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Vampire electronics cause higher electric bills

10:59 AM, Oct 26, 2012   |    comments
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Kim Komando, Special for USA TODAY

Everyone knows to turn off lights when you leave a room or to turn off the TV when you're done watching it.

That's a good start, but did you know you're still wasting electricity every month? You can easily trim $100 or more off of your bill each year. All you have to do is slay your vampire electronics.

These spooky electronics are sucking energy all over your home right now. Unlike the fanged, nocturnal creatures of horror films, energy vampires work day and night to drain your wallet.

It's true that recent electronics are much more energy efficient than their predecessors, but everybody also has a lot more gadgets than they did 10 years ago.

Nationwide, idle gadgets collectively consume more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year. That adds up to an extra $10 billion in energy costs, according to the EPA.

Vampire electronics are gadgets that consume standby power when they're not in use. They can be big gadgets like your desktop computer or small gadgets like your phone charger.

Any appliance that uses a remote control or displays a clock draws power when turned off or not in use. If left plugged in, phone and battery chargers continue to consume energy after the phones are disconnected and batteries are taken out.

The most obvious way to stop vampires from using electricity is to unplug them when they aren't in use. If a plug isn't in the wall, it can't keep running up your power bill.

Of course, nobody wants to spend 10 minutes every night unplugging stuff and 10 minutes plugging everything back in the next morning.

Several companies sell inexpensive power switches that plug into your wall sockets. Instead of unplugging the gadget, you simply turn off power to that socket with the flick of a switch. It's a great way to control countertop appliances such as microwaves and coffeemakers.

Some socket adapters have built-in timers instead of switches. Use them on your rechargeables - smartphones, camera batteries, electric toothbrushes and cordless power tools.

If you're the type who worries on the drive to work whether you left the curling iron or space heater on, buy a few timed power switches for safety, peace of mind and energy savings.

Your computer workstation and home entertainment system are your biggest energy vampires.

Depending on the age of the components, running a cable box, large-screen TV, DVD player, gaming console and surround-sound setup can be like running a second refrigerator.

Cluster those components on a "smart" power strip or surge suppressor. These accessories are smart because they can shut down an outlet after sensing a gadget has gone into standby mode.

Many Energy Star-rated electronics retain their clock settings when turned off. If you have a gadget or two that would need to be reprogrammed all the time if turned off, get a smart power strip that includes a couple of always-on outlets.

Some power strips even come with their own remote controls, so you don't have to squeeze your arm or foot into a hard-to-reach place to trip the main on-off switch.

You can save $50 a year or more per computer if you shut it down at night and activate sleep, standby or hibernate settings during the day. Modern computer hard drives are unaffected by frequent shutdowns.

Before you run out and spend money on switches and strips, it's a good idea to pinpoint the appliances and gadgets that are costing you the most.

Grab an inexpensive power usage monitor to determine the operating costs of various gadgets and appliances. It plugs into a wall socket and your electronic gadgets plug into it. It will tell you how much electricity that gadget uses over a day, week or month.

Then, the only vampires you need to worry about are the sugar-fueled ones who appear at your door on Halloween!

Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit www.komando.com. E-mail her at techcomments@usatoday.com.

USA TODAY

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