Look around your home. How many appliances and devices do you have plugged in right now?
The average U.S. household has more than 20 electronic products, and almost all use energy when plugged in. While just two or three devices may not make a significant difference, having multiple devices plugged in can drain your home’s energy and increase your utility bills.
You may have heard this concept before and wondered, does unplugging appliances save energy? The short answer: Yes.
Even when devices are off or in standby mode, they still use power, known as “phantom loads” or “vampire electricity.” While unplugging many devices could help reduce your energy usage, not every electronic or small appliance in your home needs to be unplugged.
Let’s look at unplugging appliances to save energy, myth or fact, and explore how you can save energy by cutting power to some devices. We’ll also examine which appliances and electronics need to be unplugged to help reduce your household electricity costs.
How Much Energy Can You Save by Unplugging Appliances?
Leaving a few appliances plugged in may not seem like a big deal, but the costs can add up. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, standby power accounts for as much as 5% to 10% of residential energy use, and homeowners could save $100 to $200 each year on utility bills by unplugging devices that aren’t in use.
A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council found that reducing energy consumption from home electronics and devices that are unnecessarily plugged in would save consumers a total of $8 billion each year. In addition to the cost savings, reducing energy use could also help the environment, preventing 44 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution.
How Does Unplugging Appliances Save Energy?
Any item plugged into an outlet is drawing energy, whether it’s being used or not. That includes charging cables for phones, tablets, and other devices. Items like televisions, gaming consoles, and other entertainment systems are some of the biggest culprits of unnecessary power consumption.
Look around your home for these energy vampires:
- Computers in sleep mode
- Devices with lights or displays that are permanently on
- Smart home appliances with always-on displays
Unplugging appliances to save energy has other beneficial effects as well, including increasing the life of your devices. The more electronics you have plugged in, the more vulnerable they are to damage from unexpected power surges. Unplugging can help protect your electronics while also saving energy and money.
Common Appliances & Electronics to Unplug
Not all devices need to be unplugged. You don’t want to unplug large appliances, like your washer and dryer, and some outlets are tucked away in hard-to-reach places, making it frustrating to unplug and plug electronics back in.
But you can easily unplug plenty of devices when they’re not in use to save energy.
Small Kitchen Appliances
Coffee makers, food processors, blenders, toasters—Many of the small devices in your kitchen continue to use energy when plugged in, even though you only use these appliances occasionally.
These days, chargers are a part of everyone’s lives, from phone and tablet chargers to charging cables for things like electric razors and toothbrushes. But chargers can add to your electric bill every minute they’re not charging a device. Get in the habit of unplugging your charger when the device reaches a full charge.
One of the biggest “energy vampires” is your entertainment system. Just think about all the small LED lights blinking from the TV, cable box, and game consoles. These devices consume energy even if turned off or in sleep mode. Try to commit to unplugging these devices or use power strips so you can easily turn all the devices off with one flip of a switch.
“Power savers” and “screen savers” don’t save energy. In fact, for those supposedly low-power modes to function, they need electricity. Once your computer reaches a 100% charge, unplug it.
Take time to look around your house for devices that could be unplugged. You may be surprised by how many electronics you have plugged in that you don’t even use, like TVs in guest rooms, old media players, or lamps that are more decorative than practical.
For devices that you do use regularly, look for ways to simplify the process of unplugging:
- Plug electronics into power strips.
- Purchase smart outlets that allow you to automate when power is connected to specific devices.
- Use timers to cut power to electronics when you’re away from home or not using them.
- Consider investing in ENERGY STAR®-certified electronic products to reduce overall energy consumption.
Electronics You Can Leave Plugged In
Not all appliances and devices are energy vampires. You can leave some electronics plugged in without worrying about significant energy usage.
Old, Non-Digital Electronics
Today’s digital devices consume more energy because they feature lights and digital settings. However, older devices don’t usually have these features. You can leave these older washing machines and electronics plugged in without wasting as much energy.
One device you probably want to leave plugged in—and better yet, have more of—is power strips. These handy strips help you unplug many devices with just one switch. Today, smart power strips have scheduling and monitoring options to help keep your energy costs down.
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