I'm not talking about the resurgence of the mythical blood-sucking creatures that have been reinvented by popular culture in the past few years. I'm talking about the kind of vampires that already reside in your home – your electronic gadgets. You may not realize it, but these vampires are really making themselves at home. Many of them do so by consuming electricity even when you think you've turned them off. According to statistics cited on the ENERGY STAR certification's website, vampires cost the average U.S. family about $100 each year!

Often the culprit is a "standby" mode, but some vampires are even sneakier than that. Some just have large "block" plugs while others have "power bricks" hidden midway down the A/C adapter cord. If you want to reduce the impact of these unwanted guests, there are a few simple steps you can take.

Stopping the bleeding

There are several ways to cut down on vampire energy use, but all of them revolve around the same basic approach: ensuring that vampire devices cannot use energy when you're not using them. The easiest way to do this is to physically unplug your devices, but that can be a real challenge – especially if your outlets are buried behind furniture.

Another approach that achieves the same goal is to connect your devices to a power strip. The strip allows you to quickly stop any power drain by just flipping a switch. If you really want to get handy you can install a traditional wall switch to control the outlets your electronics are plugged in to. This approach achieves the same goal as a power strip, but you won't have to bend down to flick the switch.

While it's fairly simple to prevent vampires from using energy, there's more to this discussion than that.

Picking your battles

Sure, lots of electronic devices use energy when they're not in use and in many cases that can be undesirable, but sometimes you'd rather pay the extra few cents a day to keep from dealing with the hassles involved with not having a standby mode.

Think back to when you first plugged in your television. You probably spent a good half an hour choosing just the right picture settings, programming the digital tuner to recognize all the channels you receive and setting the clock. If you sever your TV's connection to standby power you're going to have to either forgo these personal preferences or spend another 30 minutes getting everything just right every time you plug it in.

In other cases, vampire devices might be using energy to actually achieve something you want them to. The perfect example is your DVR. If you disconnect your DVR's power, you can forget about watching the shows you programmed it to record later. After all, it can't record a show if it doesn't have the power to do so.

Before you go all out unplugging your devices whenever you turn them off, think about what actually needs standby power and what doesn't. With the right planning you can kill off the vampires you don't need and keep the ones you can handle.

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