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How To Exterminate The Dreaded Phantom Load

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There are plenty of scary things that can increase the energy bills for your business this Halloween, but none is worse than the dreaded phantom load. This terrifying little poltergeist sucks down energy even when you aren't using your equipment, sneaking additional energy charges onto your bill. If you're hoping to reduce your energy expenses, you need a phantom load buster strategy that will exterminate that dread spirit once and for all. As the spooks and goblins come out, make sure your business is prepared with the right tools.

What Is Phantom Load?

The phantom load is a terrifying beast. This is the energy that your appliances draw when they are plugged in but not in use. Phantom draw, also called ghost power or vampire power, is relatively insignificant for a single device. Across your business, however, it could cost your company hundreds of dollars a year in energy expenses.

How Much Could My Business Be Wasting?

These sneaky phantoms can waste a little or a lot depending on what appliances your business uses. Leaving a laptop plugged in 24/7, even when it's not running, can suck down as much as 235 kilowatt hours a year. This number is based on somewhat older-model laptops, so your phantoms may vary in strength based on the ENERGY STAR rating of your computer and how long ago it was purchased. And, leaving a screen saver on won't help. Screen savers draw as much energy as the computer in active mode. 

For the average home, as much as 10 percent of the electric bill is lost to phantom power. For business owners, that number will vary based on how often your appliances are sitting by in idle mode. Do you have computers throughout the business that are often left plugged in all day, even though they're only in use for about 8 hours? Do your copiers, scanners and other office equipment stay plugged in all the time? What about the coffee machine? If your business only operates 8-10 hours with no one present on weekends or holidays, your phantom costs may be an even larger percentage of your bill.  

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  • Taking Down the Culprits

    If you're ready to launch an attack on the phantom loads throughout your building, you need the right equipment. Make sure you're prepared for battle with several key pieces of phantom-fighting gear. You'll need:

    • Power strips 
    • ENERGY STAR-certified appliances
    • Employee training materials

    Now that your weapons are ready, it's time to take down those phantoms! Go on the offensive and attack throughout your office. No appliance is too small to hide a sneaky phantom load, and you want to be sure to exterminate them all.

    Examine Your Office Gear: Take a scroll around your workspace. What appliances do you have that could be drawing a phantom load? Are there banks of equipment that are left plugged in all the time, even when they aren't in use? Are scanners, copiers, and other vital appliances left plugged in and even turned on all night? Don't forget about the coffee machines and microwaves in the break rooms. As you're taking a walk around your office, pay particular attention to these common culprits:

    • Wall warts (large blocks, like cellphone chargers)
    • Bricks (large chargers)
    • Computers

    Change The Way They Are Plugged In: Consider the practicality of your phantom-busting efforts. Are you really going to unplug each and every applicance each and every day? Instead, plug several devices into power strips so that the flip of one switch will turn them all off. Make sure you're familiar with the energy load of the power strip so that you don't overdo it! You don't want to create a fire hazard or leave employees struggling to deal with tripped breakers every day.

    Upgrade Old Appliances: ENERGY START qualifications have increased substantially over the last few years, especially with regards to computers and other common equipment. Today's ENERGY STAR appliances must draw less than 1 kilowatt of energy when they're idle - a significantly lower amount than many older appliances. When the time comes to upgrade your appliances, carefully consider whether an ENERGY STAR model will help decrease power costs across your business. 

    Unplug Items That Are Not In Use: Does the coffee maker only get turned on first thing in the morning, when everyone needs a jolt of caffeine to get started? Is the microwave typically only used for a couple of hours around noon? Take the time to unplug items that aren't in use so that you won't have to deal with phantom energy drain from those items. This is a particularly useful strategy for items that aren't used regularly. For example, if you only turn on the copy machine a couple of times a week, it might be worth waiting for it to "wake up" to make copies. 

    Get Employees Involved: Ultimately, your best procedures are only as useful as the employees who are willing to implement them. Take the time to create training materials. Offer employees Halloween-themed pamphlets about the phantom loads threatening your business, bring them in for specific training, and consider offering rewards for departments that adhere to your guidelines to help prevent phantom loads from re-infesting your office as soon as you think you've vanquished the last of them. When employees are on board with your efforts, you'll find that keeping those dreaded phantom loads at bay is a snap. 

    Casting phantom loads out of your business once and for all is a challenging proposition, but you're prepared for the task. By taking these critical steps, you'll become a phantom-fighting machine who is able to save on your business's energy bill, decrease your environmental impact and chase away those little spooks once 

    Not scared yet? Check out these nightmare-ish energy facts.

    Posted: October 31, 2017