Turning off things like a television or a computer doesn’t necessarily mean you’re turning off the power supply. Chargers, cameras, and all kinds of appliances can draw power whenever plugged into an outlet. This action (or lack of action) results in phantom energy, something that really does nothing but waste money.

When you’re at home, it might not occur to you to unplug your appliances; after all, they’re probably in use. But when you’re traveling, there’s no reason to not shut off your power sources completely.

How Phantom Energy Can Cost You

The amount phantom energy adds to your utility bill is dependent on the source. Per  PC World, a plasma TV is one of the highest culprits, costing around 165 dollars a year. Stereo receivers and DVRs can also be costly, adding an additional 41 and 28 dollars a year, respectively. Other appliances, such as desktops (six dollars), routers (four dollars) modems (five dollars) and powered subwoofers (15 dollars), don’t cost as much, but can add up quickly.

It’s not just your wallet that phantom energy can impact; it also takes a toll on the environment. Each year, this wasted energy accounts for one percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

Reducing Phantom Energy

Reducing phantom energy starts by understanding the different things that can produce it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are three general categories: electronic controls (appliances that use an electronic power switch); clocks (any appliance that has an internal clock and remains on even when off); and direct-current power (appliances with a power transformer continually drawing electricity).

According to Amigo Energy (www.amigoenergy.com), the more appliances plugged in, the more phantom energy is produced. Thus, unplugging appliances when they’re not in use is the best way to reduce it. This may not be easy to do for things like televisions that are regularly used and computers that are in sleep mode. But, it is easier to do for things like phone or computer chargers that are only used once every few days. Toasters, coffee makers, and microwaves, because they are typically only used once a day, are easy to unplug as well.

When leaving for vacation, there’s no reason to keep the vast majority of your appliances plugged in; taking five minutes to unplug everything can make a difference in your utility bills. This is particularly true if you travel often or for long stretches at a time.

If regularly unplugging appliances doesn’t appeal to you, consider using a smart power strip. Smart power strips are intelligent enough to detect when an appliance isn’t in use and able to automatically turn off the power to that appliance. These power strips also have a few outlets that provide continual power, such as those that may be needed for a refrigerator or alarm clock.

According to Amigo Energy (www.amigoenergy.com), the final way to reduce phantom energy is to swap out your appliances with those that are Energy Star Certified. Energy Star is a type of appliance model that uses much less electricity than other regular models; it can reduce the amount of electricity used in standby mode by as much as fifty percent. Energy Star also reduces the amount of energy used when your appliance is on. And, as an added bonus, certain types of Energy Star purchases may be subject to tax breaks, saving even more money than just conservationism would.