Follow these tips to curb your carbon emissions and lower your electricity bill

Standby power, sometimes called phantom energy, represents a small but growing portion of home energy use.

Reducing your phantom energy consumption will trim your carbon emissions and lower your electricity bill.

Roughly 50 devices and appliances in the typical American household are always drawing power, even when they appear to be off. A walk through your house in the dark will reveal the glow of small lights and digital displays on various electronic appliances. Because these appliances are ready to operate at all times, they continue to suck up electricity.

The largest users of standby power are cable boxes, audio/video devices, TVs, desktop computers and monitors, printers and security systems. Other culprits include garage door openers, wireless routers and microwaves. Additionally, some chargers for cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and music players draw power whenever they are plugged into an outlet, even when they are not in use.

You can check this by feeling the temperature of the transformer when it's not charging. Is it warmer than the room? Then it's drawing power.

Simple, positive changes you can make

• Unplug devices that are rarely used. For computer or home entertainment systems, plug multiple components into a power strip, or surge protector. Then you can turn them all off at the end of the day with a single switch. (Think twice before doing this with your internet connection, though, since a modem/router is constantly connecting to your service. If you power it down, it could take more time to re-establish your connection than you imagine.)

• When unplugging your phone (or other device being charged), unplug the charger as well, unless you know for sure that it draws no power.

• Adjust power settings on TVs (quick-start can be disabled), computers (sleep mode), and game consoles (switch to "power save" or disable instant-on).

• When buying electronics and appliances, select Energy Star models that use less energy and lower standby power. Check the written specs.

• Borrow a watt-meter from the library, enabling you to measure the devices in your home and take targeted action.

• Geek out by seeing the energy you waste in a host of electronics items, in the Berkeley Lab chart at

Printed courtesy of Jeanne Roy at Center for Earth Leadership.

Questions or feedback? Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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