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And the worst part, most people aren't aware that these phantoms inhabit every electrical appliance when they are turned off but still plugged in — from the smallest cellphone charger to your flat screen television. The energy vampires, though, are the biggest culprits. These items, like your refrigerator, which you wouldn't want to unplug, are the worst in terms of sucking energy from your home, which translates into money from your pockets.

According to Kevon Makell, PureNERGY Renewables vice-president and general manager, just unplugging a few things in your home can make a significant difference in your energy bill.

"Phantom loads and energy vampires are what are driving up the cost of electricity bills," says Mr. Makell. "If we bring energy education and awareness to focus on what is making the costs rise, every single customer in the country can contribute to making a more energy efficient Bermuda."

Mr. Makell says that energy conservation is the first step to cutting down on energy reliance on the Island.

"The advice we give is to avoid kilowatt usage that will help lower Belco bills," he says.

So how exactly can a household lower energy bills and what are the real benefits of unplugging wherever you can?

PureNERGY provides an energy audit for customers who are interested in knowing exactly how much energy they are consuming and will create a plan for an energy management system customised for each home.

A recent audit for a customer showed that a cable box plugged in over a 24 hour period was consuming 16 watts which cost the customer $3.87 per month, while a 20 gallon water heater consuming 2000 watts was costing $23.26 per water heating cycle.

This writer was lucky enough to get her hands on the Kill A Watt — the instrument PureNERGY uses to monitor the energy outputs of electrical items in the home.

I have the perfect example of what many people have in their homes — a flat screen TV with a DVD player, cable box and speakers that are all plugged into one electrical surge protector.

Basically, the Kill A Watt is a hyped up version of a surge protector with the addition of a screen that gives information such as kilowatt hour usage and elapsed time of monitoring. I plugged my electrical items into the Kill A Watt and left it over night and gauged a nine-hour reading. Remember, all of these items are in standby mode and aren't doing anything for me (well, except telling me the time and maybe recording some made-for-TV movies!). Over the nine-hour period these items together drew 0.2 kWh. Over a month period this would translate to about $5.40 (according to the usage on an average Belco bill).

"Phantom loads are those electrical products that are on all the time and drawing energy like the toaster, laptops and cellphone chargers. This is when you wonder why your bill is so high even when you weren't home and don't have anything turned on," says Mr. Makell. "Things like your coffee machine and your microwave can be unplugged during the day because 90 percent of your day you are not using them. There's no need to but that extra demand on the system."

Feel the heat coming off of your cellphone charger when it's plugged in but not charging anything and you'll realise how much energy that is using for a seemingly innocuous item. And anything that has an LCD screen telling you the time is another culprit.

"There's an LCD screen on everything — your clock radio in the bedroom, microwave and oven in the kitchen, cable box in the living room, telling you the same information — is it really necessary?" asks Mr. Makell.

So unplugging is key, but what about things like your refrigerator and hot water heater?

"The energy vampires are the ones that are sucking your blood like the refrigerator and water heater but these can be replaced with energy efficient appliances or drawing energy from a source like renewable energy," says Mr. Makell.

Look for Energy Star ratings Look for Energy Star ratings when purchasing new appliances — a standard set by the US Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency and featured on most new appliances. Also take into consideration the operation of the appliance, like how much water it uses and what the lifespan of the product is.

"The key is that there are different ways to fix these problems, such as efficient lighting and home insulation," says Mr. Makell. "It's about helping the customers right now and having them take control of their own energy consumption and energy bill. In the long-term clean energy solutions such as solar energy can also be used.

"It's about planning and the fact that the creature comforts can be controlled."

http://www.royalgazette.com/rg/Article/article.jsp?articleId=7dab19330030001&sectionId=146

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