Posts Tagged ‘conserve energy’

Image from Lyn Tec

Image from Lyn Tec

There is something lurking in households all over the US that is costing its residents an average of $220 or 5-10% of their annual electric bill. The culprit is called vampire power, or phantom load. It’s the power that electronic devices consume even while in standby mode. Kilowatt hours of electricity are being used just by being plugged into the wall.

Vampire power costs the US 100 billion kWh of electricity and over $10 billion in annual energy costs according to energystar.gov. That means, based off a 500 MW coal power plant which can produce up to 2.2 billion kWh of electricity per year, it would take 45.5 coal power plants to produce the amount of electricity vampire power consumes each year!


Image from Bentley University

Image from Bentley University

The top 5 vampire electronics per typical household are:

1. TVs- Rear projection and plasmas are the highest electricity consumers.

2. Video game consoles- Xbox and PS3 gaming consoles can cost around $25 per year.

3. Computers- Keeping your laptop plugged into the wall 24/7 can degrade the battery along with costing you money to keep it at a max charge.

4. Cable/satellite TV box- Along with a monthly payment, these services also come with a hidden fee in wasted electricity.

5. Phone chargers- Although they are small, if left in an outlet these vampire suckers just add to the lost power.


Image from Sierra Club

Image from Sierra Club

Things you could do to lessen vampire power and save money:

Lessening the impact of vampire power on your electricity bill doesn’t have to be unplugging every power hungry item every time you aren’t using it.There are many ways you can lessen the bill. Buying electronics that have the Energy Star emblem on the box guarantees that product lies within the EPA’s efficiency guidelines and consumes less energy while it’s in standby mode.

Saving energy and money can also be as simple as switching to power strips specifically designed to reduce vampire power. 3 different types of power strips- the timer, occupancy sensing, and current sensing strip- are designs that cater to different people and settings.

1. Timer strip allows user to set timers for when the current can flow within the strips. In an office setting this design could work best by turning power on and off in sync with hours of operation.

2. Occupancy sensing strip turns on power flow when it senses motion in the room, cater towards homes and home offices.

3. Current sensing strip detects the energy mode of an electronic, such as a computer monitor, which is plugged into the master outlet. If the monitor of a computer is in sleep mode, the current sensing strip will cut the electrical current to the rest of the electronic plugged in such as a printer, speakers, or other computer related device.

Small simple changes can be made to reduce the vampire power of each home or office, reducing not only the cost of your electric bill but also its environmental impact.

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ERCOT asks folks to set their thermostats no higher than 68 degrees

On March 2nd, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the Texas electric grid operator, issued a watch due to the strong arctic front that made its way into Texas and through the ERCOT system.  ERCOT is experiencing resource and transmission issues and is appealing to Texas customers to continue limiting their electric use as much as possible through 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 4, as these late winter weather conditions continue.

Power demand at ERCOT exceeded the previous March record of 43,033 MW every hour since 5 p.m. Sunday, March 2.  ERCOT’s Report on the Capacity, Demand, and Reserves for 2013 shows a projected firm load forecast for winter 2014 of 53,742 MW, with operational generation of 72,476 (assuming there is not a sudden loss of generation during a winter event) with potential resources of 80,164.  Of course, some units are down for scheduled maintenance so the potential resources and operational generation can be significantly lower at any given time and if there is sudden loss of generation as the state experienced in early February 2011, the state could experience rolling blackouts.

On February 2nd in 2011, ERCOT declared an energy emergency after unusually frigid weather unexpectantly shut down numerous power generators that produced 7,000 megawatts, about 8 percent of the installed capacity.  That day, Texas imposed statewide rolling blackouts for only the second time in over two decades. Texans across the state were frustrated and cold, many initially blaming wind energy for the loss of power, but in fact, wind was performing as expected.  It was coal and gas plants that destabilized the grid that day, but because ERCOT does not release information for 30 days after an outage about who is to blame, renewables were the scapegoat.  So if we go into rolling blackouts, wait for thirty days before you start blaming one power source over others.

Concerned About Rolling Blackouts? There’s an app for that!

Because of the 2011 heat wave and drought, ERCOT introduced an app for smartphones intended to alert Texas users about emergencies to the electric grid that could trigger rolling blackouts.  This alert system would urge consumers to conserve energy during those times.

In the midst of the record breaking heat in the summer of 2011, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas called on Texans to conserve when power generators weren’t able to keep up with extreme demand on several days. That conservation helped ERCOT avoid rolling outages. The new app will notify users of Apple and Android devices when the grid operator needs people to cut back usage to avoid blackouts.

iPhone, iPad and Android users can find the free ERCOT Energy Saver app by searching for ERCOT in the Apple and Google app stores, or you can link to the app below.

ERCOT will also use traditional methods of alerting the public about grid emergencies, but for the tech obsessed – this is an option.  As for me, armed with my smart thermostat, its smartphone app and the ERCOT app, I stand ready to do my part this winter.


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