Phantom Devices

With all the technology and modern advances available in our society today, it is no surprise that “phantom” or “vampire” devices are a supposed issue. These are technological devices that still use energy while being plugged in but not used. People all over America keep TVs and computers, for example, connected to electricity at all times for their convenience. These devices also include refrigerators, heating and cooling systems, and lighting which are running constantly as more of a necessity rather than a convenience. What they don’t know, or aren’t completely aware of, is how much energy is actually wasted, financial costs and environmental costs. The question is how big of an issue is it and is it worth the convenience? It’s a fact that energy is wasted by these devices, but the actual amount of it per home in America provides better insight. Phantom power is not a significant issue at the time although there is still plenty of room for improvements.

According to the NRDC’s report on home idle loads, the annual average power wasted per household in America by these products is 1,300 kWh. When converted to joules it amounts to 46.8 trillion. According to The World Bank 2014 data on total electrical consumption, the annual usage of power in America per capita is 12,987 kWh. When converted to joules it amounts to 468 trillion. This means that wasted energy accounts for approximately 10% of all energy consumption of households in America.

 

\( 1300 \text{kWh}\times (3.6\times 10^6) \text J = 4.68\times 10^{10}\text J\)

 

\( 13000 \text{kWh}\times (3.6\times 10^6) \text J = 4.68\times 10^{11}\text J \)

 

\( (4.68\times 10^{10}) \text J \div (4.68\times 10^{11}) \text J = .1 \)

 

When comparing the amount of energy wasted to total energy used, it doesn’t cause too large of a concern. It’s only a small portion of actual efficient energy use. Even when looking at the cost of wasted energy in the U.S., $19 billion total or $165 per household (compared to $1300 for all consumption) it doesn’t seem like a huge impact. The environmental impacts are one the biggest factors for concern within energy consumption. The NRDC’s report claims that the amount of energy wasted is the equivalent of wasting the energy from “50 large power plants every year.” Currently, there are about 7,700 power plants in the U.S. These power plants burn fossil fuels. All power plants combined contribute to 35% of all carbon dioxide pollutants in the U.S. per year. That is a significant contribution from power plants. But, 50 power plants compared to 7,700 doesn’t seem to make a huge difference in emissions.

In 1960, the U.S. only used about 4000 kWh per capita per year. Within almost 60 years, the amount of power use tripled. This may cause alarm at first, but advancements with technology led to more use of fossil fuels for electric generation making this a logical increase. With there being an overall increase in kWh used per capita per year, the amount of wasted energy will only grow, and along with it will increase the percentage of carbon dioxide pollution.  With our society’s advances, we have also learned ways to be efficient.

Although wasted energy through phantom devices can be a cause for concern, it isn’t  permanent and can be reduced and/or prevented. An educated and mindful consumer is one of the first steps to less energy waste. For example, people may be more likely to unplug devices not being used or adjust power settings if they are aware of the positive benefits for themselves and others. Manufacturers can be partially responsible for the education of consumers. They are responsible for the promotion of the correlation between energy efficiency and their products. ENERGY STAR and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) paired to create more efficiency for residential, industrial, and commercial groups, etc. Since 1992, they have been working to save money and emissions and have been successful in their efforts. Specifically, 79,000 homes were improved and given the ENERGY STAR label in 2016. This means that the houses became 15-30% or more energy efficient. Through ENERGY STAR, 503 billion kWh and $34 billion have been saved within America. They also helped 2000 manufacturers and 2600 retailers to create products for residential and commercial use. A lot has already been done and many are aware of the financial and environmental costs of keeping devices plugged in that are not in use, but there is always room for improvement and more awareness.

In conclusion, only 10% of electrical energy is wasted energy by phantom devices. This results in financial and environmental burdens. It is definitely an issue, but with the right precautions and cumulative improvements, it can be a controlled concern.

