Low vampire

Home Energy Tips from The King of Always On

Can you beat the King of Always On? Learn how one Sense user reduced his Always On to a measly 53W and how you can lower yours!

When Sense Community member markhovis73 posted his North Carolina home’s energy profile, he caused quite a stir. A big solar bubble dominates his Now screen, representing 3228W of energy generation. It dwarfs his Always On energy — just 53W — and the remaining 125W in energy usage.  

You might think that people were blown away by that big solar bubble, but it was the Always On numbers that grabbed attention. From Sense’s energy data, we know that the median Always On usage in Sense homes is 350W, which is almost 7 times Mark’s total! Obviously, Mark is doing something right, so we asked him to share how he shrunk his consumption so dramatically. We hope his tips help you to reduce your Always On load.

My rule is to save energy without making any sacrifices to my lifestyle. For Always On energy, the first thing I encourage is to make note of the following vampire drains:

Anything with a programmable controller is drawing power.

Anything that uses a remote is drawing power.

Anything with a DC transformer is drawing power.

As Mark pointed out, anything that is plugged into the wall, uses a remote, or has a power brick  is using energy continuously, even if it appears to be off. He said, “So search out those devices and see if there are any alterations you can make to the way they are being used. For items that are used daily, I look to see if they have a standby power mode. For items that are used infrequently, put them on a power strip that can be managed.”

Mark observes that individual consumer electronics don’t use a lot of energy, but the sheer number of them add up to a lot of energy. A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council confirms Mark’s observation; see the report here.

For instance, Mark said, “Entertainment centers have all sorts of stuff that are plugged in but almost never in use,” like an old tape deck, turntable or receiver. If you’re not using them every day, plug them into a power strip and turn it off. In your home theater setup, organize the power strip to turn on the primary device, like the TV, with the subsidiary devices, like your DVD player, turned off until needed.

Mark replaced his internet router and modem with the Motorola Surfboard SB6580 router/modem combination, which cut Always On usage in half. He reduced his bill by $8 per month and the new router/modem combination quickly paid for itself in savings. To get these kinds of savings, look for router-modem combinations that are well rated or have ENERGY Star certification.

Another tip: Check out the power ratings for consumer electronics before you buy. Mark researched TVs and bought a Samsung model that has a “fantastic sleep mode” with a miniscule power drain. Don’t stop at consumer electronics, though. A pellet stove his family uses in the winter has a brick charger; he unplugs it during the off season.

Mark installed a 6kW solar array in 2011 to address their household energy needs.  His first July electric bill was $16 and his August bill was $18, which was high compared to his December bill of only $4. After successfully getting a handle on his household consumption using energy-saving methods enhanced by the use of a Sense Home Energy Monitor, he upgraded his solar array and added a Chevy Volt in 2012, eliminating the majority of gas used for transportation miles.

Mark notes that the most important benefit of Sense is energy awareness. Once you start to observe the energy patterns in your house, you can make choices that will save money and reduce energy consumption.

But Mark is motivated by broader concerns, too. “For engineers and scientists like me, we can measure what’s happening with energy in the environment — it’s not about belief,” he says. “There is nothing more important than taking care of this marvel, our world.”

We think Mark deserves his coronation as the “King of Always On,” but we expect that our community of energy thinkers will challenge his track record with their own success stories.

Can you beat the #KingOfAlwaysOn? Share a screenshot of your Always On with @Sense on Twitter. Be sure to use the #KingOfAlwaysOn hashtag!