Unplugging appliances that you don’t use very often is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Appliances that are plugged in continue to draw a small amount of power even when turned off. This is known as phantom load or standby power. Reducing phantom load can make a significant dent in your home energy use and carbon emissions. In this article, I will discuss various strategies and tips for identifying rarely used appliances to unplug and reduce standby power waste.
Which Appliances To Focus On Unplugging
Not all appliances are created equal when it comes to standby power draw. Here are some of the prime targets to consider unplugging if they are not used daily or frequently:
- Coffee maker – Very few people use their coffee maker multiple times a day. Unplugging it when not in use can save 5-10 watts.
- Toaster oven – Because of its heating element, a toaster oven can use up to 10 watts while plugged in. Unplug when not toasting.
- Microwave – Although the clock will need resetting, unplugging a microwave when not reheating food can save around 5 watts.
- Printer – Unless you print many times per day, unplug your printer to stop phantom load 10-30 watt drain.
- Computer speakers – Speakers can draw 5-10 watts when idle. Unplug when not listening.
- TVs – Modern flatscreen TVs use 1-10 watts on standby. Unplug rarely watched sets.
- Phone chargers, laptop chargers, tablet chargers, and any other chargers draw power when plugged in but not actively charging. Unplug all unused chargers.
Tips For Unplugging Effectively
Follow these tips to make unplugging appliances seamless and hassle-free:
- Use power strips – Group appliances together on power strips to make unplugging multiple items easy.
- Label plugs – Use labels or tape to identify which plug belongs to each appliance for easy re-plugging.
- Unplug before lengthy vacations – One of the best times to unplug is before leaving home for more than a few days.
- Periodically walk around to unplug – Make it a habit to periodically walk room to room unplugging unused appliances.
- Unplug small kitchen appliances after each use – Get in the routine of unplugging coffee makers, toasters, microwaves after using them.
- Consider smart power strips – These specialized power strips sense when devices are idle and automatically cut power.
Estimating The Standby Power Savings
The amount of energy you’ll save by unplugging appliances depends on:
- The number of appliances unplugged – The more items you consistently unplug, the more savings.
- The wattage of each appliance – Unplugging higher wattage devices like printers saves more.
- Time spent unplugged – The longer something stays unplugged, the more energy is avoided.
As an example, if you unplugged a 10 watt printer for 16 hours a day over the course of a year, you would save:
10 watts x 16 hours x 365 days = 58,400 watt-hours saved per year
58,400 watt-hours / 1000 = 58.4 kilowatt-hours (kWh) saved
At an electricity rate of $0.12 per kWh, that’s $7 per year saved just by unplugging one printer regularly. The savings add up quickly when applying across all your appliances.
Adopting New Habits and Reminders
Making a habit to unplug appliances takes some time and commitment. Here are some tips to stay motivated:
- Start small – Don’t try to unplug everything at once. Build the habit over time.
- Attach unplugging to existing habits – For example, unplug the toaster after each use.
- Leave reminders – Leave notes by appliances to remind yourself to unplug.
- Unplug before extended absences – Unplug items before multi-day vacations.
- Share the habit – Get other household members to unplug appliances too.
Over time, manually unplugging unused appliances becomes second nature. The small effort pays off in lower electricity bills and reduced environmental impact.
Regularly unplugging appliances that sit idle for large portions of the day can meaningfully reduce your home’s energy consumption. The unused standby power wasted by plugged-in appliances adds up over time. Forming simple habits like unplugging small kitchen appliances after use, electronics when not in use, and chargers when not charging can lead to tangible electricity savings. The reduced home energy usage will shrink your carbon footprint. Combine unplugging with other conservation habits like switching to LEDs, adjusting the thermostat, and washing clothes in cold water to make even greater progress toward sustainable living. Through mindfulness of your home appliance usage and standby power draw, unplugging can become an easy and impactful climate action.