Thursday, August 28, 2014

Entering the Phantom Zone

In the winter of 2007, I practically starred in the final episode of the hit TV show "Smallville." That's practically almost a complete lie (I was only an extra), but I'm using it as a segue, since that episode was called "Phantom" and I'm on here today to write about Phantom Power.

Now, I'm assuming that you're not one of those morally bankrupt people who laughs at depression-era folk for walking around turning off the lights in unoccupied rooms. Heck, you probably do a bit of that yourself, and maybe you even (gasp) leave the lights off from time to time and let the natural light of day come in through the windows. But it's possible that you're unaware of something called Phantom Power, which is the energy used by appliances when they're turned off, but still plugged into a power source.

Here's some information on Phantom Power from an article on the How Stuff Works website:

"According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL), the average home contains 40 products constantly drawing power. Individually, the electricity flowing to a TV that's been turned off or a coffeemaker programmed to brew in the morning is extremely small, but together, these sleeping devices may account for as much as 10 percent of household energy use."

This may sound like no big whoop, but the article goes on to say...

"Let's consider the example of an old VCR in the basement that draws 13 watts, all day, every day, for an entire year. Every 1 watt of power translates into just a bit less than 9 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year (1 watt x 24 hours per day x 365 days per year = 8,760 watt-hours a year = 8.76 kWh/year):
13 watts x 8.76 kWh/watt/year = 113.88 kWh/year
So at 13 watts, the VCR consumes about 114 kWh per year. Assuming an electricity cost of 11 cents per kWh (your actual cost may be higher or lower, depending on your provider), the cost to power the VCR comes to about $12.53 per year, or just over $1 per month. When you think of it in those terms, it doesn't seem like much. But consider that you may have as many as 20 or 30 other appliances using phantom power as well, and you can see how the numbers begin to add up. According to the Energy Star Web site, the average U.S. household spends more than $100 each year to power devices that are turned off. Nationally, phantom power accounts for more than 100 billion kWh and more than $10 billion in energy costs each year. "
Mu-say-whu-zuuuuu!?!?!?!?!
TEN. BILLION. DOLLARS.
That's is a lot of clean water for kids in cholera-prone areas. That's a lot of mosquito nets for children who'll otherwise die of malaria. Heck, that's a lot of ice cream you can buy for your less electricity-conscious friends. 
And pause, for a moment, to reflect on where all those 100 billion kWh come from. They come from War-for-Oil. They come from mountaintop coal removal. They come from damning and destroying our natural waterways. 
Now, my guess is that you don't mean to pillage and rape the planet and anybody too poor to stop you from taking "their" natural resources, just so that you won't have to unplug that VCR (or ipod docking station, or whatever) every time you're not using it. You're not a monster, after all. You're one of the good guys. 
So as one of the good guys, why don't you go take a gander at the rest of the article for some easy things you can do today to save the planet, and a couple 'a bucks.

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