April 2018: Spring Tips for the Home

Ask The Inspector

Understanding Your Home’s Phantom Load

What if we told you your home is full of phantoms? Your home’s phantom load, or the amount of energy that appliances consume when they’re turned off, can be scary for your electric bill. Luckily, you can cut back phantom usage with this quick guide. Learn More

3 Tips for Child Safety at Home

While home is often the safest place to be, your house could pose unseen threats to your family. Here are some ways you can prevent accidents around your home and have a healthier, happier household. Learn More

Expert Advice

Flipping Houses 101

If you’ve already mastered homeownership, you may be looking for your next investment. Here’s how to know if flipping houses is right for you, as well as the best types of fixer-upper homes to look out for. Learn More

Why Does My House Smell?

Sometimes previous owners can leave things behind. And sometimes, those things aren’t tangible items, like plates and furniture – they’re smells. Before you walk away from your dream home, use these tips to pinpoint the source of odors and be on your way to breathing easy. Learn More

Snapshots From The Field

Every day on the job, our inspectors come across safety hazards that you and your family should know about. Here’s one that’s far more common that you might think, and fortunately there’s an easy fix.

A clogged dryer vent is one of your home’s most dangerous fire hazards. Each year, more than 2,900 house fires originate in clogged dryer vents. While we cover the topic a lot, this photo from just a few weeks ago proves that it never hurts to keep spreading the word!

Remember, when it comes to your dryer vent, it doesn’t end with cleaning the lint trap (though that’s definitely part of it). You’ll also need to periodically clean the vent itself. Here’s how to go about cleaning if your vent is less than three feet long and leads outside:

  1. Empty the lint screen like you normally would after a load of laundry.
  2. Unplug the dryer, then move it away from the wall to access the vent.
  3. You’ll notice a tube leading from the back of your dryer to a hole in the wall—this is the vent, and the tubing will have to be detached from the back of the dryer in order to clean it. It’s generally attached to your dryer with a set of four screws, which can be removed with a normal flat or Philips head screwdriver.
  4. Using the nozzle attachment on your vacuum cleaner, vacuum as much lint as you can, as far as you can down the tube and into the vent.
  5. Hook everything back up.
  6. Going outside, locate the escape vent and make sure it’s also clear of visible debris. Once the vent is clear, run the dryer and make sure hot air is flowing freely to the outside.
  7. You’re done!

If your vent is long and doesn’t vent directly outside, just give a call your nearest professional.

Maintenance Matters

How to Remove Scratches from Wood Floors

We all know that replacing hardwood floors can be time-consuming and expensive. Before you start looking for a contractor, try this simple technique for fixing scratches, pet damage and more. Learn More

Your 7-Item Checklist for an Efficient Air Conditioner

Whether you run your A/C year-round or you’re gearing up for warmer temperatures, you can perform this easy checkup on your system to make sure that it’s running as smoothly as possible. Learn More

How to Clean a Clogged Showerhead in 6 Easy Steps

There’s nothing more annoying than a clogged showerhead. If your water pressure has been feeling weak lately, try this simple, chemical-free trick for unclogging a blocked showerhead. Learn More

Dos and Don’ts for Pet Stains in Carpet

If you’ve ever been frustrated that a pet stain hasn’t fully disappeared no matter how hard you scrub, this article is for you. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get your carpets looking fresh and new again. Learn More

Monthly Trivia Question

How much electricity (in U.S. dollars) do modern appliances on low power mode waste each year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

A. $1Million
B. $5 Million
C. $4 Billion
D. Over a Trillion

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

Dos and Don’ts for Pet Stains in Carpet

With 68% of U.S. households home to one or more cats and dogs, it’s no surprise that getting pet stains out of carpet is on the short list of homeowners’ daily concerns. If you’ve ever been frustrated that a pet stain hasn’t fully disappeared no matter how hard you scrub, this article is for you. We’ll tell you everything you need to know to get your carpets looking fresh and new again.

