Can Unplugging Your Devices Really Save Money on Your Electric Bill?

save on electric bill
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Unplugging: Can you Really Save on your Electric Bill?

As you know, I have been working on paying off my debt for the past two years. I’m so close to being debt free! You can read my story HERE if you’d like to know how to get started.  Since the start of this freeing journey I’ve been learning a lot about finances, budgeting, and how to penny-pinch the heck out of a dollar.  These last two months, I’ve been experimenting with my electric bill, take a look!

Did you know that Americans lose about $19 billion per year from electronic devices consuming energy when not in use? According to an NRDC study done in 2015, this amount of wasted money is attributed to something called “idle load electricity”, or phantom power. Idle load electricity can occur when a device is plugged into an electric receptacle but the device is not physically connected (like a charger) or when a device is plugged in but not in use (like an alarm clock or microwave) or when a device is plugged in but is turned off (like your TV).

Americans want it and they want it NOW. Who wants to wait 10 seconds for an appliance to boot up? Modern technology has to be thanked for this one.  Many appliances these days are fully equipped with standby and digital features that stay on even when the device is not in use to allow for a “quick start”. While this is convenient, it comes with a price. These devices are wasting energy and possibly your money.

How does Phantom Energy work?

To understand how phantom energy works, I will be explaining how energy is transferred from an outlet to a charger. First, let’s look at the phone charger. Some chargers have a small red and green blinking light to indicate that the device is plugged in and is either charging or is charged. This light requires energy. The energy needed to produce this light is the demand, or load.

Now let’s understand an electric current and circuit. An electric current is the flow of electricity through a conductor, like the wires in your home, the metal in a receptacle, and the wires in your charger. An electrical circuit is complete when the electrical current returns back to the source, like a circle.

Next, let’s take a look at the receptacle, or outlet. A receptacle has two or three prong outlets. The right side is the “hot” source, the left or shorter side is the “neutral” source, and the small one below is the “ground” source.

When you have a demand, like a plugged in charger, an electric current travels from your electric panel, through your home to the outlet until it reaches the “hot” source on the receptacle. From the hot source, the energy travels through the metal in the receptacle to the prong and into the wiring of the charger to produce heat and emit light in the charger. Then it works it’s way back to the source to complete the circuit. The electrical current returns to the receptacle on the “neutral” side and back to the electric panel to complete the circuit. This is when your phone is NOT plugged in but the charger is.

Just think of all the light your devices omit when they are off. Does your alarm clock always show the time? Your microwave? Your cable box? Do you have a tiny light on your television that turns red when off? They are sucking energy while you are not using them.

Can you really save money on your electric bill by unplugging?

I’ve noticed that my electric bill has continued to increase overtime. Naturally, as a money-saving fiend, I dedicated two full months to testing this theory of saving electricity by unplugging. For the entire month of August, September and part of October I challenged myself to unplugging most of the devices that I normally left plugged in. This included our cell phone chargers, laptop and charger, toaster, fan, sound machine, bathroom heater, aromatherapy diffuser, BOSE radio, lamp, and our TV/Cable box/Router.  After every use, I made sure to unplug each device from the wall outlet. I was pretty religious about this except for our TV/Cable/Router. The only time I unplugged that was when I knew that no one would be home for the day.

Here were my results. For comparison, I will include August 2017 vs September 2017 vs October 2017. Then I will compare each month to the previous year for the same month. I did absolutely nothing else differently, just simply unplugged.

August 2017 kWt= 1574 ($218.46)

September 2017 kWt= 1672 ($233.64)

October 2017kWt= 1191 ($165.31)


August 2016= 1708 ($219.27)

September 2016 kWt= 1627 ($208.70)

October 2016 kWt= 1235 ($153.90)

Analyzing the results

Nationally, the average savings per household is $167 per year. For August and October, I used less kilowatts when comparing 2016 vs 2017, which if the rates for my electric service would have stayed the same I would have saved $22 for 2 months. September 2017 had record temperatures so this may have masked any possible savings I would have had as I used more kilowatts in 2017 vs 2016. I suspect my AC was being overworked at this time. If I continue unplugging, saving an average of $11 per month, my yearly savings would equal $132. It’s great for the environment to use less energy so unplugging is a win in my book.

Save Money Electric Bill

Top vampire energy devices

Cell phone chargers

Cable boxes

Internet routers/modems




Coffee makers

Alarm clocks

Gaming boxes (Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo)


What you can do to conserve energy


Challenge yourself to a month of unplugging and see how much you can save. If you have energy sucking devices like the ones listed above, think about unplugging them so see if it makes a difference in your home.

Purchase smart strips

Smart strips detect when a device is turned off or when there is a significant decrease in the load or demand. Then it turns the power completely off to the plug source to save energy while allowing the other sources to remain on. It’s convenient so that you don’t have to physically unplug your devices after every use.


Use energy efficient appliances

Energy efficient appliances are made to conserve energy. Choose smart devices and appliances that have the energy star.


Purchase a killowatt meter

Killowatt meters tell you how much energy is used. If you are interested in which devices are using the most energy in your home, use this. You’ll be surprised at which devices are sucking energy out of your home.


Go to to perform an evaluation to see much your home’s idle load is costing you. It works with most electricity providers if you have the green button.

 I’d love to hear how you save on your electric bill!


References: NDRC


Other posts you may like:

15 Ways You Are Wasting Money and What to do Instead

Simple ways to build your $1,000 Emergency Fund, A Step-by-Step Guide

My Journey to Paying Off Debt


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    1. They are great whem you are lookimg to save energy. For a family of 7, that’s a whole lot of mouths to feed and I’m sure any little bit of savings will help. Family of 5 here.

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