The phantom menace

Even when you’re not using them, the appliances in your home are still very likely costing you money. That’s because even when they’re turned off, many continue to use energy—a phenomenon known as phantom loads. In most American households, it’s estimated up to 5 percent of the electricity bill is generated by phantom loads.

Appliances with any these features will continue to use energy when shut off:

• AC adapter plug

• Battery charger

• Instant-on

• Internal memory

• Permanent display

• Remote control

• Sensor

About one-quarter of the energy used by a television is consumed when it’s off. Some types of compact stereos, especially older models, use nearly as much energy off as they do when they’re on. Phone chargers are also a culprit, consuming up to 50 percent of the device’s wattage, even when disconnected from your phone.

Here are two things to remember in exorcising the dreaded phantom load:

Unplug ’em: This practice may take some getting used to, but unplugging appliances is the best way—the only certain way—to eliminate wasted energy.

Strip it: It’s often inconvenient to unplug every single appliance, so buy some power strips and plug your appliances into them. Then just turn off the strips when you’re not using the appliances.