I am not sure where the term phantom loads comes from. I saw the term used someplace and have subsequently adopted it as my own. My dictionary describes a phantom as something that exists only in appearance. Phantom loads refer to the small electrical loads that exist in most households and just about every place electricity is used.
What Produces A Phantom Load?
If you have a television set, a VCR, a DVD player, a stereo and many similar electrical devices you have phantom loads present. Each of these uses a small transformer to provide enough electricity to allow a remote control to turn the device on. It does not amount to a whole lot of power, only around 4 watts, but when added together they can use a larger cumulative amount of electricity.
How Much Is Too Much?
Besides the devices mentioned above, there are a whole lot more, garage door openers, electric clocks, microwaves, ovens or any appliance with clocks, cordless phones, and even the newer washing machines. My satellite receiver, if just plugged in, actually pulls 35 watts just sitting there in the off mode. My stereo pulls the same. If I have 8 devices each using 4 watts and 2 that use 35 watts each, that amounts to 100 watts per hour. Multiplied by 24 hours in a day for 30 days a month, that equals 72 KWH (Kilowatt Hours). If I pay 15 cents per KWH to my electric company, that costs me $ 10.80 per month just to have these devices on and ready for me to use them. If my electric bill is $ 100 a month. That is 10% of my bill. Computers along with the printer, modem, etc in the standby mode actually pull 30 watts just sitting there. If left it in the standby mode all night long, that is another 15KWH per month.
Why Do I Care?
I live in a solar home. My electricity comes from a solar energy electric system. I look at my usage different than many who use grid power, mainly because my energy is limited. During a normal sunshiny day the average solar electric system expects to receive 6 good hours of charging on average. If I have all the phantom loads on 24 hours a day, it would take almost 2.5 hours for my solar energy system to replace that usage. That is almost 40% of what my 1000 watt system generates.
What Can Be Done To Eliminate Phantom Loads?
I have eliminated all but 3 of these devices from running 24 hours a day, my garage door opener, my cordless phone and my solar controller for my solar water heating system. The rest I have either disconnected or have connected to a plug that can be turned on and off when needed. I can still use the remote when they are on. My microwave has a mechanical timer. (Yes, you can still find them). My TV, satellite receiver, VCR, DVD and stereo are all connected to a switchable plug and are turned on when used and off when not. I do not have any electric clocks or appliances that use them. A clock running on a small battery operates for years and tells the same time.
What’s In It For Us?
If we all just cut our electrical usage by 10%, how many barrels of oil might that save? I can’t think of a better reason than that.
Jim Eddy and his wife live in Northern California in an all solar home. They have designed a web site describing how they use solar energy to provide their energy needs in hopes of inspiring others that they can do the same. They have also included videos on their site to show how they do it. Their web site and videos can be found at http://www.livingonsolar.com