Monthly Archives: January 2011

Those Phantom Loads

We often hear about how all the little chargers and electrical converters for our numerous gadgets waste electricity. The total amount of energy wasted by these always-on or always-plugged-in gizmos, throughout the world, must indeed be a lot. I tend to obsess with wastage like this so thought I would check it out in my Green house…

Temperature reading, kitchen wall

One way to get a rough idea of the scale of energy wastage is to look at the temperature. More electricity flowing, more heat given off. I use an infra red thermometer. You aim it at the surface, aided by the laser spots that shows the center of the area measured, press the button, and it shows the surface temperature. It’s good for many things such as finding cold spots on exterior walls.
In the first picture the plain wall has a temperature of 63.3 (its a cold day).

Temperature reading, stove control panel, no cooking

The second picture shows the temperature of the control panel on the gas stove. No cooking had been done for a long time, since the day before, but the temperature is appreciably higher, showing that electricity is being wasted even by this appliance that does not have an obvious ‘always on’ charger. But it has a clock and the controls are ready to spring into action, so there has to be electricity.

Temperature of portable phone charger.

Then I looked at the most obvious culprit, or at least the wall device that gets the hottest. This is the wall charger for the portable phone; it’s a whopping 95 degrees. And the charging cradle and the phone itself get warm, so there’s some electricity flowing through here.
To put this in perspective, though, I am measuring that outlet’s electricity use with a Kill A Watt meter, a neat little device that enables you to check the consumption of any individual device. In 330 hours, nearly two weeks, this used 1 kWh (kilowatt hour) of electricity, for a cost of $0.16. Well it certainly would be better to save $0.30 – 0.35 a month, but in the scheme of things this is not a major culprit. We can do more by turning off lights, not having the refrigerator cooler than necessary and making sure its seals are good and the coils clean. And by turning off the computers and internet router when not needed.


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