Simple steps can reduce energy waste



by Jeff Jackson
Chief, Asset Management, Maxwell Air Force Base


10/8/2010 - MAXWELL-GUNTER AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Chances are many in the Maxwell-Gunter community have never heard the term "phantom load."

The name conjures up some pretty scary ideas. Some call it vampire power, lomo (low mode) power or stand-by power. All these terms refer to the power being used by many appliances even when they are turned off. Appliances like coffee pots, TVs, DVD players and even phone chargers use power when the switch is turned to the off position.

Alan Meier, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, noted that many household appliances are never fully switched off, but spend most of the time in a standby mode. His study estimated that standby power consumption was responsible for about 5 percent of total residential electricity consumption in America, "adding up to more than $3 billion in annual energy costs." If translated into Air Force parlance, that means millions of dollars is spent each year just for the convenience of having that appliance warmed up and ready for use all the time.

What can be done to reduce or eliminate phantom load in homes and offices? There are a number of simple steps every one can take to help save the Air Force energy and precious resources.

The following list is not exhaustive, but a start:

- Unplug devices when not actively in use.

- Plug devices into a power strip and turn the strip off when leaving the office or home. Better yet -- purchase a smart strip that turns the power off at predetermined times.

- Buy Energy Star appliances to reduce phantom load for devices that would be impractical to turn off.

- Pay particular attention to the small chargers -- these devices can be from 60-80 percent inefficient. Unplug them from the wall when they're not actively charging.