DO: Strike when the stain is fresh

You stand a much better chance of completely removing pet stains from your carpet if you hit them while they’re fresh. For a fresh urine stain, start by grabbing paper towels and placing layers on top of the stain. Apply pressure by standing on the paper towels (pro tip: this works best with shoes on), and repeat the process until the area is barely damp. Follow with your normal carpet spot cleaner and say goodbye to the stain.

For solid messes, remove as much as you can from the surface, taking care not to work it further into the carpet—to help with this, you can use a putty knife and dust pan to lift away messes without affecting the nap. Once all the solid material is removed, use a spot cleaner to take care of the rest.

DON’T: Use hot water for pet stains

Whenever you want something really clean, you use hot water, right? When you’re dealing with pet stains on carpet, this couldn’t be more wrong. Pet stains contain proteins that actually bond with carpet fibers when heated, so using hot water will set those stains permanently. So unhand that steam cleaner and use cold water to get the stain out.

DO: Use an enzymatic carpet cleaner

Most commonly available carpet spot cleaners just mask odors and even contain brightening pigments that cover stains instead of truly removing them. Enzymatic carpet treatments, on the other hand, work by actually breaking down stains and neutralizing them. To use an enzymatic carpet cleaner effectively for pet stains, start by removing most of the staining material, then spray the area with cleaner, making sure to use enough so it reaches down to the carpet pad. Let the enzymes work their magic overnight, then vacuum in the morning.

DON’T: Scrub the pet stain out

Similar to using hot water, you’d think that the only way to get your carpet really clean is to scrub the heck out of it. Resist the urge to do this, seriously. Scrubbing can easily damage the nap of your carpet and lead to bigger problems than stains. To avoid breaking down the fibers of your carpeting, remember to blot—this motion still helps release any staining material from the carpet without damaging it.

DO: Try a natural remedy

If you’re not into the idea of using chemicals to get pet stains out of your carpet, the time-trusted combo of vinegar and baking soda can work wonders, too. Before you run for the pantry, though, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. If you put the baking soda down first, you’re in for a fizzy mess that doesn’t do much good. Instead, start with the vinegar, using enough to dampen the carpet fibers thoroughly. Next, apply baking soda on top of the vinegar. You should hear some crackling, and you’ll begin to see the once-white baking soda start taking on the color of the stain. Wait until the area is dry, vacuum and you’re good to go.

DON’T: Expect stains to disappear in one pass

You’ve cleaned a stain, the carpet looks great, and the next day you look again and the stain’s back. Sound familiar? It’s not because you did a bad job the first time. This common occurrence is actually caused by a process called “wicking,” where staining material deep in the carpet backing and pad travels up into the fibers. Depending on the severity of the stain, you may have to visit it several times before it fully disappears.

National Property Inspections is your source for all kinds of tips to help you keep your household clean and safe for your family. Contact us today to book an appointment.

How to Clean a Clogged Showerhead in 6 Easy Steps

There’s nothing more annoying than a clogged showerhead. But don’t rush out and buy a new one just yet! You can easily clean your old showerhead for a spray that feels like new with just a few household items.

Why Do I Have a Clogged Showerhead?

First, let’s talk about what’s clogging up your showerhead. Because water passes through showerheads daily, the calcium and other minerals that are naturally found in our H2O supply slowly build up over time, causing clogs. Many other water-spouting devices are susceptible to this very same phenomenon, including regular faucets and coffee makers (and luckily, our cleaning tips apply to all).

Don’t Use This Harsh Cleaner!

Browsing the aisles of your local home improvement store, you’ll likely come across several products that claim to remove calcium and mineral deposits from showerheads. CLR, or Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover, for example, is one such solution that’s touted for the purpose of cleaning household water sources. While it might indeed do the trick, keep in mind that CLR includes harsh cleansing agents that can be harmful to health.

We all know that we should never breathe in fumes or risk exposing our skin when working with tough household cleaners. But once the hot water starts flowing, breathing in vapors and exposing the skin to CLR residue is practically unavoidable if you’ve recently cleaned your showerhead with it. That’s why we’re suggesting a much more natural solution: vinegar.

