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Craig Muccio

About "Ask the Energy Expert"

Craig Muccio runs FPL's Conservation Research & Development Program and crunches the numbers to figure out how you can save by managing your energy use.

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Why do all plugged in electric items use electricity when turned off?

By Craig Muccio

Asked on: August 9, 2012 by John D., St. Augustine

Why do plugged-in electric items use electricity when turned off? If current isn’t flowing, why are they taking power?

Don’t get spooked, but you may have energy phantoms lurking in your home. Phantom energy, or phantom load, is electricity consumed by an electrical device when it is in the “off” mode. The good news is that these energy phantoms account for only a tiny fraction of the energy use compared to when devices are “on.“ There are several reasons why home appliances and electronics still use up to a few Watts even when turned off. Many devices in your home are ready to operate or receive power even when they are not being used, but are plugged in. To stay ready for use, current continues to flow to items such as cell phone chargers, televisions and kitchen appliances. That is why adapters plugged into the wall feel slightly warm even when the device is “off.” Common energy phantoms in your home include appliances with time displays, like microwaves, and remote-controlled devices, like TVs and cable boxes, that need only a small amount of power to receive the signal. VCR’s have clocks and little computers to turn them on and off automatically at specified times, which is called standby power. Phantom loads can be as little as one Watt, particularly in Energy Star© electronics and appliances and, in older electronics it is typically only a few Watts. Keep energy phantoms at bay by unplugging items until needed. Also, use power strips to cut power to multiple items with one switch. To see how much your appliances cost you on a monthly basis, use our appliance calculator at www.FPL.com/appliance.

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