I replaced my suet feeder after my husband found it down by the creek kind of beat up.

It’d gone missing before the holidays and hungry woodpeckers kept perching on the branch where it had hung. I shrugged off the event to a feisty squirrel.

The new one lasted a week, and then it disappeared. This time it wasn’t by the water’s edge.

Okay so now I’m regretting I recycled the old one. And really there’s no way a squirrel would drag it away because with no feeder there’s no more food. Squirrels are smart like that.

Still, woodpeckers kept showing up.

Feeling guilty about withholding rations, I’m thinking we’re all being robbed here and to prove it, here’s what happened….

I fashioned a wired box affixed by a pinch clip. Clamped tightly to the tree at an angle, the birds were lovin’ it.

That is until…

Two nights passed, and that feeder met the same fate of my recent retirement surplus …it vanished.

Come to think of it, I’ll bet some phantom is robbing you at home right now.

While you’re away, appliances, both portable and hard-wired are stealing your valuable electricity.

Cha-ching, cha-ching.

You may know televisions, DVD players, and other electronics even suck up electricity when they’re turned off. That’s due to quick start or timer features.

Find the Fiends – Un-Plug Phantoms

One of our goals is to make your home greener by reducing or eliminating extra power loads whenever possible.

Department of Energy says home electronics and appliances grab about 25 percent of your monthly power costs. So from the get-go, you’re smart to buy the more efficient Energy Star-rated electronics.

Take five minutes to check what’s plugged in. After your morning coffee, let’s say, unplug the coffee maker. (I never use that timer anyway)

What else? When my daughter is off at college, I unplug her clock, her iPod and cell phone chargers.

Of course, given the tangle of wires and cables under my home-office desk or by the entertainment center, it isn’t always possible or practical to un-plug all things.

This Power Strip Is A Penny-Pincher

You’ll be glad to know that there’s a great solution out there called the Smart Strip Power Strip. The Department of Energy estimates as much as 43 billion kWh each year is wasted by phantom loads throughout the United States.

The Smart Strip monitors power consumption and senses when your computer or television turns off and automatically shuts off all other electronics also plugged in to it.

How does it do that?

The power strip has color coded plugs to help you to decide which appliance will control the power feed to the other ‘slave’ devices. This allows, for example, your computer to automatically turn your printer off. Your DVD player turns off automatically when the TV is off.

I got the best price buying refurbished/recycled smart strips, but you can check out their other models and options for fax/modem and low-power devices.

They cost about US $25 to $42. In as little as six weeks, the company says it pays for itself.

Sounds good? Here’s a few extra points….

Smart Strips do not save energy on phones, washers, dryers and kitchen appliances.

So when it’s time, replace your major appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators with Energy Star-rated ones.

Take the energy-use label estimates with a grain of salt.

Refrigerator lighting and icemaker power loads are not included in energy-use labels.

Neither are special dishwasher settings, such as the pots-and-pans cycle. Consumer Reports cautions they use more energy than the regular setting used to estimate energy use.

Electronic Appliances Are Phantoms Too

I turned off my microwave time-of-day clock after discovering the on/off option. (We never needed both range/oven and microwave clocks in the same place.)

Bottom line is this: Some idle power loads can’t be totally avoided – The best we can do is minimize them.

As for my bird feeder mystery…

What is black and brown and wears a mask? You got it – we’ve got at least one phantom raccoon. With this last heist, nightly raids have stopped.

I hear I could hang my newest suet feeder on a line between two trees, like a clothesline. Or even hang it on a 8-10 foot line dropped from a high tree branch.

Who knows, that might even give a woodpecker an advantage over a squirrel for once!

p.s. When should you replace your refrigerator? Today’s Energy Star rated models use about half as much energy as those made before 1993. Check out this neat Refrigerator Retirement Calculator.

Know of any other ways to trim phantom loads? I’d love to hear your comments.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Conserve Electricity March 8, 2009 at 4:20 am

Very good article on smart power strips, it is an easy fix to a quite annoying situation. Unplugging it not always practical.

admin March 8, 2009 at 1:06 pm

I was shocked to learn 5% of electricity in the U.S. is wasted on the phantom loads powering all of these idle home electronics!

The most energy-efficient device? It’s one that’s turned off when not in use. :-)

admin April 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm

My skeptical husband was actually impressed a month later when we found our electric bill dropped easily 20% after I switched over to the smart strips.

You might be interested to read this Energy Star article that mentions doing the same thing as a best practice for retailers who’re displaying appliances. http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=business.EPA_BUM_CH13_Retail#S_13_1

admin May 10, 2009 at 8:33 am

Thanks for your comment. Stay tuned for more great news you can use.

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