Power strip with all plugs connected.

7 Common Questions About Phantom Load


“Phantom load” might not be a common topic among homeowners, but it might be adding extra cost to your electric bill every month. Let’s define phantom load and show you how easy it is to reduce its impact on your electric bill.

1. What Is Phantom Load?

Phantom load is electricity that appliances use, even when they’re turned off. It’s also the electricity that many appliances, including your television, use when they enter a standby mode but aren’t turned completely off.

The standby power mode, or sleep mode, allows appliances to snap back into action when you need them. The downside to this convenience is a small amount of power consumption. It’s likely only a few kilowatt-hours (kWh), but that energy use adds up.

You might also hear phantom load called phantom energy, vampire power or vampire load.

2. Do Plugged-In Appliances Use Electricity In Standby Mode?

Many appliances enter a standby mode. Think of walking through your home with all the lights turned off. If you see any glowing lights on your appliances, they’re likely a source of phantom load.

Microwaves, game consoles, desktop computers, modems, cable boxes, DVD players, DVRs, coffeemakers and chargers are examples of phantom load culprits. You might see these devices referred to as “energy vampires.”

When you need new appliances, consider ENERGY STAR®-rated appliances, which often have better energy efficiency in standby mode.

Energy Bills Stink

Looking to go green in 2023? Let's talk solar.

3. How Much Does Phantom Draw Cost?

The cost of phantom load is small, but it can be significant over time. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, phantom power accounts for 5% – 10% of residential electricity consumption.

Berkeley researchers also estimate that phantom load could add 1% to global carbon emissions.

4. How Can You Reduce Phantom Electricity?

You can save money on your home’s energy vampires in two main ways: unplugging them and using smart power strips.

It’s easy to unplug a cell phone charger at night and plug it back in as needed.

When you have multiple home electronic devices grouped together, though, a smart power strip is a better solution. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), smart power strips – more formally known as Advanced Power Strips – shut off automatically, cutting power to the devices plugged into them. Setting smart power strips to shut off at night and turn back on in the morning could save hours of phantom load daily, with little impact on your convenience.

There are also smart power plugs that allow you to control a single device. Some smart power strips and plugs can respond to schedules and commands via apps, your home Wi-Fi network and smart home hubs. Some even accept voice commands.

A home energy monitoring system can also help you identify appliances responsible for too much energy use.

5. Are Smart Plugs And Power Strips Expensive?

According to PCMag.com, some of the best smart plugs start at $11.99. Smart strips cost more, with some as low as $32.97 on Amazon.

Both devices are a relatively low-cost way to reduce your energy consumption.

6. Is It Possible To Completely Eliminate Phantom Load?

Many appliances can’t feasibly be plugged into a smart power strip, and then unplugged, to improve energy savings. Appliances like a thermostat or refrigerator need power constantly. You may want your entertainment center’s components ready to go during your waking hours, too.

Still, it’s possible to cut phantom consumption by up to 20%, according to Berkeley researchers.

7. What’s The Connection Between Phantom Load And Solar Power?

If you’re interested in solar panels, it’s wise to consider how to reduce your electricity usage. This can allow you to purchase a smaller, less expensive photovoltaic (PV) array or make better use of the clean energy you produce. Either way, you’ll get a better return on investment (ROI).

Identifying your home’s energy vampires is a simple way to cut your power consumption and enjoy more financial benefit from your solar panel system.

The Bottom Line: Cut Phantom Power To Lower Bills And Carbon Emissions

Even small amounts of wasted energy add up over time for the environment and your energy bills. Reducing phantom load can save money for homeowners while also making a small impact on emissions.

Is your phantom power under control? If so, find out how much more you could save by going solar! Talk to a Solar Advisor today.

Related Resources