Bibliography

Pierre Delforge, Schmidt, Lisa and Steve. “Home Idle Load: Devices Wasting Huge     Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use.”NRDC. Pat Remick. May 2015. 17 September 2017. https://www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/home-idle-load-IP.pdf (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)

“Electric power consumption (kWh per capita)”The World Bank. 2014.17 September    2017.https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EG.USE.ELEC.KH.PC (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

“How much of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are associated with electricity   generation.” U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2016. 24 September, 2017.https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=77&t=3 (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

“How many power plants are there in the United States.” U.S. Energy Information Administration. 1 December, 2016. 1 October, 2017. https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=65&t=2  

“About Energy Star.” ENERGY STAR. 2017. 1 October, 2017. https://www.energystar.gov/about 

 

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9 Responses to Phantom Devices

  1. Lindsey Goodrich says:

    Though you did identify a multiple of sources that qualify as “phantom” devices, I appreciate how you identify the ones that are a necessity to keep on, such as a refrigerator and lighting systems. With that being said, you still identified a possible way for people to cut back on the energy being wasted in the mention of Energy Star appliances. Through my on brief research I also found some simple practices that everyday people can implement in their daily lives. For example, the use of a power strip could possible save energy. By plugging in a multiple devices into a power strip and then when not in use unplugging it could save time and effort, the two main causes of wastefulness, for the user. They would not have to unplug each individual device to save energy and its conveniently located in one spot. For basic computer a simple selection of ‘sleep’ mode instead of ‘powersave’ could also reduce waste, contrary to what the name suggests. Finally, as you said toward the end of your paper “a mindful consumer is one of the first steps to less energy waste.” A person could understand their personal amount of waste and combat this by simply recognizing which appliance are the biggest contributors. This can be done through a home power meter, such as the Kill-a-Watt, which once the device is plugged into it, will identify how much energy is used. Altogether an informative piece that makes you think. Thanks.

    http://learn.eartheasy.com/2010/02/5-ways-to-save-energy-by-eliminating-phantom-loads/

  2. lmg5777 says:

    Though you did identify a multiple of sources that qualify as “phantom” devices, I appreciate how you identify the ones that are a necessity to keep on, such as a refrigerator and lighting systems. With that being said, you still identified a possible way for people to cut back on the energy being wasted in the mention of Energy Star appliances. Through my on brief research I also found some simple practices that everyday people can implement in their daily lives. For example, the use of a power strip could possible save energy. By plugging in a multiple devices into a power strip and then when not in use unplugging it could save time and effort, the two main causes of wastefulness, for the user. They would not have to unplug each individual device to save energy and its conveniently located in one spot. For basic computer a simple selection of ‘sleep’ mode instead of ‘powersave’ could also reduce waste, contrary to what the name suggests. Finally, as you said toward the end of your paper “a mindful consumer is one of the first steps to less energy waste.” A person could understand their personal amount of waste and combat this by simply recognizing which appliance are the biggest contributors. This can be done through a home power meter, such as the Kill-a-Watt, which once the device is plugged into it, will identify how much energy is used. Altogether an informative piece that makes you think. Thanks.

    http://learn.eartheasy.com/2010/02/5-ways-to-save-energy-by-eliminating-phantom-loads/

  3. Molly Mordan says:

    I also investigated wasted energy from electronics in idle mode, stand by, and from being plugged in. Initiatives like Energy Star are great, but we are also using far more devices than ever before. The more energy efficient models of refrigerators, TVs, washers and more significantly cut back on energy use. Manufacturers are moving in the right direction with improving the efficiency of their products, but do you think they are doing enough? Should we value the costumer’s convenience to have their products instantaneously ready to us and on standby, or should industries be transitioning toward modes that use barely any energy when they aren’t in use. As I investigated in my research, when you add up all the energy that could be saved if people unplugged their devices when not in use, you would have saved a monumental amount of money and energy, but the money saved per household is around $100 per year. Do you think a smaller electricity bill by $100 is enough to make people take action, and if not, what will?

