Do You Waste Electricity By Leaving Things Plugged In?

does leaving a charger plugged in use electricity

It’s a common misconception that electrical devices don’t consume electricity when turned off. However, that’s not really the case. You’ll be surprised that many electrical appliances continue to draw power even when switched off. That’s because most modern electrical devices and machines don’t shut down completely even after you’ve switched them off. Instead, they go into standby mode, which leads to energy waste and hikes your electricity bill

You may not know it, but up to 10% of your energy bill comes from electronics you’re not even using. This issue is often referred to as phantom energy, and the electronic devices that continue to consume electricity in standby mode are called energy vampires. 

Let’s see which among your household appliances and devices are the worst offenders when it comes to impacting your electric bill. We’ll also discuss how you can reduce energy waste from phantom energy. 

What is Phantom Energy/Vampire Energy?

Phantom energy, otherwise called vampire energy, refers to the energy that goes to waste as your electronic devices and appliances continue to draw power after you’ve turned them off. That’s if they remain plugged into the power socket.  

Phantom power is what keeps your alarm clock going, the settings on your tv intact, and your wireless network working even if you’re not online. It also ensures that your wireless printer can print at a moment’s notice. This ghostlike energy may be necessary, but it comes at a price. Think of all the electronics you have in your home. The phantom power they draw may not be much but added together, they can drive up your kilowatt-hour usage. 

Appliances that Consume The Most Electricity when Plugged in But Turned Off 

Your home is full of vampires. Not the blood-sucking ones but those that drain electricity. Vampire appliances and devices draw power and hike your bill even if you don’t use them. Pulling the plug of household electronics that consume phantom power will help you save energy and money

Here are the appliances in your home that contribute the most to your phantom load and hence, your energy usage. Let’s see what these vampire appliances are and how to kill them.


Your HVAC system uses more energy than any other appliance or device in your home. Thus, even without factoring in its phantom load consumption, you can save electricity if you ensure that your heating and cooling units are energy-efficient. 

To enable your air conditioner to switch on at a moment’s notice, it needs to draw electricity. Some AC models consume as much as 50 watts in standby energy even when you don’t use them regularly. The same holds for furnaces that should have the capacity to start producing heat in a few seconds after you turn them on. Some models draw around 40 watts to stay ready for duty. 


Pretty much anything with a timer and LED displays uses electricity because those things need power to operate. So if you see lights or timers on your electronics, you can bet that they consume electricity even after you’ve hit the OFF button. The energy your electronics use may be small but add that up over multiple devices, and you’ll see how their power usage can drive up your electricity cost.  

Several electronics make up your home entertainment center, and they all add to your home’s electricity consumption. How much power the devices and appliances use depends on whether they remain connected to the socket. 

Set-Top Box

Being able to record shows automatically is a great convenience, but you also pay the price. That’s because your PVR must keep track of upcoming episodes of your favorite shows to record them. Your device needs electricity to perform that task. Moreover, it requires power to be prepared to receive a signal from your remote, which is a form of phantom load. 


Pressing the OFF button on your TV isn’t enough to turn it off completely. The unit still sits there, waiting for a signal from the remote instructing it to turn on. It keeps consuming energy in the process. Modern units also have listening functionality to respond to voice commands, which requires electricity.   

Video Game Console

Your video game console keeps working even if you take a break from your gaming session. That’s especially true if you didn’t fully shut down or exit from a game so you can resume it quickly. Automatic software updates also contribute to your home’s phantom load because your unit needs electricity to detect and install the necessary updates.  

Sound System

Does your sound system have a clock? If it does, you can bet it’s one of the vampire appliances driving up your utility bill. We’re almost certain, too, that the different components making up the system have remotes. That means they must be in a constant state of readiness, all set to go at the touch of a button. Hence your sound system stays in a low power mode, which keeps draining electricity.  

Blu-Ray/DVD Player

A Blu-Ray or DVD player typically displays the time. As such, the video player requires a small amount of energy to keep the LED display running. Also, like most modern electronic devices, Blu-Rays and DVD players have remote controls, so they need to stay ready to receive signals that will wake them up from sleep mode. 

Home Office Equipment

Home office equipment includes scanners, desktop or laptop computers, printers, copiers, and all devices that help you do your work efficiently. Most of these have digital displays that use electricity to run. As such, they also add to your power bill if you don’t unplug them from the socket.  


You may not know it, but when you turn off a computer, you don’t completely power it down but instead puts it in hibernate or sleep mode. In such a condition, the unit continues drawing power to keep the programs active and allow you to turn it back on easily. The electricity consumed by the computer in this mode is minimal. Still, as we keep saying, the kilowatt-hours add up over time. 

Router & Modem

Even when no device is plugged into them, your router and modem remain connected to the internet. Moreover, they will continue to broadcast a WIFI signal. Thus, even if you’re not using the devices, they use energy to perform the necessary processes. 


Turning the printer on every time you need it can be a hassle. That’s why most people keep their printers on standby to make printing something less time-consuming. Moreover, printers with wireless features need an active wi-fi signal to operate. These consume electricity. 

