At Home with Lisa: Phantom Load

A few months ago, I wrote about power strips and how they can prevent a “vampire” or “phantom” load. A phantom load is when the machine is off, but it is still using power.

Avista’s website has a checklist of items you can unplug.

I’ve been thinking about these lately, so I wondered what different items around the house use phantom loads. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, phantom loads cost the average American household about $100 a year.

When I wrote about the power strips, I learned about my office equipment, but there are other items around the house sucking up power when I’m not paying attention.

I’ve been figuring out what I need to unplug to help save energy. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has some tips to determine whether something is using standby, or phantom, power. The product is likely using standby power if it:

First off, cellphone chargers. When I’m not charging my phone, there really isn’t a reason to keep it plugged in. My boyfriend’s daughter has a TV in her room, but she only comes over every so often, so I’m unplugging that. I have several kitchen appliances with a clock on it, so my microwave, oven and my coffeemaker are all using power. I can unplug the microwave, the toaster and the coffeemaker.

After going through my house to determine what I could unplug, I double-checked the big items that should be on power strips, like the TV, stereo and office equipment, including my desktop computer, monitor and my laptop.

Finally, when I’m shopping for new items, I look for the Energy Star label. This means the product uses less standby power. In the past year, when we have needed to buy a appliance, we’ve always bought products with this label.

Lisa, an Avista customer, bought her 1910 house because she loved the old-world character, some of which doesn’t make her house very energy efficient. Lisa is sharing her experience on taking some simple do-it-yourself improvements to inspire others to do the same. You’ll find her stories right here every Tuesday.

Read energy saving checklists and learn how to save energy.


  1. At Home with Lisa
  2. Energy Saving