You may have heard a great way to save money on electricity is to unplug appliances and electronics when they aren’t being used. The idea behind this is, even when they’re not in operation, the cord in the outlet is sucking up some energy.
It’s true a non-operational electronic will still consume power when it’s plugged into a socket, but how much could it possibly consume? Is it worth your time to go around unplugging and re-plugging everything, every single time?
Doing the Math
The major problem with unused devices consuming electricity is not that any one of them is going to be consuming a lot, but that the combined sum of all your appliances over time will start adding up to a much more tangible figure.
Any given “energy zombie” may only cost you a fraction of a cent per day. But when there are several dozen of these phantom appliances in your house and that one day becomes 365 days, it becomes an issue.
You can see why experts estimate the average household wastes around $100 a year on energy going toward standby electronics. For most people, that’s not an insignificant amount of money.
Taking the Time
Unplugging everything will absolutely save you money if you take the time to do it. But much like how all the little bits of wasted energy add up, how much time will you ultimately spend yanking plugs out and putting them in again every day?
Some things are easy to unplug, like a phone charger or anything in a countertop outlet. Other things aren’t hard, but take a little bit of maneuvering, like anything in a socket right above ground-level.
Then there are the things we plugged in behind furniture and other out-of-the-way spots because we use the appliance so often, we didn’t think we’d need to unplug it for a long, long time.
Unplugging some things can certainly be annoying, but as we move into the future, we’re seeing some solutions to make it a little easier.
Many people think power strips only exist to give you more slots to plug things into than just the two holes in one outlet. While this is certainly one of their major selling points, you may also note that they almost always come with a little button on them to turn all the connected electronics off at once.
Flip that switch and there you go, you just “unplugged” a whole bunch of things in one fell swoop. The best part is many modern power strips don’t even consume power themselves when nothing plugged into them is activated.
However, it may be you need to use one thing connected to that power strip but not the others. You don’t need to manually unplug everything else if you can find a new type of power strip that lets you select one main device to stay on while cutting the juice to the rest.
An Added Bonus (and Another Annoyance)
Advocates of unplugging dormant devices like to add that when something is unplugged, there’s a 100% chance it will not be harmed in the event of a power surge.
They’re right: a power surge might not kill off your electronics instantaneously, but it can damage and weaken them in ways that, as is the theme here, will add up over time and may do them in eventually.
Of course, after singing the praises of power strips, it begs the question of whether those are also safe from power surges when they’re still plugged into the wall. The answer is, erm, not exactly.
Some power strips double as surge protectors, and some surge protectors double as power strips. Some are designed and marketed as equal parts each, and some are just one or the other.
Many power strips, especially older models, can still be harmed by power surges (the power strip itself, if not the connected appliances). Depending on your values, that could be either more or less annoying than buying a surge protector that does its job well, but doesn’t have an off switch.
Spending Money to Save Money
All this talk about shiny new power strip/surge protector hybrids is being said with full awareness that the solution to saving money seems to be spending money elsewhere.
But in any case, something is getting spent: either your short-term money, your long-term money, or your time.
It’s entirely possible you’ll think $100 or so per year is a fair price to pay for saving you from going through a daily annoyance, and that would be perfectly reasonable.
But so long as some people want or need to save as much money as possible, we’ll be here to show them how to do it.