According to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report, in February Americans on average paid 12 cents per KWh. But the average in Washington state was only 9 cents per KWh-the lowest in the country. The highest? Hawaii, at 31 cents a KWh (so much for paradise).
How I measured vampire power
To find out what I'm wasting, I tested my Windows laptop, my wife's Mac, our HDTV, our phone and tablet chargers, our network, and assorted peripherals. I did not test our microwave. It's a built-in, and I have no access to the plug.
Lincoln used a Watts Up power meter to measure electrical consumption.
Please note that my devices are not all the latest and greatest. Some are very out of date.
I plugged whatever I was testing into a Watts Up Pro power meter, waited for a few minutes (considerably more for a laptop with a battery), reset the meter, then left it undisturbed for at least six hours. At the end of the test, I noted the meter's Wh per month estimate. Because of the very small amounts of electricity concerned, I felt it provided the most accurate and readable results.
I'll abbreviate these results as Whm, for Watt hours per month. Keep in mind that this number is a very lose estimate of what the device will suck if you left it plugged in but unused for a month.
The smaller the trickle of electricity, the less reliable the Watts Up Pro becomes. If it estimates that a device pulls 0.5Whm, you really don't know what it pulls, except that it's inconsequential. So when the meter estimates a monthly estimate of less than one watt hour, I'll mark it as 0+.
Surge protectors, smart and dumb
Surge protectors play a major role in consuming and fighting standby power. You plug many vampire devices into them. They can be vampires themselves. But they can also be valuable tools for conserving power.
Green surge protectors, also known as smart surge protectors, can help keep waste to a minimum. With these, when your computer or television is on, the peripherals around it get the power they need. When it's off, the surge protector cuts off their source.
A smart surge protector has three types of outlets:
1. A single Control outlet where you plug in the primary device, such as the computer or TV.
2. Multiple Switched outlets that are turned off by default. Devices plugged into them only get power when whatever is plugged into the Control outlet is turned on.
3. The Always on outlets work like they're on a conventional surge protector. Plug a vampire into one of these and it will continue to suck.
Smart surge protectors definitely save power-often a significant amount. But they also tend to use power-although not as much as they save.
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