Kitchen Appliances

You’ll find several vampire appliances in your kitchen. Some of these already draw a significant amount of energy, so eliminating their phantom load can help lower your power expenses. 


It takes about 1200 watts per hour to operate a microwave oven. However, aside from the electricity, it needs to zap food, microwaves require energy to keep their electric clocks running and to display the time.   

Coffee Maker

How much electricity it takes to brew your coffee depends on several factors. These include the type and wattage of your coffee maker. On average, coffee machines consume between 750 and 1250 watts per pot of coffee. If your unit has a clock, it will keep using electricity if it stays plugged into the socket. 


Not all types of toasters have a phantom load. The old-fashioned ones, such as pop-up toasters that don’t have clocks or LED displays, don’t consume electricity after you’ve turned them off. However, if you have a fancy toaster with a timer or display, you’ll need to unplug it if you want to turn it off completely. 


Many devices consume very little electricity. However, their phantom loads can hike your power bills, too. Here are some you may have overlooked when you searched for electricity vampires in your home. 

Cordless Phone

A wireless phone consumes around 2 to 3 watts per hour during active usage or recharging. It also requires energy to maintain a connection between the receiver and the base.  

Phone Charger

Some wonder if a phone charger continues drawing power even if it’s not charging a smartphone. Cell phones consume around 2 to 6 watts when charging. If you leave the charger plugged in without a phone, it will keep on drawing approximately 0.1 to 0.5 per hour.   


All appliances and electronics with clocks use electricity when they’re plugged in. The same holds for the conventional electric clock. You know, the one with the red light number display. It consumes about 3 watts an hour. Keep in mind that it runs 24/7. 

Electric Toothbrush

If you’re like most people, you likely charge your electric toothbrush after brushing your teeth in the morning and then forget all about it. So even after it’s fully charged, it remains plugged in while you go about your daily activities. Toothbrushes that require charging consume between 2 and 10 watts depending on the specific model. 

Night Light

There are different types of night lights on the market, and the amount of electricity they consume depends on their type. Conventional incandescent bulbs use 3 to 7.5 watts, while LED night lights consume less than a watt of electricity. Those with Energy Star ratings are more economical to operate than their non-certified counterparts. 

Tips on How to Stop Phantom Power Appliances

The electricity appliances use when they’re just sitting idle translates to money down the drain. The phantom load of an average household with the usual number of electronics can be significant. Thus, the need to kill your vampire load. Here are a few ways of doing so.

Unplug from the Outlet

The surest way to stop any appliance or device from draining electricity is by pulling the plug. Yes, pushing the power button is no longer enough to power down modern gadgets and appliances completely. That may not always be convenient; admit it. You can also forget to unplug everything before leaving home. But this tip is akin to driving a stake into a vampire’s heart. 

Use Power Strips

Pulling the plug of each appliance can be time-consuming. Moreover, it’s challenging to do it 100 percent of the time. Consider plugging your appliances and electronics into a power strip to ease the task. This makes it easier to cut the power to several devices at once. A power strip is an excellent solution when many of the electronics you use together are in one area, such as an entertainment or media center.  

Use Energy Star Rated Appliances

Appliances bearing the Energy Star seal meet strict energy efficiency standards. This means that they consume less electricity than those that don’t have the Energy Star label, thus helping you save money. There’s no guarantee that the appliance won’t use vampire load. Still, at least you’re sure you’ve made the best choice regarding energy efficiency. 


Do Plugs Still Use Electricity When Off?

If we’re talking about empty sockets with no appliance plugged in, then the answer is no. That empty plug isn’t consuming electricity because the current won’t flow unless there’s a complete circuit. In cases where a device or appliance is connected to the socket, then that plug will draw electric power even if you’ve clicked on the device’s OFF button. 

How Much Electricity Does a Plugged-in Toaster Use?

Using a toaster to brown your bread uses from 800 to 1500 watts of energy, with 1200 watts being the average. How much phantom load it draws depends on the kind of toaster. Traditional ones or those with no digital timers or displays typically don’t contribute to your home’s vampire load. 

Is it OK to Leave a Phone Charging Overnight?

This scenario isn’t a wise move for 2 reasons. One, leaving a phone charging overnight can damage the battery. Later on, you may find that it drains faster than usual. The other reason is phantom energy, which the charger consumes while the phone is plugged in, even if the device has reached its charge limit. 

Do Washing Machines Use Standby Power?

As we keep mentioning, modern appliances often don’t turn off even if you’ve hit their OFF button. They keep drawing electricity because instead of completely powering down, they go into idle mode. You can expect your washing machine to use standby power if you don’t pull the plug off the socket. 


If you aim to go green and help save the planet, you’ll need to check what appliances use electricity even when they’re turned off. In doing so, you lessen the world’s demand for electricity. As you know, generating electric power requires the burning of fossil fuels. The process degrades the environment due to the emission of greenhouse gasses that drive global warming. 

Buy a surge protector for your electronics to prevent power fluctuations that waste electricity. Also, remember to pull the power cord off the socket, so your appliances don’t keep drawing energy. If removing individual plugs is a hassle, connect the devices to a power strip so you can cut the electricity coming into several devices in one go. 

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