Cut the Cord - Save on Home Electronics Costs

Your computer doesn't cost a lot on your electricity bill. Neither does your home music center. Your TV doesn't cost that much to run either. But together your home electronics make a real dent on your electric bill contributing up to 20% of your power costs.

Electronic devices cost you money two ways - they draw power while in use, and surprisingly, many of them draw power when not in use. A rule of thumb is that if a light is displayed by your device when you’re not using it then it is drawing what energy experts call "vampire power". The devices are sucking electricity out of your outlets while you sleep.

The solution - power strips   devices that you plug your vampire appliances into and switch off all the devices at once when not needed, when you're out of the house and overnight. If you can, plug your TV, DVR and other home entertainment center devices into the power strip so you can turn them all off at once.

The worst of the vampire offenders is the set top cable television box. It draws 29 watts when not in use, multiplying the cost of cable television by a significant amount. One estimation has set-top boxes consuming $2 billion per year of wasted electricity while not in use, or 27 billion kilowatt hours/year. That is the equivalent of the output of nine 500 megawatt coal-burning power plants.

Almost 2/3 of the energy used by set-top boxes takes place when the box is not in use. Unplug the box when not needed or switch it off with a power strip! You'll save real money. New set-top technology is available in the ENERGY STAR Version 4.0 set-top box models. Request one from your cable provider. An unplugged set top box will require 5 to 10 minutes to reboot when turned back on but the power and cost saved is worth the wait.

Reducing excessive brightness on your tv screen can cut power use by up to 25%. If you are looking for a new TV shop for an ENERGY STAR qualified model - without sacrificing quality or performance you can save energy and cut your power bill.

The home office is another place where excess energy use can be cut. The computer, monitor, printer, copier and fax all consume energy when turned on but are not in use. Choose your needed device(s) and keep all the others turned off until needed. The choice of equipment can make a big difference also - an ENERGY STAR qualified computer uses 70% less electricity than standard models. In sleep mode they use no more than 4 watts. While in low power mode the ENERGY STAR computer runs cooler and lasts longer. If your computer must remain on, for example for remote access for your small business, an ENERGY STAR model is the best choice for energy cost savings.

No longer do you need to keep a computer on continuously to save power or wear on the equipment. Today that is no more than a misconception from the early days of very large computers. Today's personal computers are like appliances - turn them off when you don't need them. Screen savers also do not save power, they consume it - switch to sleep mode or turn off your monitor instead. And if you are looking for a new computer get a laptop - they are much more energy-thrifty than desktop computers consuming 50 watts while a desktop CPU and monitor consume 270 watts.

They look innocent, but battery chargers such as those used for your cell phone, contain a transformer that consumes power when they are plugged into the wall outlet whether in use or not. What to do? You know it by now - unplug it when you're not using it or put it on a power strip and turn that off when not needed.

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I am a Seattle-based writer. Energy efficiency and the achievement of human potential are my goals. I have worked as a legislative aide and a database manager, and recently started building a money- and energy-saving household goods online store featuring sensible and affordable home environment solutions including ENERGY STAR qualified products. Contact: Twitter: @Greenbespoke @SaveWattsatHome