How to Clean a Clogged Showerhead

To clean your clogged showerhead, you’ll need:

  • a plastic bag large enough to fit over the showerhead
  • a twist tie
  • an old toothbrush
  • distilled white vinegar

Step 1

Fill the plastic bag halfway with vinegar. Be sure not to fill it up completely to avoid the vinegar pouring out once you attach it to the showerhead.

Step 2

Place the bag over the showerhead so that it’s submerged in vinegar.

Step 3

Use the twist tie to secure the plastic bag to the showerhead. You can also use the bag’s handles to further secure the bag.

Step 4

Let the showerhead soak in the vinegar anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. We recommend waiting at least a few hours just to be sure you’re giving the vinegar enough time to do its work.

Step 5

Carefully untie the bag and turn the water on. Let the shower run for a few minutes to flush out any mineral deposits that might be stuck inside.

Step 6

Use the old toothbrush to scrub the area of the showerhead where the water comes out. Then turn the water on again to do a final flush out. You may need to scrub the showerhead and turn the water back on several times until you can’t see any more residue. And you’re all finished!

BONUS TIP: If you have a removable showerhead, you can skip the plastic bag! Simply remove the showerhead and place it in a saucepan or plastic container of vinegar facedown to submerge the area where the water comes out. You can repeat all other steps as usual.

For help with your most pertinent home maintenance questions, call National Property Inspections. Our highly trained inspectors have the expert knowledge to inspect your home’s major systems and help you make the best investment decisions.

Your 7-Item Checklist for an Efficient Air Conditioner

Weather is funny – it tends to warm up right under our noses. Then, before long, it’s time to crank up the air conditioning. Whether you’re going straight from cold to warm temperatures or you use your A/C regularly, these maintenance tips will help you keep your system in great working order.

Before you begin with your checkup, you’ll need to set your system. Make sure that the thermostat is off with the temperature set at 80 degrees.

1. Start with your thermostat

When was the last time you replaced your thermostat? If you’ve just moved into your new home, what do you know about it? If it’s been awhile, you might be working with an outdated model. In that case, it’s worth looking into springing for a programmable, energy-efficient thermostat. Most can be controlled remotely from your phone for ultimate savings.

2. Look out for wear on exposed ductwork

Worn ductwork is one of the biggest culprits for cooling loss in your home. Look for visible signs of damage and wear.

3. Check the flow of your air vents

You never know what might be blocking airflow, from furniture to curtains to your child’s toys. Walk room to room and be sure that all the air vents are free of obstructions. We promise it’ll make a difference!

4. Make sure your drain line isn’t clogged

Mounted above your furnace, you should see a drain near the cooling coil. This can become clogged with dirt, dust and debris over time. You can be sure that your drain line isn’t clogged by flushing a cup of bleach followed by a gallon of water down it.

5. Replace your air filter

Changing out your air filter is a super simple fix that will make a huge difference in indoor air quality and flow. Your filter should be changed every three months at a minimum, and more like once a month during seasons that necessitate heavy A/C usage.

6. Check your circuits

Look over your home’s electrical circuits to ensure that the connections are on and in working order.

7. Head outside to check the condenser unit

Your A/C unit’s outdoor equipment is just as important as its indoor system. First, make sure that no foliage is touching your unit, and remember not to make plans for any gardening in its vicinity. It’s just not worth it since plants can cause rusting, blockages and other damage. You’ll next want to make sure that refrigerant lines are insulated. If the insulation looks worn, you’ll need to hire an HVAC professional to replace it. The same goes for outdoor electrical wiring—when in doubt, hire out.

Once you’ve completed these seven steps, you can turn your A/C on to a comfortable temperature and wait for it to begin cooling your home. Be sure to head back outside to listen to the condenser. It shouldn’t sound irregular and you should feel warm air blowing out the top. Allow your air conditioning to run for about 15 minutes to be sure everything is working smoothly.

Call NPI to Schedule Your Inspection

National Property Inspections inspectors can provide a full report on the condition of your HVAC system as well as the other major components of your home. Call us today for help making decisions about your most important investment – your home.

