Vampires are roaming our landscape. Movies, TV, books, the Internet…it’s been hard to avoid the sight of those pasty-faced creatures baring their hideous fangs. But oh, how I’ve tried. The national obsession with vampires has simply never sunk its teeth into me.
I’ve always lumped vampires in with other imaginary creatures, like zombies, angels, and fairies. They don’t really exist, so why waste my time thinking about them?
I’m not opposed to the idea of magic. There genuinely seem to be times in our lives when magic, or–more accurately–good luck, rains down on us, and our lives are happier as a result.
But vampires? Forget it.
Now comes word of another kind of vampire. And this kind really demands our attention, even mine. The term “vampire” is now applied to what the Environmental Defense Fund calls “energy suckers” (as opposed to bloodsuckers). New devices like cable boxes and game consoles are so power-thirsty that, whether or not you’re using them, they consume enormous amounts of energy. One estimate is that each year they consume as much energy nationally as the entire state of Maryland.
Are you surprised to learn that we’re also sucking up power when we keep our chargers, DVRs, laptops, and microwaves on standby? EDF notes a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of suburban homes in California. The study found that these devices account for as much as 10 percent of a home’s energy consumption.
Shall we plunge a stake into the hearts of these vampires? We can do it by adopting a bunch of new approaches to our electronic devices. Some may sound inconvenient at first, but so did brushing my teeth with my (battery-powered) electric toothbrush till I got used to it. So let’s try at least a few of these.
First, we can do something as simple as unplugging our smartphone chargers. Unbeknownst to many of us, leaving those chargers plugged in uses energy. A more significant step? Turn off the power strips that supply energy to powerful devices we’re not using every minute. You can start by flipping the switch on the power strip behind your TV.
Even less inconvenient: Simply look for the Energy Star logo when you buy new appliances. The products that receive this stamp of approval can cut standby use by 30 percent.
But wait, there’s more. You can return to those thrilling days of yesteryear and use old-school methods that conserve energy. Dry your clothes on a clothesline instead of a dryer. And when you do use your dryer or dishwasher, make sure you’ve put in a full load. Try opening curtains, shades, and blinds during the day so natural light can brighten your home.
Two more things to consider: investing in a programmable thermostat like Google’s Nest, which won’t waste energy when you’re not home, and switching to an on-demand water heater (or insulating your old one).
Finally, look into apps that can reduce your energy bill. New smartphone apps allow you to turn on or off any device that’s plugged into an outlet, even when you’re away from home.
The ultimate goal, of course, is renewable energy. We’re moving slowly but inevitably toward the adoption of more and more ways to switch to renewable energy. In the meantime, you needn’t be a disciple of Al Gore to acknowledge this inconvenient truth: We don’t have to let modern-day vampires suck energy the way Dracula sucked the blood of his victims. Be(a)ware of these vampires, and save energy when you can.