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Conservatively Speaking

State Senator Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) represents parts of four counties: Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine, and Walworth. Her Senate District 28 includes New Berlin, Franklin, Greendale, Hales Corners, Muskego, Waterford, Big Bend, the town of Vernon and parts of Greenfield, East Troy, and Mukwonago. Senator Lazich has been in the Legislature for more than a decade. She considers herself a tireless crusader for lower taxes, reduced spending and smaller government.

Lower Your Electric Bill by Eliminating Phantom Load

With air conditioners working overtime, many people are going to feel some pain upon opening utility bills.  Thankfully, it’s not difficult for most people to find and eliminate sources of energy waste in their homes.

One of the most overlooked power drains are idle electronics.  You may be surprised to learn that even after you turn many electronic appliances off, they continue to consume energy, and more than enough to hurt your pocketbook.  This power usage is commonly referred to as phantom load, and one of the worst offenders is the unassuming digital television receiver.

According to the Department of Energy, the average draw for a digital TV receiver in standby mode is 17.83 watts.  If you instead have a digital video recorder (DVR), that number balloons to 43.46 watts.  Remember, these draws are coming when most people think the receiver is off.  In fact, a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) showed that two-thirds of energy used by digital TV receivers is consumed while they are not being used for viewing or recording.

What does this mean for your bottom line?  Consider this staggering statistic from the NRDC.  On average, a home theater setup with an HD-DVR and an additional HD set-top box will consume more electricity per year than a 21 cubic foot energy efficient refrigerator and freezer.  A normal LCD television by itself, assuming you are not watching 24 hours per day, will usually cost you less than half of both of these items on your electric bill.

Other household items are not as bad; however, add to the problem.  Laptops, gaming systems, printers, and desktop computers are all likely costing you money when you are not using them.  All of this really adds up.  A report from Cornell University found that phantom load adds roughly $200 to each of our electric bills every year.

So what can you do?  The simplest solution is to unplug appliances not in use.  For greater convenience, plug devices into a power strip or an outlet controlled by a light switch.  The Wisconsin Public Service Commission recommends specifically watching out for cube-shaped transformers, as they are a shocking 60-80 percent inefficient while plugged in.

 And finally, if you have a television in the spare bedroom or an old desktop computer in the basement that is not used often, simply pull the plug.  The minor inconvenience of a little extra boot time is more than made up by lower electric bills.

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