How to Remove Scratches from Wood Floors

Replacing hardwood floors can be time-consuming and expensive. Luckily, you can fix a scratched wood floor with a few simple items and a little patience.

How you’ll plan for your DIY project depends largely on the type of scratches on your hardwood floor. If your home has an older floor, you may even have several different types of scratches to contend with. Here, we’ve broken down the most common hardwood floor anomalies and how to go about fixing them.

Dog Damage

Loving our pets usually means accepting a scratch here or a smudge there. But you shouldn’t have to sacrifice having beautiful hardwood floors. We’ll get into how to repair gouges and scratches in a minute, but for now, we’re talking accidents.

It’s important to know that having a sealed floor won’t necessarily prevent long-term damage to hardwood floors. Urine can still penetrate the wood through to the subfloor, causing discoloration and a lingering odor. If you notice any deep staining or an unpleasant smell emanating from certain areas, you’ll likely need to cut your losses and replace those boards. But for light staining, you can achieve great results yourself. First, use sandpaper to gently remove the finish, then use wood bleach to scrub the board. Finally, refinish the area and let it dry thoroughly before allowing your furry friend back in the room.

Surface Scratches

If the scratches on your hardwood floor are mainly surface-level and not too deep, you may be able to get away with applying a hardwood floor refresher. Be sure to thoroughly clean the floor and then follow the directions on the container to get the best results.

For scratches that are deep enough to expose bare wood, there are a couple of different options. You can either choose a traditional wood stain in a matching color or you can grab a stain marker or blending pencil. For traditional stains, use a small brush or cotton swab to apply it to just the scratch, taking care to wipe up any excess before it dries. Markers or pens can be applied directly to scratches. You’ll still likely need to wipe up any excess.

Deep Gouges

Deep gouges in your hardwood floors aren’t the end of the world. Fixing them is actually one of the easiest DIY projects you’ll do around the house. All you need is some latex wood filler, a plastic putty knife and some sandpaper.

First, clean the area thoroughly—you definitely don’t want to seal grime into your floor! Next, apply a small amount of latex wood filler to the gouge using the plastic putty knife. On a side note, be sure that your putty knife is indeed plastic—no metal or steel substitutions here, as those materials could cause further damage to your floor. Smooth over the area as best you can and allow plenty of time for the latex to dry. Finally, use fine-grit sandpaper to gently level the surface so that you don’t leave behind a raised area. Voila!

Tips for Keeping Hardwood Floors in Great Shape

Place doormats near all entrances. No matter how many measures you take, your hardwood floors will inevitably be subjected to the occasional scratch. The last thing you want is to introduce dirt and grime to the equation. You can either place fibrous mats near all entrances of your home to encourage foot-wiping, or. . .

Instate a no-shoes policy.
No-shoes policies aren’t just for carpet. You may think you’re in the clear when it comes to wearing shoes on hardwood flooring, but the truth is that various types of footwear can cause damage to wood floors, particularly high heels and cleats.

Use carpet squares to move furniture.
Before doing any rearranging, be sure to place felt pads or carpet squares underneath the legs of furniture. You may be tempted to skip this extra step since furniture tends to slide easily across hardwood floors, but trust us, it’s worth it.

Keep your pets’ nails trimmed. It’s never easy to restrict a pet’s access to entire rooms of your home, so we recommend keeping your dog’s nails neatly trimmed. If you have a medium- or large-sized breed whose nails can do significant damage, this becomes especially important. Most dogs need their nails trimmed every one to two months.

Sweep often. We mentioned avoiding dirt and grime earlier, but for the stuff that manages to sneak past the front door, you’ll want to make a habit of sweeping weekly. Once dust and dirt get ground into the space between slats, it’ll be much harder to get rid of.

Call Your NPI Inspector Today

For help diagnosing the scope of just about any home maintenance issue, call us today. From hardwood floors to attic insulation, our inspectors are trained to spot repairs and answer your most important questions.

Why Does My House Smell?

