Vampire Hunting, Part Two: What Is Running Up Our Energy Usage?

Vampire Hunting, Part Two: What Is Running Up Our Energy Usage?

Written by Rudy Radelic

In Issue 203, I provided an introduction to the “vampires” that live in our home, electronic devices that are consuming power while plugged in and idle or on standby. Today, we’ll dive into the facts and figures, using my own home as an example. Other than a few brands or names mentioned, my idea here is not to “name and shame” any of them for their power consumption characteristics.

What is Using Power in the House?

I have always been interested in electronics, technology, and computers, going back to my childhood days tinkering with small audio kits and playing with a 3-inch reel-to-reel tape recorder. So you can imagine that I’m drawn to any electronic gadget that comes along, plugging in each new one without giving a second thought to power consumption.

After all, it’s just a fraction of a watt. Right?

I did realize long ago that everything I plug into the wall uses some amount of energy, but wasn’t aware of just how much the total of everything added up to.

I have vampires of all kinds in the house. Some were expected; others were overlooked. Who knew that of two coffee makers, one would draw so much more than the other? Or, that the LED night lights we use draw more power by keeping themselves powered, vs. actually lighting the room?

Our power consumption for computers and network equipment was expected and unsurprising. My “network shelf” in the basement houses a fiber interface, router, switch, and two NAS (network attached storage) units, along with a PoE (Power-over-Ethernet) injector to feed the wireless access point centrally located in the house. One NAS is run periodically for backups, but the primary NAS (which uses lower-power SSDs for storage) runs 24/7, as does the rest of the networking equipment. We use five surveillance cameras outside the house as well.

The Cost of Electricity

Unfortunately, our utility company does not offer a single price for electricity usage, which is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Our current plan has on-peak and off-peak usage rates, with the on-peak rates having seasonal adjustments (summer and winter).  Our peak hours are four hours per day, between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.; summer peak rates are charged four months out of the year (June through September) at $0.224/kWh, and winter peak rates are $0.1809/kWh the remainder of the year. Off-peak rates are $0.1673/kWh. Doing some extended math, the yearly average cost for electricity is $0.172/kWh, assuming 24/7/365 usage. Not a perfect calculation, but good enough to get a ballpark idea of what this is costing.

Meet the Vampires

Here is a summary of devices used in my house and their measured power consumption in watts; all devices and appliances are in standby mode except where indicated. I used the TechBee model JK-PM04 to perform the measurements.



The TechBee JK-PM04 power meter.



  • Microwave oven: 0.3w
  • Carbon monoxide detector: 0.2w
  • Dishwasher: 0.4w
  • Nespresso coffee maker: 0.3w
  • Hamilton Beach coffee maker: 0.9w
  • LED cabinet lighting (two, each, 18hrs/day): 5.5w
  • JVC mini-system: 4.2w standby; 7.7w on, not in use
  • Laptops (two), batteries at full charge: 0.8w, 0.3w


  • Toothbrushes (two): 0.3w idle, 0.5w charging
  • LED nightlight (two): 0.2w off, 0.3w illuminated
  • Smelly scent thing that Rudy doesn’t like (low/med/high): 2.1w/2.4w/3.0w


  • Washer: 0.5w
  • “Sidekick” washer: 0.4w
  • Dryer: 0.5w (estimated)

Lighting and Smart Switches:

  • LED smart bulbs: 0.4w? (0.0w observed most of the time)
  • Smart switches (plug adapters): 0.3w idle/off, 0.8w on/no load
  • LED strip lighting (two, each): 0.3w
  • Outdoor motion-sensitive lighting (idle): 1.0w

Audio/Video/Gaming Systems:

  • Speakers with powered woofers (two, each): 0.3w
  • Turntable (standby): 0.1w
  • Solid state phono stage (no power switch): 2.0w
  • SugarCube vinyl noise reduction unit (always on): 11.5w
  • Streamer: 4.3w
  • DAC: 21.5w standby; 22.5w on
  • Preamp: 2.6w
  • Power amp and tubed phono stage (use physical power buttons): 0w
  • Power conditioner: 4.9w
  • Main speakers (two, each): 0.3w
  • Subwoofers (two, each): 2.2w
  • Record cleaner, ultrasonic: 1.4w
  • Intel NUC server (for Roon Server): 4.3w
  • Desktop amp/DAC: 0.2w
  • Powered Bluetooth speaker: 0.3w
  • Televisions (three, average consumption each): 2.1w
  • Soundbar: 0.2w
  • Game console 1: 1.2w
  • Game console 2: 0.2w
  • Game console 2 external hard drive: 2.2w
  • Nvidia Shield: 3.9w
  • Chromecast audio pucks (three): 1.3w


