Last updated Sunday July 8, 2012: Updated Sunday June 1, 2014
Phantom Power Part 3 -- Modifying Appliances.
I have made great strides in reducing my home's phantom power consumption. It really was not difficult and amazingly, there is still more that can be done to reduce it further.
Looking over my list of phantom power consumption for each running appliance in my house, it is apparent that the garage door openers could use some attention. But what can be done? You can't very well put them on a power strip.
Warning: Opening up/modifying an appliance will void its warranty. If you don't know what you are doing, you could start a fire or get electrocuted or both. I am not responsible for your actions. So what are you waiting for? Start voiding those warranties!
I removed the cover on one of the (Martin belt-drive) garage door openers and looked at the components. Immediately, I found a 24 volt transformer that feeds all the other components in the opener. Even without the garage door opener running, the transformer is hot to the touch. That can't be very efficient.
I had great success with replacing the 24-volt transformer in the furnace with a high efficiency Bosch transformer and reducing its phantom power by several watts. Perhaps, it could also work with garage door openers. The only problem was the Bosch was a 50VA transformer. The one in the garage door opener looked like it might be a 95VA one.
Measuring the volt-amp draw of the garage door opener with the Kill-A-Watt meter, the small door opener draws up to 105VA while the large door draws up to 150VA. Hmmm, how is that going to work?
But then I thought, how often does a garage door open and close each day anyway? At least 4 times and perhaps as many 24 times a day? It takes less than 20 seconds for the door to open or close. That means worst case, the garage door transformer is only in an over-current state 8 minutes every day. Even that small length of time is spread out across 30-second increments with ample cooling opportunity between each opening/closing event.
With only a 50VA continuous rating, the Bosch transformer should be able to handle this abuse for a short period of time. Turns out, it handles 150VA without breaking a sweat, – or getting warm rather. Borrowing the transformer from the furnace, I connected it up to the garage door opener, bypassing the original transformer. I opened and closed the garage door 10 times in a row with no sign of the Bosch transformer overheating or even getting warm. I think we have a winner.
I bought 2 more Bosch transformers for $27 each and installed one in each opener. Now instead of drawing 9 watts of standby power, the large double door opener (model# DC3700e) only draws 3 watts. The small single door opener (model# DC2500e) went from 8 watts to 3 watts of standby power.
Keep in mind my 11.4 cent/kWHr rule of thumb: Every watt of standby power will cost you $1 every year.
Upgrading old appliances with more Efficient Appliances:
I used to have 3 PC towers in the house. One for the home-theater, one in the living room and one in the dining room. Thanks to the energy sipping Roku box, I no longer needed the cumbersome home-theater PC. I was looking to upgrade the PC in the dining room anyway since it was slow and approaching 5 years old. I took the best of all the parts from the other PCs and created a sufficiently fast PC in the dining room. It also inherited the 80+ gold ATX supply that I found on a Newegg shell-shocker deal a while back. Now the dining room PC tower is fast and only draws 41 watts (when booted into windows but sitting idle).
Recap investment costs by selling old parts:
Using a phenomenon I call "reverse synergy", where the individual parts are worth more than their sum, I sold all the extra PC parts individually on eBay. I made enough money to buy a computer tablet, a solid state drive for the dining room PC and a Chromebook to satisfy the need for more than 1 PC in the house. Ah, I love the convenience of portable computers. They also draw a lot less power than a PC tower. They also have much lower standby power.
For the first time in 15 years, I now live in a 1-PC-tower household. With more wireless devices than wired ones, the need for an 8-port gigabit Ethernet switch is also gone. All my wired devices now fit on the 4-ports of my Internet router (Dining PC, laser printer and TED gateway). I unplugged the 8-port switch for another 2.6 watt power reduction.
With the super efficient Bosch transformers installed inside the Martin garage door openers, the Chromebook replacing the living room PC and by eliminating the 8-port Ethernet switch, my whole house standby power consumption is now only 48 watts.
I did it!
I broke the 50 watt phantom power consumption barrier!
I could probably squeak out another 5-8 watts through additional appliance modifications but I am pretty pleased with the improvements I have made so far.
I thought about eliminating the UPS that backs up all the network equipment (removing another 4.1 watts) but I like the option of having Internet and Vonage phone service during a power outage (doesn't happen very often).
As old appliances wear out and need replacement, Energy Star ones will go in their place: Microwave oven, Range, Dishwasher, Alarm clocks, Computer network equipment. Over time, replacing all these with more efficient counterparts could bring down the phantom power consumption another 15 watts.
I'm still bothered by the central AC that draws a whopping 33 watts while in standby. With the warm weather upon us, I have flipped the AC breaker back on and my phantom power draw has shot up to 81 watts. Hmmm. Something tell me I will be tearing into the AC compressor unit real soon.
Happy Phantom Power Slaying!