Last updated Sunday July 8, 2012

Phantom Power Part 2 -- It's not so trivial after all.  

Here's a crazy fact:  The energy saved by reducing my home's phantom power by 140 watts now pays my annual commuting fuel costs. Let me explain.  

Phantom power happens all day, every day.  When I first moved into my house, my initial phantom power consumption was over 200 watts. It is now down to less than 60 watts.  That 140 watts that I am now saving adds up to 3.36KW-Hr a day or 1226.4KW-Hr a year in electricity that I am no longer consuming.  

I commute to work 4 days a week solely in my electric pickup truck.  It is a super energy efficient vehicle (~132mpg equivalent).  I consume about 5.5KW-Hr in each direction driving 20 miles.  I plug in a work where my employer graciously picks up my 48 cent tab for the 5.5KW-Hr in electricity I use to drive back home.   I commute about 200 days a year.  The electric consumption of fuel that I use while driving one-way to work for a year works out to be 1100 KW-Hr.  

The 1226.4KW-Hr per year in phantom power savings more than covers the energy I need to drive 1 way to work each day, all year.  In fact, even after a year of driving to work, I have 126KW-Hr left over.  That's enough electricity to drive another 426 miles, all from energy that is no longer wasted in my house.  

I was able to get my phantom power consumption to just under 98 watts. To knock another 38 watts off of that, I had to get a little more extreme.  

I looked at my list of appliances and which ones had the most phantom power.  

  • Data Center 46.7 Watts
  • Furnace 9 watts
  • Door bell 4 watts
  • PC supplies 5 watts each (2 PCs total)

My data center (consisting of cable modem, Vonage box, 8-port switch, WiFi Router, NAS drive, TV amp and UPS) together draws 44 watts all the time.  I decided to get rid of the slow and inefficient NAS drive.  It alone draws 24.5 watts.  If my PCs are off, it doesn't need to be running either. 

The Vonage box has a bright orange back-light.  There was a setting to turn it off and now it draws 1/2 watt less.  

I also disconnected the unused TV cable lines going through my house and went with a smaller TV splitter.  Now the passive signal coming from the TV antenna is strong enough that I can eliminate the distribution amp coming off of it.  +2 watts.  

Total Data Center phantom power reduction:  27 watts.  

The furnace has a loud buzzy transformer that runs its circuitry all the time.  I swapped it out with an energy efficient Bosch one and now it draws 3 watts instead of 9 watts.  

I swapped out the old transformer on the doorbell with a new energy efficient one that I had laying around.  This shaved almost 2 watts off the total.  

I swapped out the power supplies on both my PCs with more energy efficient ones (from 80+ to 80+ Gold).  Not only did this reduce their operating power consumption by a few more watts, it also knocked down the phantom power 1.5 watts each. 

I have 2 Roku boxes.  They are awesome but I don't like that they have to be running all the time with no easily designed way to switch them off. Luckily, they only draw ~1 watt in stand-by.  Still, being the obsessed energy guy that I am, I converted one of them over to run off of the USB port on the TV set.  As part of the USB standard, it also provides 5 volts DC power at relatively low current.  This means when the TV is on, the Roku is on.  When the TV is off, the Roku is switched off and not using any power.  Zero!  Straining at gnats?  Probably.  But now my total phantom power draw is almost 1 watt less.  

Update 7/8/2012:  The Roku usually comes on instantly when it is being powered all the time.  But it takes a good 60-90 seconds to boot up after the power has been removed completely.  Initially I thought it wouldn't be a big deal waiting a few extra seconds before watching a TV show, but after a few weeks, it really became an annoyance and a violation of rule#1: "Save Energy and Money without Sacrificing Convenience and Luxury."  With a ~1 watt increase in phantom power, the Roku is back on its own power supply and running all the time.  

Now let's take a power reading with TED.  

Fifty-Eight watts.  
I did it!  I broke 60 watts for phantom power.  

Now let's see if I can't break 50 watts of phantom power.  

I have 2 garage doors.  One has a small opener that draws 8.3 watts in stand-by.  The other draws 9.6 watts in standby.  By swapping out the power supply in each garage door opener, I calculate my total phantom power will be reduced to 51 watts. We'll see.....

By the way, I'm spending almost $64 for 2 transformers.  That's a lot of money for only saving 7 watts of phantom power.  It will take about 10 years to break even.  In this case, I have to do it just to make my 50 watt goal.  

After that, my list of possible phantom power reductions is getting pretty slim.  1 watt here, 3 watts there.  Going much further definitely doesn't make financial sense.  

I still have seasonal phantom power areas to address.  My central A/C draws 33 watts in stand-by all the time.  During the off season, I just flip the breaker.  But what should I do about it the other 4-6 months out of the year?  

My automatic sprinkler timer draws 2 watts all the time.  Maybe I can get that down to 0.3 watts.  

Next Article:  Phantom Power Part III