Sometimes, previous owners can leave things behind. And sometimes, those things aren’t tangible items, like plates and furniture. They’re smells. Before you walk away from your dream home, use these tips to pinpoint the source of any odors and be on your way to breathing easy.

Kitchen Leftovers

You might be surprised to know that eliminating many odors is as easy as cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. Before your search gets underway, head to the kitchen armed with trash bags and go through the fridge and all storage areas. It’s easy to miss items in dark corners, and busy tenants or owners may have simply forgotten food during the move-out process. Once you’ve determined that the kitchen is clear, you can check other key areas.

Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke is one of the most invasive, unmistakable odors, and one of the most difficult to remove. The smell from a cigarette can remain airborne months after it’s been lit, and inhaling leftover cigarette odor actually has a name–third-hand smoke. While daunting, removing cigarette odor can be done, and it’s almost always worth it.

The best way to approach stale cigarette smoke odor is to treat the entire house top to bottom, beginning by steam cleaning any carpets to remove residual smoke particles. Walls and upholstery can be chemically treated to neutralize the odors that are associated with smoke, and painting the walls can lock in stains and any remaining smell. Opening windows and doors will also help to purify the air, and there are air filtration machines available which cleanse and purge the home of toxic fumes.

Moisture and Mold

If your home smells “musty,” you probably have a larger project on your horizon. The leading cause of mold, moisture and mildew is water leaks in the roof, walls, plumbing or basement. Air conditioning units and drain lines can also be a culprit. Any of these issues will likely warrant a professional repair.

Insulation issues can also cause excess moisture. If flashings around windows are not properly sealed, condensation can collect and begin to mildew. You should also check freezer and refrigerator doors for sealing issues.

General Deodorizing

If you have decided that your home with olfactory character is right for you, there are simple steps you can take to deodorize a musty house. Zeolite, a natural mineral, absorbs odor without any perfumes or masking agents. It’s completely safe, non-toxic, and lasts up to six months. After that, it is easily rechargeable by heating in direct sunlight or a 250-degree oven for thirty minutes.

Activated charcoal is another powerful detoxifier that is used as an ingredient in many commercial odor removers. It is incredibly reasonable and lasts far longer than traditional air fresheners. Cleaning a musty home with vinegar is not only environmentally friendly, it also helps eliminate the odor from an old house. Baking soda is another miracle ingredient, that when sprinkled in an affected area, soaks up and removes residual odors. Not only does this work in refrigerators, but in any area of the home such as carpets, floors, and even clothing. Sprinkle it on the carpet at night, then simply vacuum in the morning for a fresh, clean scent.

If you’re having trouble pinpointing the source of a smell, call us today. We can inspect your home from top to bottom and identify leaks, roof weaknesses, faulty appliances and more.

How to Find Houses to Flip 101: Things to Keep in Mind When Investing in Real Estate

If you’ve already mastered the art of homeownership, you may be on the lookout for your next adventure. And if you’re at all interested in investing in property, the idea of “flipping” a fixer-upper home is probably on your radar. Here’s how to know if flipping houses is right for you and how to find the best fixer-upper homes to invest in.

Buy the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood

The more people who can afford to purchase a home, the better. Flipping a small house in a desirable neighborhood can not only keep renovation costs low, it’ll automatically pique the interest of a wider array of buyers. Size can often be sacrificed if it means living in a top school district or an up and coming neighborhood.

Don’t focus on just the interior of the home

Curb appeal matters way more than you think. Even if you have big plans for updating the inside of the home, it’s important to evaluate the exterior as well. This could mean tree removal, landscaping, siding replacement, an updated paint scheme, a repaved driveway, drainage solutions and more. Always be prepared to revamp an entire home, inside and out, not just the flooring, kitchen and bathrooms.

Have realistic expectations

Your goal should be to make a profit of between 10 and 20 percent of the total cost of your flip house. Of course more would always be better, but 10 to 20 percent is a reasonable return and a realistic objective when it comes to a sale. If you have aspirations of getting rich quick or doubling your initial investment, flipping a home may not be for you since making a viable income off real estate typically takes time and multiple acquisitions.