  • Desktop computers (two each, average, sleep): 5.0w
  • Network router: 4.0w
  • Network switches (five in use, each): 1.9w
  • PoE injector for wireless access point: 16.5w
  • NAS (three of six SSD bays occupied): 11.6w
  • Printer/scanner: 1.6w


  • Nest hub (two, screen illuminated, each): 2.2w
  • Nest speaker (two, each): 2.0w
  • Recliners (two, each): 0.2w
  • Surveillance cameras (five, each): 2.0w (daytime)/4.5w (night/infrared LEDs)

Yes, recliners. Each has a remote, backlit with LEDs, and a USB charger built into it.



Maybe you won't be relaxing in your powered recliner when you think about how much energy it's using.


Adding up the devices that I know are currently plugged in and in their standby modes, I come up with about 170 watts of usage. One watt of usage per hour is a watt-hour. Multiplying that usage by 24 hours, then dividing by 1,000, I get our kilowatt-hour usage for the day, which is 4.08 kw/h.  Now, if I multiply that by our cost per kilowatt-hour (the average that I calculated earlier) of $0.172/kWh, it works out to a cost of $0.70 per day. Extended to an average 30-day month, that is $21 per month, or about $250 per year. That means roughly 16 to 20 percent of our monthly electric bill goes to powering all of these items. And I realize now that the escalating power bills coming in monthly are not completely the power company’s fault.

This is not a trivial amount, to be honest.



It's enough to make your head (or your electricity meter) spin. Courtesy of


An Audiophile’s Consideration

One thing that bothers me is how much power the DAC uses at idle, as well as the streamer, preamp, SugarCube (which is essentially a computer, DAC, and ADC combined) and record cleaner. There are entire days I go without listening to my main system. When I leave the house for a road trip, I unplug all the equipment to protect it from potential thunderstorms. But otherwise, it remains plugged in and, prior to doing my study, I left everything in standby mode all the time.

Now that I have seen how much power some of these components waste, I have no choice but to shut them down using physical power switches on the rear. A fraction of a watt I can deal with, but…21 watts for a DAC, 4 watts for a streamer, 11 watts for a record cleaner, etc., which are performing no useful function while idle, is wasteful, and costly.

Many audio and video components have a standby mode where the lighting is extinguished and the outputs muted, with the rest of the circuitry kept alive. Ironically, modern components with “better” power consumption ratings while in use may prove to be more inefficient compared to older components that are completely disconnected from the power source after use.

Some audiophiles argue that equipment should be left on 24/7 to ensure they sound the best. I am the controversial one saying that I have never agreed with that idea. Do electronic component values drift with temperature? Sure. But how long does it really take for an entire component to come up to full operating temperature? Certainly, no more than an hour. Once those electronic components come up to temperature, they are not going to drift further.

Should Manufacturers do Something About Vampire Power Consumption?

I believe so. We need clear and prominent specifications, both in the owner’s manuals and in product literature, giving us power consumption in standby mode and while “turned on” and in use. Also, please stop hiding physical power switches (which cut the connection to the incoming power) on the back panels or worse yet, eliminating them entirely. Put them right on the front panel. Give customers the choice of turning those components completely off, or not.

One irony about my own system is that the power conditioner uses 4.9 watts. So even if I use its master power switch to turn off the rest of my components, I’m still drawing 4.9 watts. And that to me is ridiculous.

Making Changes

At any rate, I have made changes around our house, primarily by powering down the audio system, and unplugging (or using a switched power strip) to power down other vampire power users in the house. Some, like the “smart” bulbs and switches, remain on as I’m OK with the extra consumption for the security and convenience features they offer. But I’m not at the point of living like a monk by unplugging everything but the refrigerator before going to bed.



Smart bulbs are a smart idea.


For a modest cost, you can purchase your own watt meter and do some measurements around your home or office to see if you need to be concerned about vampire power loads. It won’t change all of your power consumption habits, but it may help you reconsider what you consider essential for your daily usage and cut back where you find waste.


Header image: power lines, somewhere near Flat Rock, Michigan. Courtesy of Rudy Radelic.

Back to Copper home page

1 of 2