Phantom loads


Sounds like something that should be discussed during October, it is scary, but not in a paranormal way…. a phantom load is simply electricity that is being used when an electrical appliance is turned off but still plugged in. These are thieves, they use up or steal electricity but don’t give anything in return. Much like vampires, they may look cool but don’t do anything good for us in the long run.

Many electronics have internal memory, clocks and other things that require electricity to keep the information available, think about what happens when the power is shut off at your home, you usually come home to blinking numbers on your microwave and some clocks. To keep this from happening when the item is just turned off (not un-powered) the appliance uses electricity to keep these things in memory.

It also keeps the appliance warmed up and ready to start faster, if you are old enough I know you will remember having to turn on your TV earlier then you really wanted to watch it, that was to allow the TV to “warm up”, the screen would be distorted or not on at all until it had a chance to warm up, well electronics manufacturers figured out that people like things to come of instantly when they push the button, so they built in the “warm up” time by actually keeping parts of the item on, even if it appeared to be shut off.

What does this mean for you, if you are on grid, then it will mean a higher electricity bill for you, but honestly that’s about it… for the off-gridder however, it means a lot more. If you are working on a set amount of electricity from a set of batteries, then you don’t want phantom loads sucking the power from your batteries when you aren’t actually using it.

Think of it like having a leak in your water, it doesn’t seem like much but if it goes on all the time, especially from multiple locations, you can lose a LOT of water over a surprisingly short period of time.

The way we deal with this is to use those power strips with multiple plugs, that way we can turn off the power to anything we aren’t actually using right then. Recently I found a device that does me one better, it is a power strip with individual power buttons for each plug on it. Now I can turn on or off, individually each thing that is hooked up to this power strip, I can still turn off everything on this strip by the master switch.

Before this, I would plug and unplug the extra things on my power strip, this is the power strip that goes to my computer area, we have 2 laptops, a light, the wireless internet antenna, and a router, we don’t always use all of these items at the same time, it’s usually just my laptop, light and wireless internet antenna. Now I can just turn off the items I am not using at the time instead of having to plug and unplug each thing.

Once I used it for a while and decided what things to plug in the specific slots, I used a permanent marker to identify what is plugged into each spot.

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6 Responses

  1. Oh Yeah, I Live In Lincoln, Nebraska. Still On Grid, But Hoping To Use Grid As A Back-Up Only. I Did Some Calculations Some Time Ago, And I Think I Would Need 16 To 20 Panels And 10,000 Watt Inverter, Can’t Remember Which Controller I Was Going To Use, But Was Told By A Couple People It Was The Best. It Told You How Much You Were Producing, Using, And Some Other Stuff Also. I’ll Have To Go Back & Dig That Info Up Again. Thanks Again

  2. Just Looking In To Building My Own Solar Panels. Been Dragging My Feet For 3 yrs. Now. Going To Build 200 or 250 Watt 24 Volt Panels With 2 different types of photo cells “Mono” & “Polycrystaline” Cells, Hope I Spelled That Right. From What I Understand, “Mono” Will Give OutPut Even On Cloudy Days, & “Poly” Will Give OutPut On Really Sunny Days. I’m Thinking Of Doing A Mix Of Both To Compensate For Cloudy & Sunny Days. What I Want For Battery Backup Is 14 12Volt Batteries With A Charger That Tends To The Batteries Also, A Floating Charger. Going To Buy The Cells Off Of Ebay. Any Advice On Any Of My Plan Would Be Great, Cheapest Prices, Who On Ebay Has The Best Deals, Best Product, How I Should Hook All This Up, Like I Said ANY Advice Would Be Appreciated. Thanks, Donny V.

  3. Annie
    You need to keep in mind that many of us living off-grid do not have power lines near our homes. We do not have the choice to not use batteries. Every watt we can save extends the life of our batteries. It might be enough that we do not have to start a generator after a string of rainy days. If you are getting by on so little power now you are just the right person to get into solar PV. Not having to worry about even a $25 a month bill helps me live a stress free life.
    Scott L

  4. My electric bill is $25 mth, and $10 of that is for customer svc fee. So the real bill’s $15 mth. And I don’t unplug ANYthing. You can’t GO any cheaper than that. By the time you buy all the batteries… Comments?

    1. Annie, That is a very good question, one that is important…

      I am very glad your bill is that low, I don’t know the circumstances in which you live but it’s clear you don’t use much electricity. I live in a very different manner, ROI or return on investment means very little to me, what is priceless to me is I am independent from the electric grid, no one can shut off my power for any reason, I don’t lose power because of weather, I don’t lose power because some drunk hit a utility pole up the street, I don’t lose power because the electric company is working on something.

      Of course if you were to average out how much my batteries cost over the years of use I’ll get out of them, I suspect it would be very economical if you want to look at it that way. I just paid about $400 for my batteries, they are warrantied for 5 years, that makes my monthly “electric bill” run about $7 if you average up instead of down…

      I don’t have to deal with so called “smart meters” and all the problems associated with them, there will be no mistakes made on my “bill” causing me to have to pay out an exorbitant amount of money or else… I have several neighbors and friends out here who have had major jumps in their electric bill after the smart meter was installed, when they called to complain, they were told to pay the bill and IF there was a mistake, they would be credited back the amount on future bills, they were also told that if the electric company came out to investigate AND it wasn’t a problem on the electric company’s end, THEY would be charged an extra fee to cover the them coming out. They have you by the short hairs and there is nothing you can do about it as long as you are tethered to them, THEY have all the power (no pun intended). I sincerely hope you never have a problem with your electric company, I hope you are able to continue going along as you always have, paying a small monthly bill. :)

      Oh and thanks, until now I haven’t sat down and figured out just how much I am “paying” per month to live off-grid vs paying the electric company, that was eye opening.

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