Stop phantom energy loss in your home

Just because you've hit the off button doesn't mean your electronics stop using power. Many electronics continue to draw power even when they're off or in sleep mode. The same can be said for appliances that remain plugged in but unused, like a hair dryer or toaster. These sneaky power suckers often result in what's called phantom energy loss.

There are two ways you can end phantom energy:

  1. Unplug all electronics and appliances that aren't in use.
  2. Use a standard or smart power strip.

While unplugging all idle devices is easy enough, remembering to do so and ensuring you unplug every device can be an added task on your daily to-do list. That's why some turn to standard and smart power strips.

Standard power strips feature a row of outlets with a switch that cuts power to any device plugged into the outlets. Rather than unplugging each device, just flip the switch to stop these devices from using power even when turned off.

Unlike standard power strips, smart power strips feature several outlets (often 10): one control, three always-on, and six no-idle switches. Here's an example of how these work:

If you plug your computer into the control outlet and it goes into sleep mode or you turn it off, the smart power strip will also shut off all power to any peripheral devices (like printers or scanners) plugged into the no-idle outlets. The always-on outlets can be used for devices that never get turned off, such as a telephone.

If you're not sure whether an electronic or appliance is an energy phantom, check the plug and look for lights. Many have rectangular adapter boxes on their plugs. These stay warm even when the devices are off, indicating they're still drawing power. Other electronics and appliances use standby power to run digital clocks or displays. If you notice a small display light is always on, it's probably drawing phantom energy.

For more information on power strip options, check out PG&E's Ways to Save information.


Common energy phantoms

  • Computers
  • Entertainment systems
  • Video game systems
  • Printers, scanners, and fax machines
  • DVD players
  • Coffee makers
  • Microwaves
  • Cellphone and battery chargers
  • Any device with a remote control or LED indicator light

"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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