Phantom consumption: your electricity bill increases and you don’t know it

Confinement means, for the vast majority, inevitably spending more hours at home, so electricity consumption in homes has increased. As a recent survey conducted by the OCU, electricity consumption in Spanish homes rose by around 28% during the month of April. This, inevitably, is going to be reflected in our bill so it will be convenient to try to reduce consumption and, thus, our pocket will be damaged as little as possible.

To achieve this, one of the options that is in our hands is to monitor what is known as phantom consumption, that is, the electricity consumption of the electronic devices that we always have connected to the network even though we are not using them. We are talking, for example, of televisions or computers when they are in ‘stand by’, ready to be used at any time with a remote control or by pressing a button.

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The impact of this phantom or silent consumption has increased in recent years since as he points out IDAE the energy consumption of Spanish homes has evolved above population growth, mainly due to the increase in domestic equipment. In other words, more and more households have more than one television, a mobile phone for each member of the family unit, computers, tablets, electronic books, etc. without forgetting the increasingly complete ranges of household appliances. And, more electronic equipment implies greater consumption of energy in ‘stand by’ to what has now been added, as we mentioned, that we spend many more hours at home due to confinement.

Of the total energy consumption of an average home in Spain per year, which represents about 4,000 kWh, the IDAE estimates that 6.6% corresponds to phantom consumption. To give us an idea, the consumption attributed to the washing machine in a home corresponds to 7.3% or 5.1% to the oven, so the consumption of electronic devices in ‘stand by’ is nothing negligible.

That said, there are a number of habits or changes that we can carry out to minimize spending on phantom consumption.

Tips to Minimize Phantom Consumption

  • Take into account the idle consumption of electronic devices in the purchase decision process. It is information that can be requested from manufacturers so it can be one of the points to decide on a purchase.
  • Unplug electronics as long as we are not going to use them for a while or when we go on vacation. There is no use just turning them off since, if they are still plugged into the power, they continue to consume. This is especially recommended in the case of televisions, game consoles and television encoders since they are the devices that consume the most when they are in ‘stand by’ mode.
  • Use switch terminals, to be able to easily turn off a set of devices that we do not need to be always connected. It should be noted that there are power strips with ‘stand by’ elimination that automatically turn off the devices when they detect that they are on standby. In addition, it groups the devices by necessity in these multiple strips or connectors, so that it is easier to decide which strip to turn off and when to do it.
  • Use timers to automatically turn off appliances that we do not use at night, such as the electric water heater or the television.
  • Turn off wifi when we’re not going to be home for a while.
  • Completely turn off heating thermostats or air conditioners because they have temperature meters and clock screens that can generate phantom consumption even if we are not using them.

Finally, and despite what is often said, mobile chargers hardly consume electricity in ‘stand by’ mode. If you leave the mobile charging overnight, when it reaches 100% battery, the consumption becomes minimal.