What are ‘phantom load’ and ‘vampire devices’?

‘Vampire devices’ are electrical products that continue to use power when they’re plugged in but switched off. ‘Phantom loads’ is a related term. It’s used to describe the energy leeched by these products when left on standby. These might sound like scary terms to describe something that costs you pennies a day. But over the course of a month or a year, it can be a little frightening to see how much money you’re wasting.

Any appliance that stays plugged into a socket that’s still switched on is using an electric current. Even in sleep or standby modes, some items continue to use energy for updates, connecting to remote servers, and recording data.

The worst appliances to keep on standby

The most common vampire devices found in homes are:

  • TVs
  • Microwaves
  • Game consoles
  • Computer monitors
  • Alarm clocks
  • Printers
  • Coffee machines
  • Mobile phones (and chargers)
  • Kettles
  • White goods (dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers)

A fridge freezer uses around 12% of a household’s energy bill. But, as you need to keep it on constantly, we wouldn’t consider this a vampire device. 

The amount of energy that each product uses, when on standby, varies between models. You’ll find that some are more energy efficient than others. When you’re buying a new product, shop around and check the labels for their energy efficiency.

For now, we’ll look further at some of the biggest culprits on the energy drainer list.

Tips on how to manage the energy usage of your appliances

There are a few simple actions you can take to cut down on wasting energy through standby mode.

  • This is an obvious one but switch any electrical items off at the socket overnight. Even a standby light uses energy.
  • Use a fused multi-socket adaptor or extension lead for things like your TV and DVD player. With one flick of a switch, you can turn everything off when you’re done using them.
  • If you charge your mobile phone or laptop overnight, it’ll be fully charged after a couple of hours. After that, you’re wasting electricity. Charge them during the day and keep an eye on when they’re done (or charge them at work!).
  • Standby savers, or energy-saving plugs, work with your remote control. The device blocks power from moving through the socket to the appliance. These are pretty handy if your sockets are in hard-to-reach areas.

About the author

Dan Flanagan

Dan joined Domestic & General as a Digital Copywriter in 2022. He’s already helped to write and shape copy for our customers and our business audience alike. His background lies mainly in PR and Comms, writing press releases and advertising. Dan lives in Brixton, South London equidistant between the gym and the pub, fighting an eternal battle of wills.

Our blog is loaded with more related articles