HomeBusinessVampire electrical appliances sucking cash from your bank account

Vampire electrical appliances sucking cash from your bank account


Rob Bohm is a consultant who specialises in saving people like me from parasites hiding in our living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens and studies – creatures that constantly, 24 hours a day, suck money out of our bank accounts.

As they wreak most of their damage at night, draining power when left on, even when not in use, these electrical appliances are called ‘vampire devices’ — after the mythical blood-sucking creature.

Overall, say experts such as Rob, they are costing Britain billions of pounds a year in wasted electricity.

Draining: ‘Vampire devices’ – named after the mythical blood-sucking creature – wreak most of their damage at night, sucking up power even when not in use

And with the war in Ukraine drastically reducing gas supplies and an unassociated huge hike in fuel prices due to the price cap being lifted next month, this is needlessly adding to the shocking rise in the cost of living.

Rob, 57, says: ‘There are vampires everywhere. They’re electrical appliances, chargers and lights all over your home, devices that suck power from the mains — constantly — even when you think they’re switched off.’ 

Individually, they don’t cost much, but collectively and over time, they can add hundreds of pounds to your annual electricity bill.

A recent study by British Gas, the UK’s largest supplier of electricity, estimated that as much as 23 per cent of our electrical usage could be put down to vampire energy.

This comes at a time when, next month, the cap on energy prices imposed by the regulator Ofgem will rise by 54 per cent from £1,277 a year for the average user, to £1,971.

The electrical element of that will increase from an average of £548.10 to £580. And with the war in Ukraine seeming endless and another price cap rise in October, average household annual electricity bills could surge past the £800 mark. 

If that happens, vampire devices could amount to as much as £200 a year for the average household.

Around my home, Rob, an energy expert with construction project consultants CLPM, is finding more and more vampire devices.

‘Look at this,’ he says, pointing to a five-plug adapter sprouting power cables next to my desk. On it is a phone-charger but my phone isn’t connected to the cable. So, what’s the problem?

‘Phone charger plugs draw energy constantly, even if they’re not charging your phone,’ Rob says. ‘They have a transformer inside that uses tiny amounts of power all the time they’re plugged in.’ 

I begin to count the number of chargers in my house that I never bother pulling out of their sockets.

Depending on its size, a TV on standby will use around 4W/hour, That equates to around £10 per year - or a lot more in a house with multiple TVs

Depending on its size, a TV on standby will use around 4W/hour, That equates to around £10 per year – or a lot more in a house with multiple TVs

There are two phone chargers, one for an iPad, two for our electric toothbrushes, one for my Bluetooth headphones, one for my wife’s portable speaker . . . I could go on.

‘And,’ says Rob. ‘Your printer is on standby. You can see the LED display. It’s using about £10 of electricity a year. And your hi-fi amp is on, too. That could be drawing up to 30W/hour. Do you leave it on all the time?’

Well, yes, but I read somewhere that you get better sound quality if you leave it on standby.

Rob rolls his eyes. ‘That could be costing you as much as £73 a year.’

Rob’s audit goes on. TVs use power constantly unless switched off at the mains, automatically remembering what channel you were last watching, having LED displays that draw energy and electronic systems waiting to be woken up by your remote control.

Rob points at my TV, which is on standby. ‘Depending on size, a TV on standby will use around 4W/hour,’ he says. ‘That equates to around £10 per year — or a lot more in a house with multiple TVs.’

The timers and displays on your microwave and alarm clock, oven and thermostat, stereo and DVD player, wifi router and Sky box, dishwasher and washing machine — all use electricity when on standby.

Last year, British Gas put the national cost of vampire electricity at £2.2 billion. When next month’s price rise is factored in, that will rise to an estimated £3.3 billion.

‘The main culprits are TVs and games consoles on standby, and laptops and phones left on charge,’ says Marc Robson, a smart energy expert at British Gas. 

‘Our research last year [before the Ofgem price cap rises] showed that households could save an average £110 on electricity bills by switching these items off at the mains.

‘Across the country, people are unnecessarily over-charging their mobile phones and laptops. The charger will still pull power from the mains even if the phone or laptop is fully charged.

‘As soon as your device is fully charged, get into the habit of unplugging it. Not only will this save energy, it also prolongs battery life. It could also save you about £60 a year on your energy bills.’

A recent study by British Gas, the UK's largest supplier of electricity, estimated that as much as 23% of our electrical usage could be put down to vampire energy

A recent study by British Gas, the UK’s largest supplier of electricity, estimated that as much as 23% of our electrical usage could be put down to vampire energy

My vampire slayer Rob’s energy audit of my home is proving to be an embarrassing eye-opener. He stops at a socket and points at a device I’d completely forgotten about. It is a mouse deterrent.

‘We had a mouse about five years ago,’ I say. ‘Haven’t seen any of the little blighters for years now.’

‘But you left it plugged in . . . even though you don’t have any mice? Mice deterrents can use in the region of 8W/hour. This equates to £20 per year — and it has been plugged in for five years.’

He points at my laptop, which is in standby mode. ‘A laptop on standby will use around 15W/hour,’ he says. ‘This equates to around £36 per year.

‘One of the biggest users in your home will be your Sky box. That can use up to 30W/hour. This equates to around £73 per year.’

And though they’re not vampire devices, Rob tells me off for having old-style incandescent light bulbs instead of LED ones. ‘An average incandescent light bulb would be 50W, whereas an LED’s 6W,’ he says.

A poll for British Gas last year found that 45 per cent of its customers had never been more keen to save on their energy bills — but that 31 per cent of them had no idea their appliances were costing them money while on standby.

However, 23 per cent said they would continue to leave devices on standby, with 43 per cent of this group saying switching them off ‘wasn’t worth the saving’.

After Rob Bohm’s vampire-slaying audit of my home I reckon I will save upwards of £300 a year if I follow his advice. 

I wonder how much my ignorance has cost me personally, and, the damage I’ve done to the environment. 

To think I ran up about £100 extra in electricity bills for an electric mouse deterrent when I don’t even have any mice.

Here are Rob’s top tips for saving a small fortune:

  • Make sure when you turn your television off, you do it at the wall. The standby light uses a small amount of energy and it is using energy while being primed to receive a signal from the remote if needed to power on. New TVs use less energy on standby than older models.
  • The same goes for the dishwasher or washing machine — if a light is on, a small amount of energy is still being used. New energy-efficient models have settings which turn the unit off after a washing cycle.
  • Add all electronics (computer, gaming console, Sky box, TV) to an extension lead and switch the whole thing off at night. This saves the effort of turning them off individually.
  • A smart meter’s in-home display can help identify how much energy is used at different times of the day.
  • Timing is everything; don’t leave chargers plugged into your devices once they’re fully charged. Other items that can also be overcharged are electric toothbrushes and cordless vacuum cleaners.

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