I know what you're thinking. It's the day before Christmas, we're in the middle of Hanukkah, and I want to talk about vampires. Aren't I a couple of months too late? 

No, I'm not, because the vampires in your kitchen are there all year round. Your coffee maker, your microwave, and your under the counter radio/cd player may all be vampires, sucking (and wasting) energy when they are not in use. A vampire load is a term that describes the energy drawn from electronics when they are turned off, yet still consuming energy.

I spent many years under the impression that the energy drawn when electronics are not in use was so miniscule that it made no difference at all. Turns out, vampire loads are responsible for 6% of America's energy usage. That's a lot of greenhouse gases being created for literally no reason.

What are some of the specific power sucking devices in a typical home?

  • any item that can be turned on or off with a remote control, or that has an instant-on feature, is continually using energy even when turned off 
  • plugged in chargers for cell phones, mp3 players or other devices that need to be charged draw energy even when the device is removed
  • any device with an LED clock (alarm clocks, DVD players, microwave ovens, coffee makers, etc.)
  • refrigerator ice makers that aren't making ice because the sensor senses the tray is full
  • computers, monitors, printers
  • electronic exercise equipment that has a display
  • televisions
  • stereos
How many of these items do you have in your kitchen? In mine, I have a microwave, a coffee maker, a clock/radio/cd player with a remote control, and an ice maker. If my kitchen wasn't so small, I'd probably have more. 

Controlling vampires in the kitchen, or anywhere else in your home, is easy. No garlic or silver bullets required (still, you should always have garlic in your kitchen). Just make sure these electronic devices are truly off when they are off. For many of them, all you need to do is unplug them. In the case of your refrigerator ice maker, there is probably a little button that allows you to turn it to off. 

One of the hassles with unplugging many of these items is that it disrupts the display. Programmable coffee makers or programmed radio stations lose the information you've input. For me, it's just something I've gotten use to. Everyone knows that the time on the microwave is wrong because I never reset it when I plug the thing in. Same with the coffee maker which is only plugged in for two hours a so a morning when there is actually coffee in it.

Another way to take care of making sure these devices are truly off is to plug as many as you can into one power strip, and just turn the power strip off. This wouldn't work in my kitchen - none of the vampire electronics I have are near each other. But for other places in the house, it works great for computer and tv/stereo equipment. 

If you want to start controlling the vampires in your home that are sucking away energy (and money), start in the kitchen. Once you see how easy it is, you can work your way around the rest of the house.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Vampires in the kitchen
Vampires are sucking the energy right out of your kitchen. Make them stop.