There are vampires in your house. No, not the pale-skinned, toothy, teenage-angsty, kind. The kind that like to take a painful bite out of your wallet instead of your neck. Energy vampires lurk within virtually every appliance that plugs into the wall.

Televisions, refrigerators, video game consoles: these are all things we plug in once and then forget about. Even though we may remember to turn them off (or not stand in front of them with the door open) these appliances are sucking up valuable energy every second they’re plugged in. Over time, this little trickle of energy consumption adds up to lots of wasted money and unnecessary carbon emissions.

The good news about energy vampires is you don’t need a wooden stake or shirtless werewolf to vanquish them. All you need is a little knowledge about how they work and some nifty gadgets that can put an end to the waste. Feel like slaying some vampires? Keep reading to learn more.

Image via GOOD Magazine

Know Thy Enemy

The first step toward ridding your home of energy vampires is knowing what they are and where they like to hang out. They’re also referred to by several different names, like “idle current usage,” “phantom loads,” and “standby power,” which can be confusing. Simply put, energy vampires are electrical devices that expend energy when they’re plugged in, even when they’re not in use — which may not only cause unnecessarily high utility bills, but could also waste a good deal of energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average U.S. household spends as much as $100 a year powering devices that are off or in standby mode. On a national basis, standby power accounts for more than 100 billion kilowatt hours of annual U.S. electricity consumption and more than $10 billion in annual energy costs.

The Worst Offenders

Now that you know exactly what energy vampires are, it’s time to shine some sunlight on the worst offenders (vampires hate that). cell Phone chargers, camera chargers, battery chargers or power adapters as these pull energy from the outlet even when not connected to an end-use product. Next on the list are devices that stay active even when they’re not in use, like DVRs or DVD players that are set to record a show, game consoles, laptops, and plasma TVs. A good rule of thumb for identifying an energy vampire is to turn all appliances in a room off, and then turn out the lights. If you see a steady or blinking light, that appliance is still using energy.

Keep Reading: How To Vanquish Energy Vampires

Now that you’ve been thoroughly horrified, it’s time to make like Van Helsing and hunt these energy vampires down, one by one. Thankfully, the answer to ending idle current usage isn’t unplugging every appliance in your house (although that’s arguably the simplest solution). There are several ways to not only track energy vampires, but prevent them from using energy when they’re not in use.

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The OnPlug

This clever little gadget fits between your electronic device and the power outlet, and lights up when power’s running through it. Simply flip a switch on the side of the plug to sever the flow of power from the wall to your device.

GreenZero Chargers

These clever chargers from Bracketron detect when a connected device is fully charged or unplugged, automatically shutting themselves off and thus consuming no idle power as a result. The Mushroom model includes an integrated cable, and is available in three models that are compatible with different types of portable devices. The Stone charger, meanwhile, is compatible with USB mobile devices and sports a a foldable, snag-free design so that it can be easily carried in a purse or bag. (While you’re at it, check out the laptop chargers by iGO as well.)

Smart Power Strips

Most of us have too many gadgets to survive on two hole outlets. As a result, we load up six or more plugs into a power strip and pray the surge protection holds. Unfortunately, most of these strips employ an all or nothing strategy: either all the plugs are powered or they’re all turned off. Some smart power strips allow selective powering of individual outlets, while at the same time eliminating vampire energy when the devices aren’t in use. Some especially promising models include the GreenGenius, TrickleStrip, iRemoTap, and ZuniDigital’s “Smart Green Surge Protector.”

Other ways to vanquish vampire energy include:

  • Changing the settings on your computer so that system standby and hibernate features are enabled both in the Battery (DC) and Power Adapter (AC) settings, That way they’ll work whether the computer is plugged in or running on battery.
  • Turning off the clock display for non-essential appliances like coffee makers, microwaves, and ovens.
  • Some appliances, like refrigerators, ovens, and washing machines, can’t be unplugged. Start off on the right foot by replacing outdated versions with Energy Star-rated alternatives to use less power right from the start.

How have you dealt with energy vampires at your home or office? Tell us in  comment!