Vampires Aren’t Bad – Why Unplugging Your Charger Is Pointless

Thank goodness we’re past the Twilight/vampire fad (or are we?), otherwise I would have had to start the article with a stupid pun or some other detractor from my message. I’m talking about vampire power consumption, not sexy sexy Edward ab juice.

Vampire power consumption. Power draw. Phantom load. You’ve heard of this, right?

(Please tell me you have.)

So what’s the deal Phil, why are you bringing this up?

(That’s a fair question, thank you for asking invisible, reoccurring, and oh so very soothing internal voice of mine.)

I was sitting down at my desk the other day and proceeded to unplug my wireless headphones from the charger. I instinctively turned off the power strip. As I got up and turned away, I paused for a minute. Why did I just do that?

I think the message has been hammered into our minds from every green-conscious twat person as long as I can remember – turn off or unplug your junk after you’re done using it. I’ve been doing it for quite some time, after all. For the uninitiated, vampire power consumption is simply the amount of electricity used by a device left plugged in even after it’s off. It’s a remarkably simple concept. Heck, there’s even power strips that do it for you.

But does it really make that much of a difference if you unplug your phone charger when you’re done with it? How about unplugging your laptop? Your TV?


Short answer: Nope.

Slightly longer answer: Still nope. But maybe sometimes.


You see, most modern chargers only use about 1 watt of electricity when they’re sitting idle. The best-of-the-best use even less at a paltry .5 watts. To put this in perspective, you could power 60 chargers for every one incandescent light bulb you use. 120 of them if you have an ultra-fancy model. Crazy, huh?

How much energy does an air conditioner use at standby? 1 watt tooMy gas oven? 4 watts.

Doesn’t that seem a bit…low?

These vampires aren't doing a good job at sucking up that energy juice. (Source)

These vampires aren’t doing a good job at sucking up blood energy. (Source)

Well yeah…it’s probably because maintaining low power consumption on idle is the law in many places.

It’s called the One-Watt Initiative, where manufacturers pledge to engineer their devices to use less than one watt when they aren’t being used. This wonderful initiative lead to several nations (and good ol California!) to make it a requirement.

But I’ve heard different.

Yeah, you probably have. You’re probably not wrong, either.

(See, I told you there would be a long answer!)

There has been loads of studies saying exactly that. However, many of us fall victim to this “vampire power” because we’re not turning off our devices, not because we aren’t unplugging them. For example, a PlayStation 3 console uses only one watt (newer models use .5) on standby. However, simply sitting at the menu while you re-up on Cheetos and Mountain Dew sucks up a total of 176 watts. Crazy huh?

Let’s be sensible people – don’t be crazy and unplug every damn thing that happens to be in a power outlet. Let’s be smart: let’s conserve by using less and by being more conscious about what you’re doing. At least you’ll get your sanity back.

Except for me. I’ll always be insane.

Further Reading:

One Watt Initiative – Wikipedia

Standby power – Wikipedia

Standby Power :  Data

Unplugging wall chargers does NOT save you energy


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