Be honest with yourself

Do you like home DIY projects? Do you have a knowledgeable contractor you can consult with along the way? Preferably for free? Most house-flippers are professional builders and contractors who have the skills, expertise and experience it takes to do the vast majority of the work themselves. If you plan on making even the bare minimum when it comes to profit, you likely won’t be able to afford hiring contractors.

So. . .how do you feel about your skill level? Are DIY projects around the home something you enjoy? If you’re a learn-as-you-go type of person, is there someone close to you that can help you out or give you advice along the way? Your contractor friends will be indispensable during the process, and we recommend making sure they’re okay with being on speed dial. If you’re just not sure you’re cut out for maintaining your own home and a home that likely has its “quirks,” house-flipping may not be for you.

Have a timeline and be ready to get flexible with it

Stuff happens and flipping a house takes trial and error and patience. You should make sure you have copious amounts of time to devote to your project and plan on having delays. Don’t forget that you’re responsible for paying for the home until you can get it off your hands, so it’s important to make sure you can actually afford it in the interim. Always consult with a financial advisor and have them help you create a budget and a timeline that makes sense.

Go conventional

In most cases, a house flip is only as good as its original shell. While a one-of-a-kind home with an interesting layout or unique construction might make a nice passion project, there’s a chance that buyers just won’t go for it. If a house is just weird, no amount of paint or siding will help. The best house flips are done on homes that function as perfectly acceptable canvases for your renovation ideas.

Order a home inspection. Always

A home inspection is crucial no matter what kind of property you’re purchasing. Just because you aren’t going to be living in the home yourself doesn’t mean you don’t need to know everything you can about it. Call us today to get an accurate assessment of all the major components of the home you’re planning to purchase, including plumbing, HVAC, foundation, roof and more.

3 Tips for Child Safety at Home

While home is often the safest place to be, your house could pose unseen threats to your child’s safety. Here are some of the ways you can maintain child safety standards and prevent serious accidents before they occur.

General Safety Tips

It’s essential that everything that could be potentially harmful is locked away for your child’s safety. Childproof latches are easily available to keep little hands away from dangerous tools, sharp edges, and appliances. Outlets will need fault circuit interrupters, which protect against electrocution when something electrical gets wet. Installing non-slip strips in bathtubs, showers, and underneath rugs is also a way to keep little ones from slipping unintentionally. If you are unsure if your home is hiding hard-to-spot dangers, feel free to contact National Property Inspections. Our inspectors have the expertise and experience you need to make an informed decision for the safety of your home.

In the Bedroom

If not prepared properly,cribs can pose some of the most serious safety risks for your child. Cribs that were built before 2012, for example, have been found to be life threatening because of their drop-side feature. If you want to re-use your childhood crib for traditions’ sake, you can modify it by permanently attaching the drop side to its end posts. This will eliminate any risk of the side suddenly dropping out of place and putting your child in danger. Once your child is able to push up in its crib, remove all bumpers, pillows, toys, and hanging objects for your child’s safety, as these can serve as tools to assist in an infant’s escape and a fall from their crib.

In the Bathroom

Be sure to turn the water heater below 120 Degrees so it’s impossible for bath water to get too hot. Scalding water can cause third degree burns in seconds on delicate skin. You’ll also want to lock all potentially dangerous instruments like razor blades, nail scissors, hair dryers, curling irons, and electric razors in a cabinet that is not easily accessed by children. Medications, cosmetics, cleaning solutions, mouthwash, perfumes, hair dyes, hair sprays, nail polishes, and removers should be stored in a locked cabinet with child-proof caps on them (when possible) as an extra precaution. Always close the toilet seat and consider installing a toilet-lid lock to keep things secure when not in use.

