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Having the home energy squad come in was fantastic but they can only help suggest improvements to your home's overall energy efficiency. It's up to you to take those steps.

Find Out How Energy Efficient Your Home Is With a Home Energy Audit
This will be a two-part series on chasing down energy vampires. Part 1 is about Going on the Hunt and who to call when you need some help...

Beware the Power Phantoms

Another step you can take to see immediate impact is identifying and eliminating your Power Phantoms. Power Phantoms are a nefarious subset of the Energy Vampire so-called because you may not see or think about them. They are excellent at blending in so they go unnoticed, quietly sucking down kilowatt smoothies every hour, 365 days a year.

Common Power Phantoms are:

  • Your game console on "standby" mode
  • Your PC
  • Home theater equipment
  • Appliances
  • Attic fans
  • Alarm clocks
  • Lights
  • and so much more...

Identifying Power Phantoms

To detect these elusive creatures, you must measure the power draw of your devices. For the holidays, I asked for this electricity usage monitor, the aptly named Kill A Watt.

Kill A Watt electricity usage monitor

You could pull out the big guns, though, and try something like the Sense Energy Monitor which uses a neural network to detect everything that uses power in your home. 🀯 Do your research before buying though as it seems like it can take up to a year to identify devices and sometimes even after two years it still won't find everything. The ability to see your load in real-time might almost be worth it, though!

The Kill-A-Watt though is a budget-friendly device and is pretty straightforward to use:

  1. Configure the monitor with your electric rate (found on your energy bill) per KWh
  2. Plug your device (or power strip, if you only care about total usage) into this
  3. Plug this monitor into an outlet
  4. Leave for more than 24 hours or whatever represents your "usual" usage period
  5. Use the buttons to view the cost per day/week/month/year
  6. Prepare to be blown away 😱

The 4th point was what I didn't understand fully at first. You need to let this monitor your electricity usage over a day or two so it can estimate the cost based on projected usage. I left it in for a couple days in each place I wanted to measure then added them up in an Excel spreadsheet.

Spreadsheet of power usage by outlet with 24 hour, monthly, and yearly costs
Listing out each outlet's power usage

What I found frankly blew me away. The fan in our bedroom, which we (used to) use every night for 8-12 hours essentially was costing us $40 a year! And we only needed it for the noise not for the airflow. We love the Marpac Dohm noise machine we got our son, and you can see above it only costs $2/year plus we use it every night. But I already had a Google Home plugged-in somewhere that wasn't used as frequently and I learned it can play ambient sounds. Frugal-win-at-the-expense-of-privacy! πŸ˜…

Saving money with smart power strips

By monitoring the power strip used for my home theater setup I discovered it was costing us a pretty penny. In one outlet I had a surge protector power strip with all the following devices plugged in:

  • TV
  • Xbox One
  • PS4
  • Xbox 360
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Raspberry Pi
  • Home theater receiver
  • Subwoofer

The Xbox One and PS4 were both set to "power saving" mode. The fact is: none of this needs to be sucking power 24/7.

After reading some reviews online I decided to get the 10-outlet Bits Limited Energy Saving Power Strip for my home theater which has stellar reviews and the ability to automatically cut off power to certain outlets if the "master" outlet turns off. It's fantastic and I highly recommend this!

Bits Limited LCG-3MVR Energy Saving Power Strip

One of the primary reasons I bought this specific one was this feature in the description:

Unlike most power strips, the Smart Strip itself uses very little energy. It uses one watt of power when fully engaged and less than ΒΌ of a watt when the automatically switched outlets are off.

Turns out, your power strip may itself be a Power Phantom 😫 Albeit probably fairly tame but hey, we are trying our best to vanquish these demons.

For my setup, I plug my TV into the blue (master) outlet which will cut the power to the other green outlets if my TV is off. This works great even with my home theater receiver which automatically turns on when my TV turns on. The blue outlet allows power so I can still turn the TV on via a remote.

The other thing I had to do was come to terms with the fact that I didn't really need to keep my console on standby so I turned off that setting so they completely power down. The power strip does let you have some always-on devices (3 outlets) but I decided to only put the Nintendo Switch dock in one, to allow charging the console.

I have a similar set-up in my home office with my PC (which I keep on... 🀐) so I picked this Tripp Lite 8-outlet strip specifically because I needed a long cord and this one is 8 feet long.

Tripp Lite 8 outlet power strip

My PC will go into the master outlet so when it turns off, the rest turns off but I have not yet hooked this up.

Did all of this pay off?

Indeed it did! We had the energy squad over on Oct 31 and I had installed the new power strips by then as well. Check out our November statement which shows a decrease in consumption of nearly $50. That's over $9000 in future savings over 10 years, amazing!

$50/month is equivalent to basic Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Video and HBO combined.

If I compare the usage to last November 2018, we used 12KwH less this year which hopefully means we are trending down in time for the summer season where energy costs nearly double.

For December, it is looking pretty similar though we've had Christmas lights and our mother-in-law staying with us for two weeks so there's been more than the usual activity during work hours. I expect it to get even better once I set up my office with the power saving strip.

We still have a long way to go because remember that first energy consumption graph at the start? That's as of November meaning we are still using way too much! Sigh. A vampire hunter's work is never done.

In the next post, I'll dive into different ways to save when you're ready to replace appliances for better energy efficiency!