How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Unplugging Seldom-Used Appliances

How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint By Unplugging Seldom-Used Appliances

Why Unplugging Appliances Helps the Environment

Unplugging appliances when they are not in use reduces your home’s energy consumption and lowers your carbon footprint. Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of electricity when plugged in, even when turned “off.” This is known as phantom load or standby power. By unplugging appliances instead of just turning them off, you eliminate this unnecessary energy use.

Reducing phantom load is an easy way to lower your environmental impact. If many households unplugged unused appliances, it could prevent millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

How Much Energy Do Appliances Use When Plugged In?

Many common household appliances draw power when plugged in, ranging from 1 to 25 watts. This might not seem like much, but it adds up.

Here are some estimates for phantom load from typical appliances:

  • Coffee maker: Around 1 watt
  • Microwave oven: Up to 3 watts
  • Television: 1 to 10 watts depending on size
  • Cable/satellite box: 15 to 25 watts
  • Gaming console: 15 watts or more
  • Computer and monitor: 20 to 60 watts

Having 10 appliances constantly drawing 1 to 10 watts may add 100 watts of standby power. Over a year, that could use over 800 kilowatt-hours of electricity and produce hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Unplugging just a few of your least-used devices could save dozens of kilowatt-hours annually.

Which Appliances to Unplug to Reduce Phantom Load

Focus on unplugging appliances that you only use occasionally or seasonally. Good targets include:

  • Small kitchen appliances: Toaster, blender, coffee maker, food processor
  • Entertainment devices: TVs, DVRs, game consoles, speakers
  • Office equipment: Computers, monitors, printers, scanners
  • Household tools: Vacuums, power tools, battery chargers
  • Seasonal appliances: Fans, space heaters, humidifiers

I unplug my blender and food processor when not in use since I only use them a couple times a week. I also unplug my portable heater and fan during seasons I don’t need them.

Tips for Successful Unplugging

Follow these tips to easily reduce phantom load:

  • Use power strips: Plug appliances into power strips you can switch off instead of unplugging each one.
  • Label cords: Use tape to label cords so you know which device they belong to.
  • Unplug before long vacations: Unplug all unnecessary devices when away for weeks.
  • Place reminder stickers: Put stickers saying “Please unplug when not in use” on appliances.
  • Share with housemates: Have everyone unplug unused devices in shared spaces.

I put my entertainment center devices on a labeled power strip I turn off when not watching TV. I also leave reminder notes to unplug small appliances after using them.

How Much Could You Save?

The amount you’ll save depends on your usage habits and how many devices you commit to unplugging. However, every little bit makes an impact.

As an example, here are some savings estimates:

  • Unplugging a 10 watt DVR when not in use: 50 kWh/year, $5/year
  • Unplugging a 40 watt computer system when not in use: 130 kWh/year, $15/year
  • Unplugging a microwave, blender and coffee maker: 100 kWh/year, $10/year

If one in ten households unplugged just a couple appliances, it would avoid millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year in the United States alone.

Take the Unplug Challenge

I hope these tips have inspired you to take the unplug challenge. Try going around your home and unplugging unused devices for one month. See how much you can reduce your phantom load and create a lasting habit for lower energy use. Small daily actions by many people add up to make a real environmental difference.