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When To Pull The Plug On Your Appliances To Save Energy & Money

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Have you ever needed an outlet, looked around your house and saw that all of them are already in use? Or have you wondered if you could save money from unplugging appliances and would it really be worth it? Our living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens are loaded with the latest tech gadgets and appliances to help make our lives easier, but at what cost? We’ll break down what items you should pull the plug on and what items you’ll want to keep plugged in.


Coffee makers, phone chargers and everyday household items use something that we call vampire power or phantom power. Even if they’re turned off or are not in use, these devices are still using power just by being plugged in to a power outlet. Ever wonder how much power our gadgets consume when we aren’t even using them?

It’s estimated that households on average have 40 appliances that are constantly using power, contributing to 10% of household energy use. That adds up to about $100 a year [source: Trulia].

Beyond setting the A/C a few degrees warmer, we can all do ourselves a favor by unplugging the devices that we don’t use all the time. Here’s a list of items that you should definitely unplug, and the ones that you can afford to leave plugged in.

Unplug these:

  1. Small Kitchen Appliances

    Some kitchen appliances would be impractical to unplug: dishwasher, oven, refrigerator or the microwave. However, others are worth the extra effort, like coffee makers, food processors, toasters and juicers. Unplug those. Granted some coffee makers have a digital clock, but that clock is using energy and unless you need to know the time at the opposite side of the kitchen counter, you can go ahead and unplug it.
  1. Chargers

    Many of us are guilty of leaving our phone chargers plugged in all day. Our laptops, phones, electric toothbrushes, and razors are all adding to the electric bill every minute they’re plugged in, even if they aren’t actually charging the device. The best habit you can work on is to unplug the charger as soon as you’re at 100% battery life.
  1. Entertainment Systems

    Bear with me on this one. Our TVs, cable boxes and any additional enhancements like sound bars or DVD players are the worst when it comes to wasting power. It doesn’t seem to be very practical to unplug these devices each morning when you leave for work and reboot them each evening, but if you’re a big user of any streaming services, you might want to reconsider.

    If you don’t use a DVR to record shows, unplugging everything before you leave for work will at least save you eight or so hours of energy. Unplugging your entertainment devices when you leave for a vacation is also a smart idea.

    Also, if you have extra rooms in your house for entertainment purposes like a game room that’s primarily used on the weekends, those too can be unplugged during the week to help boost your energy savings.
  1. Computers

    Reality check: Screen savers and standby/sleep mode don’t make that much of a difference. If you have a desktop or laptop computer, try to make the effort to unplug them every night. This is the key to actually saving energy and the reboot time these days will only cost you an extra five minutes or so.
  1. Miscellaneous Items

    Other household items like lamps, night lights, candles or even oscillating fans that remained plugged in can easily be unplugged before or after each use to conserve energy. If you also have a treadmill or other home gym equipment that requires power, pull the plug! All of these items can reboot or warm up quickly.  There is no need to keep them plugged in.  These are guilty vampire power users.

Keep these plugged in:

  1. Nondigital Electronics

    As noted, most electronics use small amounts of power when plugged in but some of the older models won’t have all the newest technology enhancements to limit energy consumption. Other appliances like the new state-of-the-art washers and dryers with digital displays will absolutely use power when turned off, but your older models that don’t have all the fancy options most likely won’t.
  1. Power Strips

    The gadget that you can definitely leave plugged in – and should probably invest in having more of – is the smart power strip. When you plug in multiple items like your computer, printer, scanner, etc into the power strip, it’s an easy flip of the switch to cut off power to all of those devices. This is an instant dagger to the heart to prevent vampire power and eliminates the need to repeatedly unplug each appliance from the wall.

Overall, taking the steps to cut back on phantom power users won’t leave you noticeably richer each month, but it’s an easy way to cut back on your monthly electric bill by 5-10%. Additionally, if you can convince your family and friends to do the same, the positive impacts could be widespread. Free up those outlets and only charge yourself for the power that you’re truly using.

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