A TV system doesn’t take a holiday

By Brian Sloboda

A TV system doesn’t take  a holiday
Regular power strips and “smart” power strips can help cut down on “phantom power” draws from many electronics.

Holidays can be draining and costly: dinner at the in-laws; parties at work and school; buying, wrapping, unwrapping, and cleaning up. And although it's nice to fire up the big-screen TV in the evening and watch a holiday classic, note that when you go to bed your TV and home entertainment system doesn't really take a rest.

Many of these devices, as well as your computer equipment, use energy even when turned off — for example, your HDTV could be remembering the last channel you viewed or the language you speak, or trying to turn on faster. This power draw is commonly called "phantom" or "vampire" load. According to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the average home attributes 8 percent of its monthly electricity consumption to these energy vampires, because they are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Fortunately, TVs and DVD players often have power saving settings in the setup menu. Although altering the factory settings usually means the unit will take a few more seconds to start, it's worth taking a look if you want to trim your electric bill.

If there's no power saving option, you can slay that energy vampire by using a smart power strip. This technology allows you to plug devices into a specially marked section of the strip to keep power flowing to them while letting you turn off other items. This way, you can shut off your stereo, DVD player, or audio system without losing the ability to record programs to a DVR or VCR or having to reprogram the TV every time you want to watch a show. There are also advanced power strips that contain surge protection and turn on and off ancillary home theater equipement automatically. The power strip's electronics sense power load on the TV outlet, thus requiring no manual shutting off of these vampire loads.

Of course, there's always a catch. If you unplug your television or cable/satellite receiver box, it usually has to run its initial setup program when switched back on. Depending on the model, it could take up to 20 minutes for channels to be recognized, and you may have to reset preferences. Most of us aren't willing to do that every day.

The bottom line is that your TV system doesn't have to drain your budget, over the holidays or otherwise. In fact, the money you save by eliminating the energy vampires in your home may even be enough to go out to a movie.

About the Author

Brian Sloboda is a program manager specializing in energy efficiency for the Cooperative Research Network, a service of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

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