While Halloween may still be six months away, you likely have some "vampires" lurking around your home today – and they're taking a bite out of your wallet.
With many of our consumer electronics products plugged into electrical sockets — an average of 40 items per household connected at any one time – they're constantly "sucking" electricity, even when not in use. In fact, some of these products can still consume as much as 25% of its full power even when switched off.
Along with large appliances, which are the main culprits, other common "electricity vampires" include televisions, cable/satellite boxes, DVD and Blu-ray Disc players, game consoles, printers, phone chargers and desktop computers.
But there are several ways to help fight back against "vampire power" — also referred to as "standby power" or "phantom power" – plus there are other ways technology can help you save money in your home.
Simply unplug the gadgets from the wall when you're not using them, or when your devices have finished charging up. For example, your smartphone's battery is probably fully charged after 45 minutes, so there's no reason to keep it plugged into the wall overnight. Manually unplugging devices is the cheapest way to handle "vampires," but requires you to stay on top of it.
On a related note, curb idle time on your gadgets, such as having your laptop or game console go into sleep mode after a short period.
Special switches and power strips can also cut off electricity, on demand, or via a timer. Belkin, for example, has a line of Conserve-branded switches (from $6.99) that completely shuts off power to what's plugged into it — either with the flip of a switch or after a predetermined amount of time (from $9.99). Conserve power strips ($29.99 to $39.99) can also cut off any residual power to the device after a specific time or with a wireless remote switch. Supporting up to eight devices, these power strips include outlets you want powered all the time — such as a Digital Video Recorder (DVR), so it can still archive your favorite shows – while shutting off other outlets, like a TV, audio-video receiver, game console, and so on.
Ensure you're purchasing consumer electronics branded with the Energy Star logo as they've been tested and verified to be more energy efficient. You should see that familiar sticker on the box and product itself. When in doubt, ask a salesperson or write to the manufacturer on their website. Around since 1992, Energy Star-certified products will be eco-friendlier than those that did not earn the seal of approval. More info is at energystar.gov, including a list of its 2017 award winners for products with superior energy efficiency.
Replacing your incandescent or florescent bulbs with LED lights can greater reduce the amount of power your home consumes, as they sip rather than gulp electricity. A 60-watt equivalent, for example, might only be only 6.5 to 10 watts for comparable lumens with an LED light — not to mention they can last considerably longer, which saves you even more money. Philips LEDs start at about $5 for a regular white LED bulb, and with some that allegedly last up to 20 years. While they cost more, some LED lights are "smart" as they can join your Wi-Fi network, for automation and control, and some can change between millions of colors.
Smart thermostats let you easily adjust heating and cooling settings from your smartphone, tablet or smartwatch, and many can automatically optimize settings based on when you're home and when you're not. By learning your schedule and detecting the weather, ecobee3 lite ($169.00), for example, now works with optional wireless sensors for room-by-room comfort. ecobee estimates users save an average of 23 percent annually on heating and cooling costs, calculated by comparing to a hold of 72˚F.
You're not alone if you're concerned about water damage and the havoc it can wreak – especially if you knew the national average cost to repair water damage is now $2,175 (HomeAdvisor.com). Have some peace of mind with a simple solution like the D-Link mydlink Wi-Fi Water Sensor ($59.99). This small white doohickey plugs into an open power outlet — such as one in a basement, under a window or near an old water heater — and immediately notifies you if a leak is detected with a notification sent to your smartphone. There are no monthly monitoring costs as it joins on your existing Wi-Fi connection. Since you don't need to be physically there, this water sensor is also ideal for summer homes and rental properties.