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Phantom energy

By Sustainability Office on December 20, 2012

Phantom Energy refers to the electric power consumed by electronic appliances while they are switched off or in a standby mode. A very common source of Phantom Energy is a power adapter which has no power-off switch. Some such devices offer remote controls and digital clock features to the user, while other devices, such as power adapters for laptop computers and other electronic devices, consume power without offering any means of shutting down. Some devices that consume Phantom Energy are:

  • Power supplies, transformers and inefficient electronic devices.
  • VCRs, DVD players, TV’s and some audio systems
  • Microwave ovens
  • Computers, monitors, and printers
  • Devices with a stand-by light or clock.
  • Power adapters whether they are powering a device or not.
  • Video game consoles (e.g. Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox 360 & Sony PlayStation 3)
  • Charger cords for Laptops or cellphones

According to Energy Star, Phantom Load is responsible for 40% of your electrical usage! In fact, a quarter of the energy used by your TV each year is consumed when the TV is off!  This unnecessary waste of energy costs you money and harms our environment.

What’s Happening at Colgate?

Colgate University consumes over 27 million kWh of electricity every year (or over 7,000 kWh per person) and this costs us over $1.3 million annually.  Almost all electricity used on campus comes from hydroelectricity, with some supplemental nuclear, coal, and natural gas power.  As a result, our carbon emissions through electricity consumption is relatively low.  Nevertheless there are many things we can do to reduce our individual and campus-wide electricity consumption.

What You Can Do

  • Unplug laptop/phone chargers after your device is fully charged.   Chargers can draw as much as 5 to 20 times more energy than is actually stored in the battery if you continue to leave them plugged in!
  • Plug all electronics into a power strip or a Smart Strip. Simply plug all your electronic devices into the appropriate outlets on the smart strip and the problem is solved. Power strips work equally as well but require a little more work on your end – you have to flip the switch off every time you are finished using your device.
  • Buy Energy Star approved appliances that provide on/off switches. Energy Star appliances and home electronics that meet strict energy efficiency criteria established by the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Replace battery-powered devices, such as cordless phones or rechargeable razors with corded alternatives. This not only cuts down on the standby power required to charge the battery, but also reduces energy lost in battery charging and discharging inefficiencies.

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