use. For this reason, always use your appliances reasonably. 

Energy Saving Tips for Appliances

It goes without saying that saving energy is a must! As there are many ways to save energy in your home, we will not dwell too much on them all. Rather, we will consider a few affordable and practical steps that take minutes of your time. 

Use Smart Plugs

Using smart plugs allows you to operate your devices with significant energy savings. Your TV, media box, chargers, gaming systems, and much more should only be plugged in for a fraction of the day. As this is the case, smart plugs allow you to control them remotely, and some advanced models even let you program their availability and the times when they can deliver power. No more worries about forgetting to unplug your iron or your coffee makers

Use Smart Power Strips

Using smart power strips is similar to using smart plugs. However, you may prefer smart power strips as they allow you to plug in many appliances to a single outlet. Smart strips monitor energy use and can shut it off when it gets in the standby regime. For example, turning your TV off will reduce its power use from 200 Watts per hour to mere 2 Watts per hour. A smart strip can recognize that the TV is in standby mode and will shut the power supply off completely after a while. 

Use Energy Efficient Appliances

Using energy-efficient appliances is, by far, the best thing you can do for your pocket. As outdated models can use significantly more energy than is the case with newer models, you may want to slowly switch out your old appliances for new devices. This will reduce energy use and will not put too much strain on your wallet, especially as you will be able to do so slowly, as appliances break down one after another. 

FAQs

Does Leaving a Charger Plugged in Use Electricity?

Yes, leaving your charger plugged in uses electricity. Your charger does not use too much of it, but consider that an average charger spends 24 hours a day being plugged in. Now consider how long you’ve had your chargeable devices and you will understand that this is a lot of energy. As the first cell phones arrives on the market almost 20 years ago, let’s do the math and see how much energy you’ve used on your charger only: 

20 (years) X 365 (days) X 24 (hours) X 1 Watt per hour of energy use when the phone is not connected to the charger would be equivalent to 

20*365*24*0.001 (kWh)= 175 kWh of energy, or around $35 per charger

Now consider how many phones, tablets, laptops, etc, you have in your home. 

Does Leaving a TV on Standby Use Electricity?

Yes, leaving your TV on standby uses electricity. Your TV uses less electricity on standby than it does when switched on, but there is still some vampire load or phantom energy use that you can cut back on. These standby costs add up, as you likely have many devices that draw power when turned off. 

What Appliances Use the Most Electricity When Turned Off?

There are many appliances that use power even when turned off. The amount of power is not high, but it adds up: in the UK, vampire consumption uses enough electricity to power 60,000 homes. 

Should Coffee Pots be Unplugged?

Yes, you should unplug your coffee maker. Most coffee makers use electricity even when turned off, making them vampire appliances. In addition to this, your coffee maker will use significant amounts of power (up to 200 Watts or enough power to run 20 LED lightbulbs) just to keep the coffee hot. To save energy, simply pour your coffee into a thermos and unplug the coffee maker. 

Conclusion

Unplugging appliances: save electricity without compromising the quality of your life. As there are many ways to save energy, it should be noted that this is the simplest and the easiest one. Although not officially a part of an energy audit, your standby power can make up as much as 10% of your energy bill. For this reason, invest in a simple power strip and watch as your bills get a bit lower. 

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