Beware of phantom power, cautions Dewa

Dubai utility pushes for electricity and water reduction in homes when families are travelling

Known by a laundry-list of names, including phantom power, vampire load, idle current and even wall wart, the phenomenon is about energy wastage in your home when you’re not keeping a close eye on it.

It is common knowledge that many gadgets, electronic devices and appliances draw power even when they’re switched off or not in use, just by being plugged in. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) is warning its consumers that although the energy such appliances use-up may seem trivial, it can add up over time, especially when you’re away on a month-long vacation.

How much energy can such plugged-in devices waste in a month? Don’t find it out the hard way, Dubai’s energy company is warning its consumers.

“One way of ensuring efficient energy use is to read the power and water meter before leaving to go on holiday and after returning home. This way, it is possible to detect hidden energy wasters such as electronic devices that appear to be off but are really on standby or phantom power,” Dewa said in a media statement this morning.

The utility firm has launched a new initiative to raise awareness amongst residents and the general public about the need to ensure efficient energy consumption in homes when they go on their travels. This is part of its ongoing campaign to all sectors of society about the importance of reducing energy and water consumption.

“Through the existing campaign, Dewa is encouraging residents to minimise wastage and promote responsible behaviour in terms of electricity and water consumption. It will also showcase Dewa’s endeavours in sustaining precious natural resources and that we all need to take responsibility in tackling global warming,” said HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of Dewa.

If you’re not clear about what kind of devices can suck energy while you’re not looking, here’s a shortlist: First off, it’s chargers. Most of us keep our chargers – for cell phones, laptops, notebooks, digital cameras, etc. – plugged in permanently, and assume that the energy is drawn only when we connect our respective devices to the chargers. Wrong.

The chargers draw energy even when they’re not in use, obviously not to the same extent as when they’re actually charging a device, but some chargers can consume (rather, waste) up to 35 per cent of the energy even when not charging.

In addition, appliances like televisions, computer monitors, and DVD players can also draw power whenever they’re plugged into an outlet.

Put together, phantom power can account for about 10 per cent of your household electricity use – imagine getting a 10 per cent discount on your Dewa bill every month. If it doesn’t sound much, look at it this way – cutting out that 10 per cent will get you over a month of free electricity every year. Interested now?

According to Dewa, a few simple steps can help reduce energy wastage levels when homes are unoccupied during vacation periods. These include:

  • * Setting the refrigerator’s thermostat to optimal efficiency levels
  • * Fixing tap leakages, considering that a drop per second can amount to a significant amount of water wastage
  • * Before stepping out of the home, turn off water heaters and all unnecessary lights

The initiative also highlights the importance of:

  • * Switching off all equipment at the sockets, which means they are not left on stand-by modes.
  • * Unplug all chargeable electronics such as cell phones and battery chargers. 
  • * Close curtains and blinds to help keep the heat in during cool weather and the hot air out during the summer.
  • * Turn off outdoor decorative water fountains, features and pumps, and programme drip-irrigation to efficient levels.
  • * Check the garage and back houses to make sure all unused electric devices are switched off or unplugged. 
  • * Use the energy-saving setting if available for all appliances, particularly your refrigerator and air conditioner.

“These initiatives are consistent with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, in keeping with his long-term initiative launched under the name, ‘Green Economy for Sustainable Development’ to drive sustainable development in Dubai and the UAE,” Al Tayer said.

“Dewa is determined to encourage sustainability and protect the environment, by raising awareness about the importance of conserving and rationalising usage of electricity and water, so as to deliver the best possible services to its customers. Responsible energy consumption will not only help sustain our precious resources and reduce wastage levels, but will invariably also ensure safety at homes,” added Al Tayer.

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