  4. rjh314 says:

    I was amazed to read that a full 10% of household energy was wasted. That seems like a great deal, considering that it’s presumably an easily preventable problem. I can’t help but be curious as to what appliances of mine consume the most “phantom” power; I would assume some are far more wasteful than others. After a bit of googling, I found a site that listed some of the traditional “worst offenders”, and I found it a bit surprising. I assumed that things like computers would be at the top (and they are) but I didn’t know some other things, like phone chargers, were big energy drains. I leave mine (the charger, not the phone) plugged in all the time at home, so that’s a very easy change I can make in my everyday habits (unplug the charger when you unplug the phone).

    https://www.ecobee.com/2014/10/phantom-power-drain/

  5. hzw5186 says:

    I also did my Write and Respond on this topic, and I think you covered a lot of the main points with well thought out conclusions and observations. It was interesting how you questioned if using the vampire power was worth the convenience or not. This is important because most times when electrical devices are left on, it is due to this reason. To most people, unplugging devices is only a second thought. It was also helpful that you put your analysis into terms that helped readers understand the energy usage in a more personal way. The section I am referring to is when you learned that wasted energy makes up about 10% of energy consumption within American households. This is something that involves everyone, especially on a financial note, yet many don’t even realize it. Along with this, the comparison of energy to power plants was also interesting because it compares something unseen to people to something large and obstructive. Regardless of the outcome, having comparisons like this in “real world” terms and understandings is helpful to readers. It allows them to put it into a scale and to really begin to understand the impacts.

    Though you had a lot of helpful points throughout your essay, one thing that would make it a lot stronger is picking a distinct side of the argument: is it bad or is it not bad? There are times in the essay when this is unclear, such as when you say, “Phantom power is not a significant issue at the time although there is still plenty of room for improvements”.

    Overall, your essay was well done and it provided a lot of good information about the subject.

  6. Katri Randall says:

    I thought your write and response was very interesting. You brought up a very important idea that people often disregard. In today’s world, their should be no loss of energy from phantom devices because we just can’t afford to be wasting our energy. Its interesting to see based on your graph that 19 billion dollars are wasted on energy bills each year due to the phantom devices. I thought that graph really helped put a lot of your information into perspective, for example when it said how many cups of tea could be brewed per day with that energy lost I was so surprised.

    Although having the phantom devices plugged in is way more convient than having to unplug them when they are not in use, I feel like it is worth the extra effort for the amount of energy and money that is saved by doing so. One of the other comments mentioned that using a power strip could be a lot more convient, so all the devices could be easily unplugged at the same time. I think that is a great way to cut back on the energy wasted by phantom devices.

  7. Kelsey Carroll says:

    This was really interesting to me because I’ve thought about ‘phantom devices’ before. But, I’ve never really researched it or did any type of mathematics for it. I’m not surprised that it can be a problem if you aren’t paying attention to your electronics. For example, I leave my laptop plugged in at all times. Even if it doesn’t need to be charged or I’m not going to use it. I understand that it’s only 10% of the energy is wasted energy. It’s still worries me because a lot of people probably never think of these things. Or just don’t realize there’s things that are ‘phantom devices’. Your mathematics were also very well presented and easily understood by me.

  8. Liz says:

    This is one of my favorite write and respond articles. When I first published mine, I read your article because I was always interested in this topic. It is interesting to see how much energy we are really wasting when we leave our appliances plugged in that are not in use. Based off of your calculations, it was really interesting to follow your logic and see that only ten percent of all energy is actually wasted. To be honest, I think this number is very low when we think of all of the appliances that are plugged in but unused, especially in America alone.

    It is nice to see now, as mentioned in your article that companies today are making their appliances more energy efficient because they know that most consumers always keep big appliances plugged in when not in use (such as washing machines). If we all take small steps to unplug easier things such as lamps and smaller electrical items I’m sure we could bring the energy waste percentage down.

  9. Lauren Jardine says:

    This was an interesting post and I think the idea of phantom devices speaks greatly to our general indifference about using energy. WE very rarely think about the energy we use or the effect it has and phantom devices are a perfect example of this. If humans were more conscious of the consequences energy uses and its subsequent CO2 emissions I think phantom devices and energy waste wouldn’t be such a casual and common occurrence. In my in the new post I calculated my personal energy usage for my home and the yearly CO2 emissions as well as costs. It would be interesting to combine our ideas and discover how much money we spend on “vampire energy” and apply that to our own lives. I wonder what else could be done with that money. And of course as you pointed out while phantom energy is a small portion of our energy consumption, if everyone were to stop wasting unused energy it would go a long way for saving money, and our environment.

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