Computers are huge vampire power offenders. Standby mode may use less power, but it can still waste electricity -- and what about all those accessories?

©iStockphoto.com/P.J. Morley

Vampire Power Causes

In the average U.S. home, 25 percent of electricity use by home electronics occurs while the products are off [source: Pogue]. Is this power used for anything? Do electronics manufacturers hate the environment?

Vampire power causes usually include one of the following:

  1. The gadget, such as a cell-phone AC adapter, constantly supplies a charge, even if the batteries are fully charged or if nothing is plugged into it. Many AC adapters, nicknamed wall warts by some critics, waste as much as 50 percent of the power they use [source: Office of the Ohio Consumers' Council].
  1. The gadget uses electricity to power a display screen, an external time display or an internal clock. In some cases, this power usage is justified. For instance, your refrigerator needs to monitor temperature levels in order to power up at appropriate times. When it comes to your radio however, it's not as easy to justify a constant power drain to keep the digital clock lit.
  1. The gadget never fully shuts down so that it's ready to use at a moment's notice. Many printers spend hours in standby mode, waiting to receive signals from connected computers. Before you even pick up your remote control, the TV is already using electricity to power the sensor that will receive the signal.

Vampire power has been on the rise during the past decade, thanks to the proliferation of rechargeable gadgets, computer networks and devices with standby power functions. The United States consumes 26 percent of the world's energy. Of that energy, approximately 5 percent is vampire power [source: University of California, Berkeley]. To put that in perspective, that's between 200 and 400 terawatt hours -- roughly as much electricity as the entire country of Italy consumes in a year [source: Smyth].

All this energy use enacts quite a hefty toll on the environment. Coal-burning power plants produce carbon dioxide, a leading cause of global climate change. Therefore, less vampire power translates to lower carbon emissions. Even plants that run on nuclear or hydroelectric power produce emissions that can lead to smog and acid rain.

Want to know how to help the environment and save a little money on your power bill in the process? Pick up a few vampire-fighting tactics on the next page.