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Killing Watts: A KAKE News Special Report

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We all know we are wasting power when we leave lights, televisions, or other electronics on when we're not using them, but now comes word that even when most gadgets are off, they still pull power when they're off.

Westar Energy is now telling us about the so-called "phantom load," or the watts your gadgets are pulling even when they aren't on. Westar conservation spokesman Paul Heitkotter says just the phantom load in the United States alone is enough to power the entire countries of Peru, Greece and Vietnam.

Almost everything that is plugged in is pulling power. How much??? Heitkotter recently walked around an average Wichita home with a gizmo called the "Kill-a-Watt." It measures the power your plugs are pulling even when the appliance is off.

Take your cell phone, for instance. The cell phone charger is drawing six watts of power per hour. In other words, if you leave your cell phone charging all night, chances are it's fully charged in a matter of an hour, but it's still pulling power all night long.

What about a laptop computer?

"If you leave it in sleep mode, you are consuming about two dollars a month in electricity," said Heitkotter.

Here's a real waster: Your kids are playing video games when they get distracted and turn off the TV and walk away. Heitkotter plugged in the "kill-o-watt" to measure both gadgets... the TV and the game console.

"Your television is drawing 77 watts. Your game cube is drawing 22 watts. So we're looking at 100 watts right there and nobody is getting any good out of it," he says.

That could cost you up to $6.00 per month. That's something that Beth Albers, the mother of three young boys, says has to stop.

"Thats crazy," she says. "Because they walk away all the time and leave the game cube running or leave it running overnight with just the pause, so they don't lose their game. "They each owe me six dollars a month," she says, jokingly.

The computer is the biggest guzzler of phantom power. Nine-year old Dillon thinks everything is alright if he turns the computer off when he's done playing games.

"Everything is turned off and its still drawing 14 watts, which is low," says Heitkotter. "Actually, most home computers are drawing 25 watts to 35 watts."

And so it goes, we tested gadget after gadget in the Albers home. Here's what the Kill-A-Watt calculated: Over 148 kilowatts per month of phantom power. All those wasted watts cost this family more than $12.00 per month.

"Small numbers, but when you add it all up, it becomes big numbers over a years time" said Heitkotter.

So what do you do to foil the phantom load? Heitkoff suggests investing in a few power strips.

"Instead of having to remember to turn off the TV and game cube, all you have to do is turn off the switch and you can see that it goes to absolute zero," he says.

Heitkotter also suggests getting rid of all dimmer switches in the house. And if you won't lose memory or the clock set, just unplug what you aren't using or buy a timer so that your gadgets are only going when you are most likely to need them.


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