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Understanding Phantom Load: How to Save on Wasted Energy

Are your energy bills higher than expected even though you’re diligently turning off appliances and lights? The answer could lie in the hidden culprit known as “Phantom Load”.

What is Phantom Load?

You use the remote to turn off the television, flick the light switch off, and head to bed. All is quiet in the house, and all your appliances are switched off. Or are they? That silence and apparent inactivity can be misleading. In most rooms, you probably have at least one home appliance or device that’s on or on standby, quietly continuing to drain electricity in the background – whether you’re aware of it or not!

This is part of what’s known as your ‘Phantom Load,’ and if you don’t have a grip on it, you’re needlessly spending money on wasted energy. Phantom Load, also known as ‘Vampire Energy’, can account for up to 30% of the average energy bill.

Identifying Phantom Load Culprits

While turning off devices on standby is a good practice, modern electronics are so efficient that the savings are only small. You will still save money by turning your TV off at the plug, but if you want to make substantial savings, they come from understanding two key categories:

The things you know are on but don’t know what they’re costing

Do you know how much your electric towel rail costs you each day? How about your electric underfloor heating? Or those halogen spotlights? Once you’re armed with this information, you can then make smart decisions about using your things more efficiently.

Forgotten-about appliances, particularly old electronics and old appliances left plugged in or on standby.

Easy-to-forget things, like extra fridges, set-top boxes, and old computers can fly under the radar and continue to use energy without you realising. They can be some of the most energy-hungry appliances, so hunting them out can result in the biggest savings.

Maximising Phantom Load Savings

While it’s common knowledge that appliances drain energy on standby, the real savings lie in tackling items left on continuously, intentionally or unintentionally. Computers, media servers, set-top boxes, and easily-overlooked things like heated towel rails and underfloor heating can be major energy stealers. 

Common Phantom Load Culprits
Average annual cost (29p per unit)
Extra fridges, old fridges or 'beer fridges'
Desktop computers
Faulty set-top box recorder
Over-sensitive outdoor security lights
Traditional (non-smart) electric heating (heating empty home - 40% of time)
Electric underfloor heating (1 extra hour per day)
Two 60w outside lights left on 10hrs per night
Electric towel rail

The Cost of Standby Appliances

After you’ve cut the biggest energy-wasting appliances, turn your attention to the smaller standby devices in your home. Although the savings are smaller in comparison, they’re still worthwhile.

Common Phantom Load Culprits
Average annual cost (29p per unit)
Digital TV box (left on)
Multi-room speakers (in idle mode)
Router (left on)
Microwave (left on)
Digital clock (left on)
TV (on standby)
Coffee maker (left on)
Phone charger (plugged in, not charging)

Loop Snoop: Calculating Standby Energy Costs

If you want to find out how much each appliance in your home is costing you, go on a Loop Snoop – the name for our hunt which helps you uncover your energy-wasting devices. 

Using your smart meter’s in-home display to get real-time readings, follow the steps below to see the running cost of your things.

Find out your home’s baseline energy usage by turning off all your appliances (apart from essential items like your fridge and freezer) so you have the lowest possible ‘background’ energy use in your home.

Use your smart meter’s in-home display to see live electricity use. You can toggle between £/hr and live electricity consumption in Watts. Make a note of this background energy usage in £/hr.

Now go around your home, room by room, turning appliances on and off, one at a time. As you turn each one on, you will see your live £/hr cost change on your smart meter’s in-home display.

Do some simple maths to reveal the cost of having that appliance turned on for one hour. Record this on your Loop Snoop map here as a reminder to turn stuff off! 

Top Tips to Reduce Phantom Load

Loop logo of squiggly orange, blue and purple ombre on a black circular background

Try Loop

 Before you can reduce your Phantom Load, you need to identify which things are using the most power. Identify power-hungry devices with Loop and make informed decisions on where to make savings.

The Loop Snoop logo in old-fashioned font

Go on a Loop Snoop

Use our map to identify the energy-hungry culprits adding pounds to your bill. Uncover the appliances consuming more energy than anticipated.

Pink plug graphic in circle

Invest in standby savers and multi-socket extensions

These devices enable you to turn off multiple plugs at once. Upgrade to a smart version and you’ll be able to turn things off remotely with your smartphone.

Purple family figures button

Involve the whole family

Make it part of your family’s bedtime routine to turn off standby appliances. If you explain Phantom Load to kids, they may turn out to be eager helpers.

Green Tree icon for Eco

Check if your standby devices have an eco mode

Many set-top boxes can be scheduled to go to sleep every night and you can also adjust the brightness of the lights on many wireless routers.

blue cog icon for settings

Optimise appliance settings

 Have you tried changing the settings on your phone, laptop, PC or Server to make them more energy-efficient?  For laptops and phones, this also helps them to last longer between charges.

Cut Your Phantom Load with Loop

Once you’ve downloaded the free Loop app, understanding your Phantom Load has never been easier. Take charge of your wasted energy use by tapping the Tick icon and select ‘Optimise your Phantom Load’. 

You’ll be able to see how much you’re spending on your Phantom Load each year and how it compares to average households. You’ll also be able to access tips and tricks to effectively cut your wasted energy costs.

Loop mobile app screen with cards on Optimising Phantom Load and Appliance tips