Eco-Saturday: Eliminate phantom loads

I know, I know. I owe you a Folk Thursday, a Vegan Friday and an Eco-Saturday. This week has been nuts. Let’s start with today’s Eco-Saturday offering, and I’ll work backwards from there.

One quick and very easy way to reduce your environmental footprint is by eliminating phantom loads.

A phantom load is, in essence, a very small but completely unnecessary power drain. It doesn’t help you at all. It doesn’t make you more comfortable. It doesn’t entertain you. It doesn’t save you time or money. It just sits there sucking power for no good reason, and odds are fairly high you don’t even know it’s doing it, because it does it even while it’s shut off — hence the term “phantom.”

For instance, if you have a stereo, its speakers draw a small amount of power whenever it’s plugged in — even if you’re not using it, and even if you shut off the power button. My record player, television, compact stereo and digital piano all create phantom loads. So do the built-in clocks on my stove and microwave and the pointless little blue light on my coffee grinder.


Shutting off the appliance isn’t enough. To eliminate a phantom load, you have to cut off the power supply altogether. You can do this by unplugging the appliance, of course, but a much faster and easier approach is to plug it into a power strip; then, instead of plugging and unplugging all the time, you can simply flip the switch on the power strip, cutting off all the energy to the appliance and eliminating the corresponding phantom load.

You can buy a basic power strip for less than $10. It’s an easy, convenient way to save energy, and if you’re thinking of installing solar panels on your home at some point in the future, this is a must-do. Solar panels cost about $800 apiece, so the fewer of them you have to buy, the better off you are. I’d be mad if I shelled out $800 just to power a bunch of redundant digital clocks and useless lights whose sole function is to tell me the coffee grinder is ready to work.

In general, if an appliance has a built-in speaker or clock, it’s drawing power all the time and probably should be plugged into a power strip.


4 thoughts on “Eco-Saturday: Eliminate phantom loads”

  1. Only problem with microwaves on power strips is that you can only get about 3 and a half minutes before it overloads the breaker and shuts off.

      1. Could have been running something else at the same time, too. The microwave at one of our old houses went on strike whenever we tried to make toast while it was running.

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