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Phantom Loads

Phantom Loads

Many modern appliances remain partially on when they appear to be turned off. Anything that can be powered from a remote control must remain partially on to receive the “on” signal from the remote.


  • Anything with a clock–VCRs, coffee makers, microwave ovens–also use a small amount of power all thetime. And anything that uses a “power cube” in the AC socket, such as answering machines and electric toothbrushes, use very tiny amounts of power, maybe only a watt or two, but they make the inverter stay turned on and running 24 hours per day.
  • The solution for clocks is battery power. A wall mounted clock runs for nearly a year on a single AA rechargeable battery. Look for good quality battery powered alarm and other clocks. Clocks on house current are ridiculously wasteful.
  • Watch out for those small cube-shaped transformers that plug into the wall outlet to power a lower voltage appliance. These villainous wastrels usually run horrible 60 percent to 80 percent inefficiency (which means that for every dime’s worth of electricity consumed, they throw away six or eight cents worth). We recommend that power cubes be kept on plug strips or switchable outlets that can be switched off when not in use. Electronic toothpbrushes, for example, use very little power themselves, but their charging systems are grossly inefficient. If it has a power cube put it on a switchable outlet that can be switched off when not in use.

Read more: Home, Conservation

Excerpted from the Real Goods Solar Living Source Book, edited by Doug Pratt and executive editor John Schaeffer.Copyright (c) 1999, Real Goods. Reprinted by permsision of Chelsea Green Publishing Company and Real Goods.
Excerpted from Real Goods Solar Living Source Book,edited by Doug Pratt and executive editor John Schaeffer.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

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From novices to pros, this book explains renewable energy and efficient building practices. Great reference to start design and cost estimation from each section. One of the best features of this book is the addition of the National Electric Code for RE systems. It's possible to pick a building material to build a house, design a solar electric system, decide on appliances, determine the use of a greywater system, and more from 562 pages. No more looking up pages on the net!buy now

10 comments

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2:16AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Thank for the informative article!

8:15PM PST on Jan 1, 2012

Good information, thanks for the reminders.

8:48AM PDT on Jun 5, 2011

thank you good article...also leaving the applicance off completly but still having the switch at the wall in 'on' postion wastes 7% electricity which is used for nothing

5:41PM PDT on Jun 4, 2011

Certain cable/satellite companies have this annoying box that once your system is unplugged, will start to constantly beep loudly, which makes it very hard to turn these items on/off to conserve power. I hope the design is redone in the near future so that more people will be able to unplug their systems to conserve power.
Thanks for all the tips in this article.

12:22AM PST on Dec 4, 2010

Thanks for the article.

6:01AM PST on Nov 16, 2010

Thanks for the info.

10:34AM PST on Nov 15, 2010

Good tips. Thanks.

8:54AM PDT on Aug 21, 2010

I agree with Elizabeth Newell. Having to re-set those microwaves all the time is annoying.

Apart from that, PLEASE be careful when you use batteries in a wall clock - and where you place such a clock. I placed a battery-powered clock on the wall over my wall oven. The batteries leaked and ruined my wall. Shortly afterward, I needed the gas company to come to my house for a repair of my oven. The repairman told me that the heat from the oven probably overheated the batteries in my clock and caused them to leak. I never placed a battery-powered clock near high heat again.

7:03PM PDT on Jul 2, 2008

I wish that I COULD power off my microwave, stove, etc clock. Most require the dern clock be set in order to function. Not to mention the annoying 'blinking 12:00' issue.

3:45PM PDT on Aug 11, 2007

I put all my electronics on power strips so when I am done I just flip the switch and no more vampire energy being lost. I found I was saving about $50 a month on my electric bill with just these small changes.

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