Searching for Energy Vampires

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I checked out a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor from the public library and I’ve used it to test most of the gadgets around the Root Simple compound. I focused on the stuff that’s plugged in all the time to see if I could discover any hidden energy vampires.

Unsurprisingly, the refrigerator uses the most power and costs around $81.67 a year to operate. At the risk of turning this blog post into an exercise in appliance virtue signalling, that’s not too bad. We keep the freezer full which helps conserve a small amount of power (empty space in the freezer or fridge takes more energy to cool). The fridge is often full of way too many condiments on their way to becoming compost, but this also probably saves a small amount of energy. And it’s a smallish fridge. Joining the radical fridge-free partisans of the homesteading movement would knock the power bill way down but I’m just not in the mood to give up my cushy first world lifestyle.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 9.02.10 AM

The modem/wi-fi router/desktop computer combo that keeps this blog humming consumes around $18.15 a year (with the computer off). I’d love to have a large, theatrical kill switch that would simultaneously save energy and cut off the internet. This would stop the urge to compulsively check Facebook and watch YouTube cat videos. Hit the big red button and you’d have to settle down with a book. But the “internet of things” in our household (a “smart” irrigation controller and a Ring doorbell make this impracticable). The Man always finds a way to keep us connected and dependent!

Our old microwave consumes the next greatest amount of power at $3.88 a year. The microwave should definitely be shut off when not in use. It’s also old and I suspect newer models probably consume less power when not in use.

Speaking of newer gadgets, our ginormous Costo flat screen TV (they give them away when you buy a slice of pizza) doesn’t seem to use measurable power when turned off. And that flat screen has been turned off a lot lately since I’m peeved at another instance of a Hollywood film crew blocking my beloved Sunset Blvd. bike lane. I’ve decided to boycott the film industry again and read books until Hollywood brings us a new Tarkovsky (meaning my boycott will be permanent).

My next, and more mathematically challenged, Kill A Watt project is to compare incandescent and LED lighting. Stay tuned.

What measures have you taken to drive a stake through energy vampires?

Leave a comment


  1. Chez nous, we try to put energy vampires on power strips, then turn off the strips until the devices–television, microwave, computers–are needed. Also, I take an NT day (“No Technology”) day now and then, which allows me to turn off the modem and wifi extender, saving a bit more electricity. Lights out when leaving a room; LED instead of fluorescent (which are instead of incandescent). I guess these are all pretty standard steps. Oh, we also subscribe to a supplementary green energy provider (Bullfrog Power) which supports projects that match our electricity and natural gas use; this actually increases our energy costs, and doesn’t necessarily reduce our usage, but it does make sure that the grid receives more green power over time on our behalf.

  2. When my last fridge died, the new one I got on Craigslist (new to me) cut my power costs by a third. The payback on the fridge was 30 months. Meaning free after that time.

  3. For our microwave, toaster and a few other of our vampires, we use a Belkin Conserve socket. You press a button on the top to turn it on, and a switch on the side lets you set the time it will remain on (1/2 hour, 3 hours or 6 hours). Ours are typically set to 1/2 hour. After that time, it disconnects and stops drawing power.

  4. As other commenters have said, we put a number of our things on power strips. Unfortunately, the husband (an electrician) insists that the microwave remain on at all times, just in case he needs to heat up a cup of coffee. Otherwise, our electrical conservation consists of me, the Power Nazi, turning off all manner of things that the husband leaves turned on when he wanders off, which he does a lot.

  5. Did a complete incandescent to LED lightbulb switch.
    Figured out that if EVERY lightbulb was turned on it would only equal two 60W incandescent bulbs!

    Electric bill is now $8/mth.

    • Good question. The heater is gas and we have one window air conditioner. I’ve got to take it down from the attic and test it.

  6. Switching all of our lightbulbs in the house to LED saved us about $30 a month in electricity, and I’ve only had to change maybe two bulbs in two and a half years. We just had new windows put in this month, so I’m looking forward to an even lower electric bill soon 😉

  7. People thought I was crazy when I sold my full-size fridge and replaced it with a yard sale dorm-size fridge and a bartered-for chest freezer. It has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. My power bill went down dramatically, and I confirmed that a large fridge was wasteful for just one person. Recently my dorm fridge died, so I’m temporarily living with a borrowed full-size fridge and my power bill has shot back up. If I still had a full-size fridge, I would have had to pay $125 (the cost of some brand new small fridges) just for the repair guy to look at it, never mind the cost of repairs. With the dorm fridge, I send it to recycling and move on. As a disabled person with a very tiny budget,this just makes sense.
    I’m currently looking for another good used dorm fridge.

  8. This is off-topic, but how about a feature on pet fountains? I’m considering one for my 2 dogs and 2 cats. I’d like info on the pros and cons, and tips, etc.

    • We should do a post. I’ve been pretty happy with the fountain we have–it’s an attractive ceramic one. Cats and the new dog seem to both like it.

Comments are closed.