So here’s a mystery to consider: Why didn’t National Vampire Awareness Day catch on? Much of the world is still in the throws of a several-years-long vampire fixation – the sheer volume of novels, television series, movies and advertisements is enough for vampire entertainment junkies to get a fix every day of the year. Yet the promising national holiday survived for just one turn: October 30, 2008.
Okay, so this quasi-holiday had a few problems. First, it was a corporate creation via Best Buy. Second, it was scheduled for the day before Halloween. Third, it had no connection with Bram Stoker or Anne Rice or any vampire touchstone – it was about energy conservation.
I guess that third point was the biggest problem, but Americans love a pun and this is a good one. For those who might be wondering what vampires and energy have in common, however, here’s a brief rundown.
“Vampire load” is electricity consumed by an appliance when it’s off or in standby mode. The electricity might be powering some kind of feature (like a clock in your stereo) or it might not be powering anything (like a plugged-in but fully-charged laptop). Some people call this “phantom load,” which also has scary connotations, but it kills our vampire pun so we'll just brush that aside.
So how much power is being drawn by these energy suckers? According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 50 watts are constantly leaking out of the average U.S. house, adding up to about five percent of the nation’s residential electricity use. For example, a turned-off clock radio or a DVD player will still draw a couple of watts, a microwave oven three watts and a cable modem about four watts. But look out if you've got a digital cable set top box with DVR; it can draw 43 watts simply by being plugged into a socket. (The Berkeley lab has an exhaustive chart with an estimate for nearly every current-sucking product that you can think of.)
In terms of dollars and cents, every year you could end up wasting $9 on your DVD player, $34 on that desktop computer and $160 for your plasma television. Is this a huge amount of cash? If you've got cash to burn, maybe not. But who wants to spend $200 a year on energy you're not even using?
Of course, from the lowliest AM radio to the sleekest iPad, all cease to suck when you simply unplug your electric gizmos. If the inconvenience of actually unplugging numerous gadgets is a problem, just plug appliances into a power strip to allow you to turn everything off – really off – with one click of a button. Killing the vampire load is one of the cheapest energy efficiency fixes out there, and there are plenty of strategies to explore.
Let’s review: Vampires suck the life out of their victims, and vampire loads suck energy out of the electric grid and money out of electric customers.
This metaphor works, people!
Let’s hit the restart button and give October 30th another chance. There’s no need to go out and buy anything, all you need is the willingness to unplug a few electric appliances or flip the switch on a power strip. Let’s bring back National Vampire Awareness Day!