Vampire Loads and Garlic Garlands

Even if you haven't heard of or don't believe in energy vampires, the effects of vampire loads can add 10% to your electric bill. Read on to learn how to curb these little critters' appetites.

Vampire Loads and Garlic Garlands
Garlic garlands - an ineffectual defense against energy vampire loads.

Vampire loads lurk everywhere!

You may not have heard of vampire loads, but rest assured, they are everywhere, silently draining power and adding to your energy use every day. Every bit as insidious as the fabled bloodsuckers. Okay, that's over the top; these vampires won't steal your will or cause you to die. Unless you have a heart attack upon seeing the impact on your electric bill.

Where do vampire loads live?

Creepy locations favored by vampires of legend.

You don't need to look for coffins containing soil from Transylvania in crypts and cemeteries. These electron sippers live right under our noses. And they aren't allergic to sunlight, although they often are in the shadows behind furniture and appliances.

Lovely sitting room with furniture against walls creating places of vampire loads to hide.
Plenty of nice, cozy places for vampire loads to live!

The primary culprits are the chargers (aka, wall-warts) that every electronic gizmo uses, set-top television boxes, instant-on televisions, old/failing appliances, and gaming systems. There are others, but these represent the major offenders.​

Do vampire loads really use that much energy?

The EPA has estimated these little blighters can represent up to 10% of average household electric use. That is a serious drain on the wallet and wastes resources. I don't know about you, but I'll take a 10% savings any day.

How do you protect your budget from these energy-sucking monstrosities?

Forget garlands of garlic, wooden stakes, and Holy water. None of these will affect vampire loads. In fact, throwing Holy water on one is likely to create an unpleasant reaction; that old don't mix water and electricity thing. Protecting against these critters can be surprisingly simple. Let's explore each one in turn.


These small electric transformers take the 120 VAC power at the outlet and reduce (transform) it down to the voltage required by the connected device, usually 5 – 12 VDC. Obviously, when your device is charging, the transformer is using electricity, but it seems reasonable to believe when they are not charging anything, the little darlings are idle. Not so. They still convert electricity at a slower rate, about .5 of a watt per hour. Wireless chargers are better, consuming .25 of a watt per hour.

The fix? Unplug device chargers when not in use. This can be a nuisance when they are behind furniture or in some other inconvenient location. In these cases, a smart power strip might be just the ticket. More on that later.

Television and entertainment boxes

I lump DVRs, cable boxes, satellite TV decoders, streaming devices, internet modems and routers together because people are rapidly moving from cable boxes to streaming services. However, streaming services require their own devices. The rule of thumb here is, "If you see any LEDs illuminated, the device is using electricity."

The fix? Turning everything completely off is one option, although not great, especially when you turn off your internet modem/router. Smart power strips offer a better alternative and feed my love of gadgets.

So, how do these little items work? The original (and still available) models feature a "master" outlet. The other outlets do not receive power until you turn on whatever is connected to the master.

For example, you use the master outlet for your television and plug everything else into one of the others. The minute you turn on the TV, the strip sends power to the other outlets. Boom, from 6 vampires to one!

Today, smart power strips have significantly more capabilities. Each acts as a smart outlet you can control from your phone or Alexa, and some apps even display energy consumption for each connected device. Talk about gadget paradise!

Check out two from Amazon:

Instant-on anything

Many televisions and monitors come with an instant-on setting. The intention of the feature is instant gratification for the viewer…no waiting for the TV to turn on and warm up. Unfortunately, the price for this convenience is higher energy consumption. The TV must constantly operate at nearly full power, making it a big-league energy vampire.

How do you know if your television or monitor uses instant-on? Hit the power button. If it turns on immediately, you are in the instant-on mode.

The fix? Rummage through your user manual to see where to access the setting, then turn it off.

Game consoles

Here's a tidbit of information purveyors of gaming consoles don't trumpet; the typical console can use as much energy as a regular refrigerator even when you turn it off. Why on Earth would they do such a thing? To allow games to update in the background when the console isn't being used.

The fix? Navigate through the menus and turn off features like continuous content updates. Be forewarned, though; doing this means when you want to play a game with an update, it can take a LONG time to upload. I Address this issue by turning the console on and starting the update process a few hours before my grandson arrives:>)

Old, decrepit, turn-of-the-century appliances

Appliance ageism!? No, energy conservationism. Appliance manufacturers continually update their designs to use ever less energy. Even one only ten years old uses much more energy than a comparable model today. So, replacing older appliances will immediately reduce the amount of energy you use.

The fix? Look, I am an advocate of using something as long as possible. Doing so conserves the natural materials used in product manufacturing and goes easier on the wallet. So, when it's time to replace an appliance, look for the best Energy Star Rating, you know, the ubiquitous yellow label on everything. And properly recycle the old appliance. Most retailers will do that for you.

Note: Do not move the old refrigerator to another spot, and keep using it. Kind of defeats the purpose of going energy efficient.

Fight energy vampirism today!

Join with the forces for good and pledge to begin fighting energy vampires today! Following some simple steps, i.e., the ones in this article, can help you put paid to these monsters, conserve energy, and spend less.