Home Energy & Utilities

Energy Vampires: What They Are and Why Unplugging Them Can Save You Money

These electronic devices use a lot of energy, even when they aren't in use.

Computer equipment uses a lot of energy.
Kieran Stone/Getty Images

There are moochers living in your home. No, we're not talking about your kids, pets or other non-rent paying tenants. We're talking about your appliances and electronics. 

The devices you count on most are hanging around all day, sucking up energy and making you get charged for it. They don't even have to be running for this to happen -- as long as they're plugged in, they're siphoning off precious energy you'll have to pay for.

We call these energy vampires. And you might not know it, but they can really be a strain on your wallet. The average home sees about 10% of its total energy use go to energy vampires -- meaning that it's power that simply does not need to be used. That can cost you a considerable amount: $250 or more, depending on where you're located.

Let's take a look through your home and find those energy vampires so you can unplug them, replace them and save yourself from excess charges on your monthly energy bill.

Computer equipment

Do you have a desktop computer set up in your home? Whether it's for gaming, work or just browsing the internet, your big tower and all its accessories are likely sucking up lots of excess energy, even when they aren't in use. 

According to data from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Standby Project, operated by the Department of Energy, a desktop computer can cost more than $23 per year to keep plugged in and operating in stand-by mode. The monitor adds another $1.53 per year on average, and the modem or router contributes nearly $7 per year. 

It doesn't sound like a lot on its own, but it's not hard to see how fast it adds up. Even a basic computer setup could cost more than $30 per year -- and that's just a single machine. Your house is full of electronics that are guilty of the same energy-vampire activity.

Televisions and set-top boxes

Another major energy eater is sitting in your living room. Televisions can cost more than $20 per year in excess energy use if they remain plugged in while turned off. LEDs tend to be more energy-efficient than LCDs or plasmas if you're looking to keep your costs down.

Even worse is the set-top box that you use to watch all your favorite shows. Digital cable boxes like the kind your cable company provides are likely to cost you nearly $50 per year if you keep them plugged in at all times. Other set-top boxes like Apple TV tend to be a little more energy conscious. But if you have cable, you'll have a hard time escaping that energy-sucking box.

Speakers and sound systems

Speaking of entertainment... if you have a home stereo system, it's probably consuming a whole lot of energy. Audio systems can eat up nearly $10 per year when they stay plugged in, and audio input devices like CD players or record players can add another $5 or more. Subwoofers and audio receivers tend to suck up lots of energy when they aren't in use, too, so consider unplugging your audio set up when you aren't jamming out.

How to identify common energy vampires in your home

While some devices and appliances are more efficient than others, there are a couple of things to keep an eye out for if you don't want one that'll suck up lots of excess energy.

Any device with an external power supply is likely using more energy than you'd expect, even while turned off. Likewise, devices that use a remote control are often energy vampires because they are always on and waiting for input. Anything that has a continuous display -- the clock on your microwave or a screensaver on your TV or computer, for instance -- is always using energy, too.

Take a look around your home for these devices and decide if they really need to be plugged in at all times. There is a convenience factor at play, but the additional step of plugging and unplugging your device could save you quite a bit of money over time. Plus, it's good for the planet, and it could use every little bit of help that you can provide.