Should you unplug your TV when leaving town?

I recently blogged about stuff to do when you’re leaving your house vacant for a while. I touched on plumbing, heating, and general stuff, but I didn’t mention anything regarding electricity usage. After writing that post, someone told me it’s a good idea to unplug stuff all over the house to help reduce phantom loads. A phantom load is the electricity being used by something when it’s not being used; for instance, the power it takes to operate the clock on your microwave.

I have a Sense Home Energy Monitor installed in my electric panel, so I did a fun experiment to see how much money I could save by unplugging everything. To help establish a baseline, I had to start by unplugging or shutting down the power to everything that regularly turns on and off by itself, such as the furnace, heat recovery ventilator, powervent water heater, and refrigerator. I shut down my desktop computer and my wife’s (sorry), which both pull quite a bit of power.

One thing that surprised me with this experiment was the power consumption for the lighting in my garage. I’ve added about a gazillion LED lights throughout my garage, all controlled by a single switch, and they use nearly 500 watts. Oof. Don’t forget to turn off the garage lights, kids!

Once I established a stable baseline of power, I unplugged everything I could think of that could create a phantom load:

  • Two laptop chargers
  • Two Chromebook chargers
  • Three televisions
  • Toaster oven
  • Boot dryer
  • Microwave
  • Coffee maker
  • Several computer monitors
  • Several phone chargers
  • Six Alexa devices
  • Two stereos

After unplugging all of these devices, I decreased my total power consumption by approximately 10 watts. It doesn’t sound like much, but what if I’m gone for an entire month? If I multiply 10 Watts x 24 hours x 30 days, I get 7,200 watt-hours, or 7.2 kilowatt hours (kWh). I currently pay $0.14/kWh, so this constant 10 watts would cost me 7.2 x .14, or just a hair over $1. Yep, one dollar’s worth of electricity for a month.

This was a lot of work to unplug everything, and the savings would be tiny. While phantom loads are real, they’re minimal. If you want to save electricity, shut down your computers when you’re not using them.

Written By

Reuben is a second-generation home inspector with a passion for his work. He grew up remodeling homes and learning about carpentry since he was old enough to hold a hammer. Reuben grew up thinking he was going to be a school teacher because he enjoyed teaching others so much. In a sense, that’s a lot of what home inspections are about, so Reuben truly does what he loves. Sharlene has worked with Structure Tech since 2000 and Reuben has been contributing to her blog since 2008.

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