Power hogs may be among your favorite devices, stealthily consuming power throughout the night.

What Are The Worst Secret Power Hogs In Your House?

Photo courtesy of Steven Depolo via Flickr.

It’s not easy knowing which devices use the most energy – especially since many power hogs consume electricity even when they’re not in use.

Unless you’re obsessively checking your meter, or have invested in a smart home connected to the Internet of Things, it can be hard to know exactly how much electricity you’re using.

The main culprits of high electricity bills are obviously A/C, heating, refrigerators and water heaters. However, a large amount of devices draw power even when they’re “off” or in standby mode, contributing as much as 1% of the world’s total CO2 emissions.

A typical household has more than 40 of these devices, which consume about 10% of total household energy use in the US and cost consumers as much as $4 billion annually,

Here are three of the worst offenders among that 10%:

1. Cable boxes

These ubiquitous little boxes, purchased and forgotten about, are often on 24/7, running at full capacity year round, according to an LA Times report from June 2014. They are one of the largest stealthy power hogs in many homes.

Although they’re not (as debunked here), as the report suggests, the second-largest after A/C, the least efficient boxes nevertheless consume almost 25% as much energy as the average refrigerator.

More than 224 million of these devices are in use across the nation, and few are built to save electricity. That leaves energy-conscious consumers with two options: unplug the box every time you’re done watching TV – or cut the cable.

2. Microwaves

Most of the time, you’re not nuking Hot Pockets in your microwave – but it’s always ready at a moment’s notice. According to the interest group Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP) microwaves are not in use 99% of the time, but the standby power still consumes up to 4 watt.

That’s not a large number by itself – about the same as a pair of computer speakers left on – but as 95% of American households have a microwave, it adds up.

ASAP estimates that with new standards that come into effect in 2016 that reduce standby wattage by 75%, consumers will save $3.4 billion over 30 years.

3. Game consoles

The latest PlayStation and Xbox consoles are even more power-hungry than their predecessors, drawing 3 watts (8.5 with USB charging enabled, whether charging or not) and 15.7 watts in standby respectively.

About 40% of the overall power drawn from these consoles occurs during standby mode.

While sales numbers for these consoles are still increasing, it’s estimated that if these next-gen consoles replace all the current ones, their total electricity consumption will cost $1 billion a year.

More stealthy power hogs

Other products can be a silent drain on your utility bill and the environment as well, including satellite decoders, video recorders, inkjet printers, and DVD players. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has a longer list here.

Of course, many of these devices are likely to be phased out soon, rather than increase in number.

However, the total amount of powered and connected and devices is still growing exponentially – and inefficient technology already wastes $80 billion annually across the world, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency.

What can you do?

To avoid contributing further to the growth of idle power usage, there are a few steps you can take:

  • Acquire a measurement devices that tells you how much electricity your devices are using, such as the Kill-A-Watt or the WattsUp?

  • Connect your devices to power strips with switches, making it easy to turn off all devices at once

  • When buying new products, look for EnergyStar rated for top energy efficiency

Ole Skaar