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How Vampire Power Works

Fight Vampire Power

Getting your money's worth out of that new big-screen plasma TV? Forget the thousands of dollars you paid for it at the store. According to Good Magazine, you'll spend about $159 a year on its standby power alone.
Getting your money's worth out of that new big-screen plasma TV? Forget the thousands of dollars you paid for it at the store. According to Good Magazine, you'll spend about $159 a year on its standby power alone.

Ready to pick up your stake, take a stab at saving electricity and fight vampire power? Lucky for you, the battle against this energy waster comes down to two tactics:

  1. Identify which electronic devices drain power when not in use.
  2. Replace these electronic items with energy-efficient devices or cut off power when you aren't using them.

If you're not using an electronic device, unplug it -- that's the blanket approach to fighting vampire power. You can make this step even easier with a surge protector or power strip. Plug multiple items in the strip and simply turn it off when you're not using the devices. If the strip is off, you don't have to worry about leaking electricity.


A certain amount of standby power is unavoidable, especially with major appliances or other devices that are impractical to turn off. But this doesn't mean vampire power can't be kept to a minimum. Many electronic devices waste power in standby mode due to poor design. Purchase energy-efficient products and you'll waste less electricity on standby functions. The governments of the United States, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union all regulate energy-saving products and label them as Energy Star-certified products. These products are guaranteed to meet certain low-energy consumption criteria.

Electronic devices may cause vampire power, but there are also a number of gadgets on the market designed to help cut down on unnecessary power loss. The Kill A Watt digital wattage reader from P3 International allows you to check how much power your electronic devices are consuming.

Other products take the energy-saving potential of surge protectors to the next level. Watt Stopper/Legrand's Isolé plug load controller basically combines a typical surge protector with a motion detector. The surge protector consists of six occupancy-controlled outlets that power off when there's no motion in the room for a set amount of time (programmable between 30 seconds and 30 minutes). Two uncontrolled outlets still remain on. All you have to do is plug vampire electronics or lights into the occupancy-controlled outlets and plug items you don't want randomly shutting off into the uncontrolled outlets.

Other power strips (such as the Smart Strip Power Strip or the Power-Saving Essential SurgeArrest 7) feature a master-slave arrangement, similar to the set up of many electronic devices. If you aren't using your computer, why have power traveling to your speakers, printer and other accessories? The smart strip lets you designate one device as the "master" and several secondary devices as "slaves". If the master device is off or drawing only standby power, then the slave outlets don't get any power either.

All these weapons may seem useless against the billions of dollars worth of vampire power that flows through power lines each year. But if enough people become aware of the problem and take steps to prevent it, a vast amount of power and natural resources can be better used.

Explore the links below to learn more about saving money on your power bill and ways to help the environment.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • Aquino, Grace. "Seven Ways to Cut Your Electric Bill." Bloomberg News. May 1, 2008. (May 23, 2008)
  • Clean Air Online. "Electricity Generation." Environment Canada. Nov. 20, 2006. (May 22, 2008)
  • Dunn, Collin. "TreeHugger Picks: Cut Back on Phantom Power." Dec. 6, 2006. (May 23, 2008)
  • Energy Information Administration. "Did You Know that Energy Vampires Lurk in your House?" Energy Kids Page (May 23, 2008)
  • Energy Star. "International Partners." (May 22, 2008)
  • Good Magazine. "Vampire Energy." January 2008. (May 23, 2008)
  • Gordon, Jacob. "Another Stake Through the Heart of Vampire Power." Nov. 18, 2006. (May 23, 2008)
  • Jeantheau, Mark. "Vampire Power." Grinning Planet. October 2007. (May 23, 2008)
  • Karp, Gregory. "Vampire appliances: plugged in, sucking power." Newsday. May 4, 2008.,0,3572442.story
  • Meier, Alan and Alain Anglade. "Global Implications of Standby Power Use." The Proceedings of ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings. June 2000.
  • Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel. "Learn about vampire power." October 2007. (May 23, 2008)
  • Oppenheim, Leonora. "Vampire Power." TreeHuggerTV. Oct. 31, 2006. (May 23, 2008)
  • Pogue, David. "Reducing the Amount of Juice Electronic Gadgets Consume." The New York Times." April 24, 2008.
  • Smyth, Julie Carr. "Electronic vampires suck energy, not blood." USA Today. Oct. 30, 2007.
  • University of California, Berkeley Student Sustainability Education Coordinators. "Phantom Load." University of California, Berkeley. (May 23, 2008)
  • United States Department of Energy. "How to Buy Products with Low Standby Power." June 2004. (May 23, 2008)
  • Watt Stopper/Legrand. "Watt Stopper/Legrand’s unique plug load controls save energy and can contribute to LEED credits." May 2008. (May 22, 2008)