Hunting Vampires and Phantoms


The hunt

The term “vampire power” or “phantom load” have been taken up into the cultural lexicon. For those who have not heard the terms before they refer to the power use in a house by things that aren’t doing anything useful. Like a TV in standby mode.

I used my trusty power meter to check all the power outlets in my apartment in order to calculate my phantom load. Here is what I found:

# Power outlet Power (watt) Notes
1 Living Room (TV) 13 TV, Computer Etc
2 Living Room (Couch) 10.8 Laptop Charger, Routers
3 Kitchen 1 0 Toaster, Kettle
4 Kitchen 2 16.8 Fridge
5 Kitchen 3 0.5 Microwave
6 Kitchen 4 0 Induction Cooktop
7 1st Bedroom 0.4 Chargers
8 Bathroom 1 0.1 Washing Machine, Tumble Drier
9 Bathroom 2 0 Hairdrier
10 2nd Bedroom 9.6 Printers, Laptop

This gives me a total phantom load of 51.2 watt.

Now it might be difficult to place this in context. Lets start by calculating what 1 watt of phantom load would cost me in a year.

\frac{1W}{1000W}\times{24\ Hours}\times{365\ days}=8.76\ kWh

At an electricity price of $0.2376/kWh this single Watt is costing me $2.08 a year. This won’t break the bank but it will add up quickly for more than a single watt. So my total phantom load is costing me $106.57 a year. This money is being wasted since I get nothing in return except for a standby light in some cases.

The Kill

Now that I have found all the vampire draw, how do I get rid of it? The easiest way is to turn the power off at the power point, if that is accessible and convenient. I have started doing this in the 2nd Bedroom with the computer and printers. BAM! Almost 10W saved.

The other weapon in our arsenal is the humble timer plug.

Timer Plug Image
The humble Timer Plug. Image courtesy of

Using this timer set to 50% on and 50% off I was able to cut the phantom draw of the fridge to zero when it was idle.The other major culprits are either too difficult to access or too much hassle to constantly turn off and on. I made a conscious decision to let them waste power.

Due to the nature of modern appliances, phantom draw is a fact of life. The trick is to make yourself aware of how much power is being wasted and to decide if that is OK, rather than just wasting all that money every year.

Happy hunting.

One Reply to “Hunting Vampires and Phantoms”

  1. Hi Marcu,

    Top work! Those phantom loads really add up don’t they? The refrigerator was particularly interesting because that is quite a large load, given the controller is sitting around doing not much at all. The phantom loads here are down to about 25W and I couldn’t get much lower than that as the inverter requires 15W on standby. The funny thing is that even at only 25W, over 24 hours that adds up to 600Wh which is about 15% of the total usage over winter and requires at least 3 x 200W solar panels full time during winter just to cover that small load.

    Make sure to shoot the vampires and ask questions later! :-)!



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