In the Kitchen

The kitchen can be a fantastic place for families to bond over cookie making and long talks, but to keep little ones safe, you’ll need to follow these tips:

  • Turn any pot handles towards the back of the stove, using only the back burners whenever possible. Sometimes merely keeping things out of reach can go a long way.
  • Position any chairs and step stools away from the stove top to prevent any curious diners from trying to sample anything above a hot burner.
  • Be sure to place the garbage can behind a cabinet with a childproof lock on it and keep all corded appliances unplugged when not in use.
  • Although sandwich bags are a commonly used kitchen accessory, be sure to keep these away from curious hands as well because of the dangers plastic can pose to child safety.
  • Finally, does your child’s highchair have a safety belt or strap that goes between the legs? This prevents wobbly babies from taking an unwanted tumble.

If you are at all worried about the safety of your home, call us at 563-359-6749. We can help with any questions as to the functionality of appliances, check for safety, and give you the peace of mind to bring baby home.

Understanding Your Home’s Phantom Load

Your Home's Phantom Load

What if we told you your home was full of phantoms? Before you go calling in the paranormal investigators, you should know what kind of ghosts we’re talking about. They don’t make the walls bleed or the bed levitate, but they can still be scary . . . for your electric bill.

What’s a phantom load?

Simply put, your home’s phantom load is a measure of the energy consumed by your appliances when they’re turned off. Most modern electronics don’t really turn off when you hit the power button. Instead, they go into “low power” or “standby” mode, which allows appliances like TVs and computers to boot up faster when you turn them on. You’ll also see phantom load on display with any appliance that features a digital clock, including your oven, microwave and DVR.

This may not seem like a big deal . . . after all, how much power can they possibly waste when they’re turned off? Turns out it’s a lot. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, modern appliances on low power mode waste somewhere in the realm of $4 billion (yep, with a B) of electricity every year, or 12 power plants’ worth.

What does my phantom load cost me?

You can generally expect around 11 percent of your monthly power bill to go towards appliances that are turned off. This comes out to around $100 a year, but it can vary a lot based on the number of power-draining appliances you have. Considering the average household has over twenty of these appliances connected at any given time, that’s a lot of energy and money wasted.

Which appliances have the worst phantom loads?

Generally speaking, anything with a remote control or external power supply is still going to draw substantial power when it’s turned off. Here’s a breakdown of the worst offenders:

  • DVR: This device is a problem because it wastes a lot of power (37 watts, or $39/year) in standby mode, but if you turn it off completely it can’t record. Considering that’s the reason it exists, there’s not much to do about this one.
  • Video game systems: If you’re a gamer, you should factor in about 24 watts of phantom load for each system you have plugged in. That’s $25 a year.
  • Laptop computers: Laptops that are plugged in and fully charged use almost 16 watts even when they’re in sleep mode ($17 a year).
  • Flat screen TV: While TVs don’t use as much power as DVRs, video game systems or laptops in standby mode, most households have more than one TV, and each one draws its own phantom load. Expect to use about six watts, or about $6.50 a year, for each TV on standby.

You can see that these numbers start to add up fast. These are just the heavy hitters, but if you think about every appliance in your home that’s always plugged in, all of those carry a phantom load, too. Everything from your cable box and Roku to Google Home and cell phone chargers cost you money every day without you realizing it.

How can I control my home’s phantom load?

If you live in a tech-heavy household, it’s not surprising to see hundreds of dollars wasted per year in phantom energy usage. Thankfully, though, it’s pretty easy to keep it in check by using a smart power strip.

Smart strips look just like a normal power strip, but have outlets that can turn on and off individually. Special circuitry in the strip detects changes in the electrical load traveling through each outlet, so when you use a remote to turn on your device, the strip senses the increase in load and turns on that outlet. Other outlets on the strip stay off until you need them, saving energy and money.

Other smart strips allow you to group devices together (like your TV, DVD player and soundbar), so when you turn on the main device, the strip supplies power to the secondary devices, too. There are even models equipped with infrared motion detectors to let your strip know to supply power when you’re in the room, and cut the power when you’re not.

National Property Inspections is Here to Save You Money

From energy audits to full inspections revealing the condition of your property, NPI helps you find ways to run your home more efficiently. Call us and book an appointment today.