Tracking and Slaying Energy Vampires in your Home

By: Clare Kaley Email
By: Clare Kaley Email

They are lurking in our homes and we don't even know it; Energy Vampires. Things like coffee makers, microwaves and even your home itself are adding more money to your electric bills.

We went to a home in Wausau, armed with an energy tracking device. We tested items rarely unplugged, like the light above the counter, the radio we leave on for the dog, and even that cell phone charge we leave plugged in, without the cell phone attached.

The light above the counter measured five watts. The radio was four watts turned off, and the cell phone charge came in a five watts. But the biggest vampire of all, is lurking in our living rooms.

"A number of TV sets that are in standby mode," Kelly Zagrzebski of Wisconsin Public Service said, "they are still operating, they are ready to go, like that."

That flat screen TV adds more than $2 a month to your bill when in use. Your Playstation? - $1.25. Your computer adds nearly $5 a month to your bill while asleep.

But if you are not up for unplugging appliances as part of your morning routine, there are some other options to save money.

"There are smart strips, they will run you $25-35 in a hardware store," Kelly explained, "there are special spots where you can plug in things like your cell phone charger, so that when it is not operating, it turns it off for you."

So we have slayed those vampires inside your home, but experts say, your energy bill could be climbing because of your home itself.

Meet Aaron and Sharon Ruff. They are first time homeowners who have been living in their Wausau home for about two years.

"We liked the house, we knew we had to some money into it, there's a few projects we wanted to do but, we were ready to buy a house," Aaron said, "plus we were living with her parents and it was time to get out of there... that doesn't need to make air."

While their first home was great at first, they started to notice issues when old man winter set in...

"Right away, last winter, when we were in the house, upstairs was extremely cold, and then our energy bill was pretty high."

So they called a home insulation company. Bennett Noel works for the Home Insulation Company of Wausau. He said, the Ruff's home is a good example of bad insulation.

"A lot of these homes were built in the '50s and '60s, and at that time energy costs were very inexpensive," Noel said, "it didn't cost much to heat your home, and insulation just wasn't that mandatory."

He called in the owner of Inspect It Right Home Inspections to find the real problems in the home.

"They have about a 3-foot-hole in their house right now," Michael Carson said, "that is the equivalent of opening a window and just letting it go."

Carson brought in a blower door and an infrared camera to pinpoint the areas inside the Ruff's home that needed the most attention. It turns out, 78% of their home's energy use was going to heating alone.

"You can put a new furnace in, but if your house leakes like a collinder, there you go."

The foundation and attic were the main issues. So Michael and Bennett gave their recommendations to Aaron and Sharon.

"We are getting the sill boxes downstairs, all the insulation around the foundation, the upstairs, the attic eaves, the walls in the attic," Aaron and Sharon said, "we're getting all that redone. and I think after Mike's test, he recognized that those were the problem areas."

All in all, the Ruff's said after the inspection, the recommendations were a no-brainer.

"Its like throwing money away, we don't want to be doing that, we want to make a savings, and save on our energy bill or whatever, not just with the insulation but other ways around the house not having appliances or electronics plugged in, unless we have to, turning lights off in the room when we're not using them, just little things like that to help us save."

So the next time you get your energy bill, take a close look at it. Maybe you can slay some energy vampires of your own.

Here are some helpful links on energy savings you can do you in your home:

Wisconsin Public Service

Inspect It Right Home Inspections

Home Insulation Company of Wausau

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