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.

5 New Ways to Save Energy

So you have your thermostat set to the perfect temperature and you’ve checked and re-checked your windows and doors for drafts. . .and you’re still cold. It may just be time to think outside the box. Here are five more ways to save energy and keep a warmer home through the coldest months of the year.

1. Move furniture away from radiators

You might be tempted to move your sofas and chairs as close to the fireplace, woodstove or registers as possible. But upholstered furniture can actually absorb heat, leaving the rest of yoether home in the cold. It’s best to move all furniture away from your home’s radiators to keep the warm air circulating freely. This goes for curtains as well when possible, though the right kind can go a long way toward keeping in warm air.

2. Trade in your curtains

Speaking of curtains. . .winter might be a good time to upgrade. Switching to curtains made from a heavier material can help keep warm air from escaping through drafty windows. Insulated, or thermal curtains are available for this express purpose in stylish colors and prints so that you won’t have to drastically change the vibe of your living area.

3. Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans

Most of us don’t even think about our ceiling fans in winter—they’re typically reserved for cooling things off and circulating air only. In warmer months, the blades of ceiling fans spin at a slight angle counterclockwise to utilize the wind chill effect. But we all know that warm air rises while cooler air sinks. Therefore, ceiling fans are actually perfect for taking the work your furnace is doing and kicking it up a notch. By switching your blades to clockwise during the colder months, cool air is drawn upwards while warm air is forced down into your living space. You’ll be able to turn down the thermostat and save a little cash by keeping all that cozy warm air low.

4. Put down extra rugs

If you have hardwood floors, you’re no stranger to icy feet. Putting down extra rugs can help provide additional insulation for any room, whether wood, tiled or carpeted. To up the warmth factor and protect against slips, simply place a grippy pad underneath.

5. Switch to flannel sheets

Did you remember to switch your cotton sheets for a flannel set? This quick, inexpensive change can make a big difference in your nighttime comfort, not to mention your heating bill. While flannel sheets had a bad rep at one time for being uncomfortably warm, the flannel-cotton blends available now help strike the perfect balance. You can even invest in a flannel duvet cover to see even more substantial savings over time.

For even more energy-saving tips, call us today. Our inspectors can evaluate your residential or commercial property to determine the efficiency of your HVAC system, insulation, window seals and other infamous energy drainers.

February 2017: Attic Inspections

Ask The Inspector

Q. What Is Included With An Attic Inspection?

A roof inspection isn’t complete without an inspection of the attic. Once inside the attic, an inspector can note potential leaks discovered during the exterior inspection, comment on the general condition of the sheathing and rafters, and check the presence of insulation.

Ask The Inspector

An attic inspection is part of a National Property Inspections general home inspection. The first thing an NPI professional will check is the sheathing and rafters. The inspector will note any obvious cracks or sagging in the supporting structure and check for any insect damage, rot or water penetration.

The NPI professional will also check the insulation in the attic and make sure there is the adequate amount according to your local area’s requirements. Lastly, the inspector will check if there is any equipment in the attic and if the bathroom fan vent is installed correctly. The inspector will note areas in need of maintenance and recommend repairs.

Be Advised

Limiting Excessive Moisture In The Home

The building of tighter homes (those with less airflow through the structure) has reduced heating and cooling costs, but has also increased the potential for moisture problems. Excessive moisture can be present in any home. It can accumulate on furniture, walls, woodwork and other surfaces. Decreased air quality, mildew, mold, and even damage to a home’s internal structure can occur due to unchecked moisture issues within the house.

Be Advised

Reduce excess sources of moisture in your home by addressing the following factors:

  • Clothes dryers should always be vented to the outdoors
  • Weather stripping, upgrading windows, using caulking and many other solutions are all options in improving moisture exchange within the home
  • Running kitchen and bath exhaust fans whenever steam is produced by cooking or showering is important in improving ventilation
  • Periodically check your attic for condensation or any other signs of moisture.

There are many sources of moisture buildup but you can eliminate excess humidity within the house. From routine check-ups to a regularly scheduled inspection, there are many ways you can avoid costly issues. A qualified professional can provide you with information regarding excessive moisture problems specific to your home.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?
Snapshots From The Field

  1. The paint on the house is chipped
  2. The tree is too close to the house
  3. The window is too low to the ground

Correct Answer B. The tree in the picture is too close to the house, which could cause structural problems to the home and also could be dangerous if the tree falls.

Noteworthy News

Cut Carbon Dioxide Use

Excess amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) are a concern for many Americans. Lessening your CO2 footprint is achievable by any homeowner with some small changes within the home.

Noteworthy News

Here are some tips on how to eliminate your CO2 waste up to 142 pounds per week:

  • Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot
  • Use a drying rack
  • Caulk and weather-strip your home.
  • Only run the dishwasher when it’s full
  • Clean off the top of your refrigerator as those items can prevent your fridge from effectively venting heat
  • Insulate your water heater and turn the temperature down
  • Turn off your TV and DVD player after you shut them down. Electronics consumer energy even when they are in “standby” mode.

Maintenance Matters

Keeping dishwashers humming

The motorized dishwasher is 114 years old. The first motor-powered version was unveiled at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. An electric model followed in 1908. Silverware baskets were added to the door in 1969.


Today, dishwashers have self-cleaning features, hard-food disposers, china-cleaning modes and energy-saving settings. They appeared in around 50 percent of United States homes in 2001, according to Energy Information Administration statistics.

Many dishwashers, especially older versions, have a filter near the bottom of the machine meant to keep food particles off the motor. Clean as needed according to your maintenance guide.

Water is sprayed onto dirty dishes through small holes on the spray arms. These holes can become clogged with food and other particles. To clean, remove the arms using maintenance guide instructions, and use small, stiff wire to clear the holes. Dip the arms in warm white vinegar to remove calcium deposits.

To remove odors from a dishwasher that hasn’t been operated in a week or more, place a cup of white vinegar in a small container on both the top and bottom racks. Run this through one normal cycle.

The modern dishwasher isn’t just a time saver, it can decrease water usage compared to washing dishes by hand. And when it’s ran completely full it’s relatively energy efficient. So kick up your feet and let your dishwasher do all the work.

Did You Know?

Ways To Save Energy

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, artificial lighting consumes nearly 15 percent of a household’s energy use. By reducing your lighting energy use and selecting more efficient lighting sources, you can reduce lighting energy use in your home by 50 to 75 percent.

Install Compact Fluorescent Lamps (CFLs) where lights are on for long periods, such as the kitchen, family room and outdoors. CFLs use 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent light bulbs.

Turn lights off when they are not in use

Dirt reduces light levels, so keep your lamps and fixtures clean

Install timers that automatically turn lights off after a certain period of time

Use natural daylight whenever possible

Install dimmers so you can change light levels in your room to match your needs

Decreasing the amount of energy used within your home takes some small adjustments to your daily lighting habits. See if any of these tips can work for you, and watch your electricity bill go down with just a few changes.

Monthly Trivia Question

Into what category do 44% of home buying households fall?

  1. Married couples with dependents
  2. Second time home owners
  3. Newlyweds
  4. Vacation homebuyers

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