Energy Vampires


We all know someone in our lives who sucks the energy out of us….well this post is not about those people but the appliances that do the same thing. Maybe you have already heard about how much power all those TVs, PCs, and ACs use on ‘standby’ mode (that’s when they’re not on, but still have a glowy light saying ‘turn me on and I’m ready!’)? Equally bad are all the rechargable doohickeys, like iPods, cell phones and electronic organizers. Yes, it’s good that they’re rechargable, but not that great when you read that they waste 1/2 the power they consume!

The UK is now outlawing standby mode on new products, going back to the (sensible) old-fashioned days when you turned something off and it was actually off, and not sucking energy for no good reason. Crazy stuff, that!

What to do about all this waste? Throw out all your stuff and live in a monastery? (Not so much- even monks listen to MP3’s these days) There’s a really simple solution: buy a couple (or a few) power strips with on/off switches. Plug all your gear into it. I have one for my TV/DVD/Stereo/Rabbit Ears. When I watch a movie, I turn the whole shebang on at the power strip. When I’m done I turn the strip off. It’s way too annoying to individually plug and unplug stuff into the wall. Doing the same thing for a computer set-up and other areas where there are a bunch of things plugged in will save you a bundle on energy, and keep CO2 out of the atmosphere. There’s nothing worse than using energy for nothing!

If you want more details, read the excellent article in the NYTimes, “I Vant to Drink Your Vatts” reprinted by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. You can learn about the difference between ‘Wall Warts’ and ‘Vampires’ there. Fun!

About Starre Vartan
Starre Vartan is editor-in-chief of and the author of the Eco-Chick Guide to Life.


  1. Its always good to be reminded of the power suckage going on around us – it is amazing how much of it is going on. I always pull people’s cell chargers out of the wall when they are not in use after reading how much energy they are still using. Good point about the power strips – that is a great way to get a hold of all these appliances draining the grid.

    Aside from all the energy being wasted to keep all of this technology on standby, there is the issue of EMF’s that are affecting us at work, home and play. Electromagnetic fields have gone largely unpublicized or even mocked, due to the fact that many figure; “hey, I can’t feel this thing zapping me, it must be fine…” but this is far from true. Many studies have shown that various types of electromagnetic fields can affect our health. Have you ever sat with a laptop cooking the tops of your legs? Mine gets super hot quite quickly – as does my cell phone (which I rarely use.) You have to wonder what that energy could do…

    My vote is to unplug as much as possible~!

  2. If the UK government does push ahead with its intentions, it will be a major recognition of bad design. Manufacturers will however start to incorporate batteries for standby mode so people can still be lazy, an improvement though.

    Kim you’ve raised an excellent point about ‘electrosmog’, a personal bugbear of mine and a second very good reason to unplug voltage adapters that few people know anything of. You’d be suprised by how many devices have transformers/converters in them, from bedside clock/radios (worst possible place to have one as it exposes you to an EMF all night) to dimmer switches. The effect is usually limited to waste heat (what most electrical energy disipates as) in the device, but an EMF can extend a few feet around most voltage adapters and electrical devices at fair intensities. We don’t really know what EM affects though beyond being potentially hazardous (look at cellphone research). I’m inclined to believe that at the least it can lead to tinnitus, and for cellphone users, phantom ringing (from sub-sensory input—there’s no reason to assume our bodies don’t react at a sensory level in some way). Many believe it leads to all sorts of lethargy and a supressed immune system.

    Convenience wins everytime though. I hate the implications of using WiFi, but I do because it’s so much more convenient (although I knock the tranmission power as low as possible). Our frequencies (waves) are too jammed up with gunk (to allow clear perception of our environment?), and it’s getting worse with new digital data-tranmissions opening up all the time, there’s pretty much nowhere you can go on the planet if don’t want to be bombarded by man-made signals constantly.

    Incidentally, in some countries (UK) every power outlet (socket) has an on/off switch, it’s just that few people use them to turn attached equipment off (their primary purpose is as a saftey feature to stop kids electrocuting themselves).

  3. Pingback: Eco-Chick » Blog Archive » New Year’s GreenSolutions

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *