Beware the...Phantom Load! This specter is haunting the American college dorm, and is costing our young plugged-in scholars a lot of money. Brian Keane, the president of the nonprofit group SmartPower, defines phantom load as the electricity wasted because appliances -- such as flat-screen TVs and phone chargers -- continue to draw current when turned off. "It's 10 to 15% of energy use," Keane said, "and it takes the equivalent of 17 coal-fired power plants just to meet the demand it creates."
If your dorm room has a flat-screen TV, DVD player and cable box, all three are sucking juice while you're vegetating in "Modern Civilization 101." According to SmartPower, just those three will use $110 a year in phantom load (and cost more than the refrigerator in total demand). The whole setup uses 17% of its energy when shut down. What to do? How about plugging everything but the cable box (which has troubling reboot issues) into a power strip and get into the routine of switching it off. It's an extra step, but not a big one.
"Kids between 17 and 22, the 'echo-boomers,' are the largest wasters of energy," Keane said. "And in 10 years they'll be buying houses, apartments and cars. We want them to drive an energy-efficient economy; we want them on a food chain of sustainability. As a generation, they're hard to impress, but this is a big 'a-ha' moment and it can get them there. College kids are plugged into everything, from iPhones to Blackberries, and just the cell phone costs them $10 a year in phantom load. We can show them how to save money and really motivate them."
Obviously, phantom load wastes a lot of university and student money, which could otherwise go to Phish tickets. So with that in mind, SmartPower created a contest challenging campuses to compete for the largest campus energy reduction. With a deadline of October 5, schools with the most campus participants can win $5,000, and a similar amount for the largest percentage of carbon reduction.
Since this is college we're talking about, there's also a Facebook page and a YouTube-based video contest that will award $10,000 to the school that comes up with the best ad for SmartPower's effort. Some of the videos already entered are just, well, totally cool. Take a look, and start going after the dreaded phantom load.
See more SmartPower videos.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.