Green Living

Pull the Plug

Lower your bills and reduce pollution by disconnecting energy drainers.
Pull the Plug
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Are you living with energy thieves? Intermittently used electronics like your TV, laptop computer, and washer/dryer swipe watts even in standby mode. That's pilfered energy that can account for up to one-fourth of your electric bill—and the cost to the environment is even greater.

"Production of electricity is the single largest cause of global warming," says Noah Horowitz, director and senior scientist for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Just to produce all that standby power in the U.S. takes about 26 power plants, and it's going to get worse. American households consume about 25 percent more electricity than they did 25 years ago, and we're expected to use an additional 25 percent over the next two decades.

Unplugging your unused electronic devices not only reduces pollution, it also makes a big dent in your utility payments. Follow Horowitz's suggestions to power down:

  • Plug electronics into power strips instead of wall sockets. After hitting the "off" button on the devices, switch off the power strip to prevent standby consumption.
  • Power up seldom-used appliances only when necessary. For example, providing nonstop electricity to a second refrigerator that you use just for special occasions can cost you up to $100 each year.
  • Unplug the charger unit when you're not charging a cellphone, camera, or MP3 player; otherwise it will continue to draw electricity.
  • Remember to unplug electronics or appliances that feel hot to the touch when not in use. The elevated temperature indicates the product is wasting energy as heat.
  • Swap out inefficient products for those that use fewer watts. Visit and for information and product recommendations.